By Mariel Zayas-Bazan
They've dubbed it "salsacore."
While the tongue-in-cheek subgenre would likely make Celia Cruz turn in her sequined grave, it's Broward locals, Conor Barbato, Nico Cordova, and Matt Stoyka's way of lumping sludge, grindcore, and Floridian D-beat together. It's sweaty and rhythmic like Celia, but heavy and dissonant like other defunct Florida bands.
"Local bands were our biggest influences, and three years ago Eztorbo and Consular were playing shows all the time before they broke up. I was in the Panix and I knew that was dying down too, but I wanted to keep playing guitar," says Nico, vocalist and guitarist of Devalued. As active patrons of the South Florida scene, the trio chose to fill the void before they could feel it.
"So out of nowhere Matt and Conor picked me up from my house and we started writing," he explains.
The guys wasted no time finding their sound, dodging between violently fast and brutally slow, consistently maintaining a balance. The dark instrumental landscape may be shrouded, but Conor's bass is a machete for us to hold on to, clearing our doubts and feedback out of the way for Nico and Matt to build then destroy. The transitions are seamless. Their meter-shifts refuse to digress, accented by calculated, fried vocals that never pierce but rather expose intention behind the hostility.
"We wanted substantial content behind the violence," continues Nico, "Literature is a big influence for our music. Conor and I really enjoy fucked up reading like Dostoevsky -- psychological thrillers, Paradise Lost, etc." he says.
So sure, the tunes may not be fucking around. But like the best things in life, the darkness is lightly laced with humor, as noted in the oddly paced Dexter's Laboratory laugh track at the beginning of "Mandark." Matt's kick-heavy drums emulate the cackle, effortlessly erupting the crowd every time.
The band's sense of purpose can be heard beyond indiscernible lyrics, because it's felt in the emotions triggered by methodical composition -- this is the beautiful state of South Florida's music scene today.
"There's a different kind of heavy going on -- the Virgin Mary, Awkward Kisser -- bands that are more Goth, dark, and dizzy with dissonance that fades into straight noise. And it's not isolated in Miami alone. You can book a 'punk' show in Broward and no bands will sound the same, because of that diversity. This doesn't happen everywhere. A lot of cities and scenes are strictly one-genre and oversaturated with it. South Florida is just different," contends Nico.
And it's overwhelmingly true. There are different kinds of heavy teeming in our charged, tropical landscape with happily disgruntled musicians in it together. We embrace it, and we support it. That's it.
Look out for Devalued's 12-inch in time for 305 Fest, which starts December 18.