Die Trying Has "Been at the Bottom, Trying to Get to the Top"
Miami punk band Die Trying encourages sing-alongs at shows. Frontman and primary songwriter Tony Flores isn't sure you'll understand his lyrics, so take some time to learn them, and share the vocal spotlight. "You can join the band," he says, "because I think the mics are for everyone. We're all fucking equal." Whether or not his bandmates agree with this assessment of humanity is up for debate, but they all appreciate the enthusiasm he presents onstage.
For two years, the Oi the Boat-signed band has been performing around South Florida and recently returned from its third, longest, and most successful national tour. Members of the band are not neophytes, Shawn Perkins, Los Treces, Chris DeCastilla, and Charles Wynn, as well as Flores have played in other local acts like Hellhounds, Unit Six, F.A.T.E, and VCR.
Die Trying has one self-released EP, which it recorded live, and two 7-inch vinyls out on its label. Appropriately on the Fourth of July, Die Trying's song "On the Streets of MIA" was released as part of Voi!ce of America Vol.4 with label mates from around the country, Sniper 66, Concrete, and Hard Evidence. Just last week, the guys started working with No Peace for All's Rick Carmona on the next big project, taking more time to craft this, the group's second EP.
We met with guitarist Treces, bassist DeCastilla, and Flores at Churchill's Pub during a Wednesday night Treces throws, Vinyl Solutions, where you can bring and spin your own records (Take note!). Along with Nayra Serrano, the Hialeah native runs the booking company, Idle Hands, that handles shows at the classic Miami venue (Take note again!). We found that the three guys have a diversity of opinions on certain things, but definitely not their music.
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New Times: There are five members. That's a lot of people. How do you find something for everyone to do?
Los: It just works out that way.
Chris: It started out as a four-piece, because Tony was singing and playing bass, so all of the songs were written with bass and two guitars that way. All of the songs are really geared toward two guitars and don't really sound right without two guitars.
Is it more complex?
Tony: I would say so.
Los: There's a lot of changes, but it's still 4/4 punk rock.
Tony: It's simple but it's intricate at the same time. The rhythms are fairly basic. What Chris adds in (on bass), the little subtleties, they make it a little more complex and more unique.
Chris: I think it's harder to compare us to existing bands. The reaction I get and what I hear from other people is all like, "Oh, that's a really different sound you guys have." To me, it's like, it doesn't really sound that different or that crazy, if you're into music.
Los: We have hardcore punk songs, oi punk songs, street punk songs, we have oi chugga-chugga breakdowns. I think that's what he means by people say it's different.
Tony: It's like a plethora of different types of songs from within our subculture.
Chris: Not every song necessarily sounds the same like it is with some bands, but the energy is always the same.
Tony: There's lots of sweat.
Los: Which is why I wanted him to sing and not play the bass. Because he used to not play the bass and just sing. I was like, "Maybe you should just sing."
Tony: I would fuck up a lot.
Chris: (Tony) definitely puts on a show. I remember watching them before I was in the band. It was like night and day. He adds a lot of energy when he's free with just a microphone.
Would you consider yourself intense, Tony?
Tony: Perhaps, sure. I try to...
Los: He's always running around the stage.
Tony: I remember reading Get in the Van by Black Flag when I was like 14. One of the things I recall is Henry Rollins saying that you should play your heart out, give it your all, regardless of if there are two people there or if there are 100 people there. Just try to destroy.
Chris: He definitely does that. And practice is proof of that. It's not like he's just standing there. His energy is the same when we practice.
You were in L.A. touring, you had some good shows. What happened on the road?
Tony: We got to know each other better.
Los: There were like six of us.
Did you share a room?
Tony: We all slept in motel rooms on the floor.
Los: We were minus one guitar player, so we went as a four-piece. The shows were awesome. We got to play with Peter and the Test Tube Babies and the Angelic Upstarts.
Tony: The Addicts. That was a surprise show. We didn't expect that. We ended the tour with that. We played for like a thousand people.
Los: We went to TKO Records. I'm friends with Julia Smut from Smut Peddlers, and they were offered the show but couldn't do it. I'm friends with them because I brought them to Miami two years ago, 4/20 of 2012. She was like, "Hey, we'll offer you the show. Email this guy." I was like, "No way." Nayra was like, "Let me email the guy." Sure enough, the guy was like, you're on the show. It was the Observatory in Orange County.
Chris: It was all ages too. The kids got really into it too.
Tony: For the three opening acts, surprisingly, we got the best reaction from the crowd.
Chris: I was expecting it to be dead when we played. But it was already packed from the get-go. It was awesome to play for a crowd like that. To play off their energy.
How did you get to "know each other better?" Was there like diarrhea involved?
Chris: There was a lot of conflict with what people wanted to do with their time, since you're all in one vehicle. It can become problematic.
Los: One wanted to go camping, one wanted to go to the brewery. And we were all like, "Can we all just decide on one thing?"
Did you see the sequoias?
Los: We got to see the sequoias. I loved it. We got to see the world's largest tree, General Sherman.
That's the one you drive through?
Tony: That's where it happened!
Chris: That's where we started getting testy with each other.
Tony: It was a weird vibe. Everybody was getting irritated. It was gloomy and cold.
Chris: You spend hours and hours on the road with five other people in a van...
Chris: And burping, smoking.
Tony: You don't want to wake up next to them the next morning. You kind of OD on them.
What's up with the album? How do you guys work together?
Los: Tony has written a lot of the riffs and lyrics, and then we kind of grab what he gives us and pick at it. Decide what's better.
Tony: It's like I bring the meat, and they bring everything else. Spices, turn the heat up...
Los: We chop it up and make it easier, just add whatever we can. A lot of it is Tony.
What inspires the lyrics?
Tony: Social commentary, what I see. I have a song about a friend who passed a few years ago, Hugo Rocca, and how it affected me when he passed. We have other songs about growing up. I would say all of the songs, I try to kick some positivity into the mix.
I'm tired of a lot bands singing negative shit all the time, about how life sucks. It might suck, but get off your ass and do something about it. So that's what I try to push in our music, because it's not very common in the style that we play to sing positive things. So I try to do that. We came from the skinhead punk scene, late '90s early '00s, a lot of us have fucked up or done shit that has influenced our lives. And we try to persevere past that. At least, I can speak for myself. That's where my lyrics come from. You've been at the bottom, trying to get to the top now.
What about political stuff?
Tony: We're an anti-racist band. We don't support racism, sexism, or any sort of prejudice.
Chris: You do find a lot bands that do support that mentality in this genre. A lot of the lyrics too are really reflective of our locale. Definitely have a Miami-tinge to their perspective.
Tony: We have this song, "79th and Biscayne," because me and Chris lived in that area. We sing about a prostitute trying to make her way. But it doesn't look down on her. I sing about people in situations that are at the bottom, that are disregarded.
Chris: A sense of hopelessness and no direction. It's easy to feel like you're at a dead end no matter what strata you live in in Miami. Whether you're on the street or you're middle class, it's hard to see outside Miami if you've never left.
Tony: It's definitely a black hole. We try to make something out of that.
What's it been like for you Chris, joining the band after they already started?
Chris: I didn't expect to become an integral part of the band at first. I thought I'd just be filling in. I'm primarily a guitar player. I was having so much fun playing and adding a little bit creativity-wise with my bass playing. I started becoming more important to the band to the sound, I guess, and enjoying myself more. And it just kind of worked. I've just been having fun so far.
You guys are all in about your mid to late 20s, early 30s?
Chris: I remember when you were a kid, in high school, and the bands you listened to, and you thought of people that were 30 or older, they were just like old and decrepit and forget about it. And just in a blink of an eye, you're there, and you don't feel any different. Your perspective is still the same, obviously you've gained knowledge over time, but you don't necessarily change emotionally as person, your ethos, or maturity.
So you're saying you haven't matured?
Chris: That's what I'm saying. It doesn't mean you don't learn. You learn from your mistakes. But you don't feel like "an adult now" compared to the way you viewed adults when you were a kid.
Die Trying with Blowfly, the Axe and the Oak, and Forte, Tonight, July 25, 9 p.m., at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE 2nd Ave., Miami. $10 entrance. Visit Facebook.
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