At Rock the Block, you’ll find three things that are crucial to surviving college: food, music and alcohol. The acre of grass occupied by food trucks and picnic tables was bustling with “Block Heads” enjoying their cuisine of choice while listening to the eight-band lineup.
I caught up with one of the acts – San Antonio’s own Matt Adler and his band, David Hernandez (keys), Dave Brent (drums), Tony Neely (bass), Katie Boyd (cello; yes, cello!) – after their amazing set. Their cool indie vibe makes any music lover instantly fall in love with them.
From Dubstep intros to eloquent lyrics, Matt Adler definitely brings something that fits in anywhere. Their new album, “Stages”, is available for free download on their website mattadlermusic.com. It’s definitely a must-listen.
Do you have a favorite song to perform?
Matt Adler: I would say, for me, it’s “This is the Last Time”. It’s very just…it gets so big at the end. It’s very unexpected. I like the genre. I like the chord progressions. I like the loudness.
Dave Brent: For me, it’s kind of a tie between “Love Will Find Me”, “This is the Last Time” and “BTW” because of all the drumming I get to do in “BTW”.
What bands or artists have inspired you?
Tony Neely: Probably Gungor, Volcano Choir, Muse.
MA: Imagine Dragons.
TN: Yeah, we listened to a lot of Imagine Dragons and Volcano Choir while working on the new album.
Who’s the writer in the group?
MA: What winds up happening is I come to them with a song, and they add their stuff to it. I feel like without these people, the sound would be completely different and way worse. I mean, [their] creativity blows my mind. But generally, I’ll show up with a song, and we’ll work on the arrangements together.
What inspires the band’s writing?
David Hernandez: Matt is probably more of the writer in that sense. I know with this latest album we honestly just had rough drafts of songs. Then, we all showed up [at] my house, and it was just like “Here’s four or five songs that [Matt’s] been kind of thinking about; let’s just fumble through it.” And, in the process of it, we’re adding fills [and] we’re coming up with weird sounds.
TN: Well, the original idea for the album was to do something stripped down – acoustic – that was really easy to replicate.
DB: (This) led to us playing with tracks, multiple synthesizers on stage, samplers, glockenspiels.
MA: It was supposed to be something we could do in the most stripped down way, with components of cymbals, acoustic guitar, bass, keys, cello. On everything. And it just exploded into what it is now.
Where does the writing come from?
MA: I like to make sure that the lyrics match the mood of the music, so that’s very important to me. But, lyrically, it’s almost always going to stem from where I am at the point in time when I write the songs, where I am emotionally, what I’m going through.
Each album that I put out is always a time capsule of where I was at that point in time.
The first album was an album called “Rearrange” about a very transitional period in my life where I was going through some really crappy stuff. And then, there was a much more joyful album called “The Sound”, and it’s kind of just about getting over the hump. It’s a more overtly Christian album that’s more joyful and thankful just to God for getting me through the crap.
Then I got dumped, and that’s where “Stages” came from. It’s a Taylor Swift album. Every song represents a different stage in a failed relationship: before you meet the person, after you’ve met them, when you’re together, when you’ve been dumped, when you’ve been dumped, when you’ve been dumped, then when you’re happy again. So, it’s like a start-to-finish kind of thing.
TN: Yeah, it’s definitely a concept album. Like if you listen through each song, you can pick apart the story arc fairly overtly. I think Matt really has a gift for writing songs that people can relate to.
Whether you’re a follower of Jesus or an atheist who can’t stand the thought of religion, I think that Matt writes in a way where you can relate because it’s very real.
What’s your weirdest concert experience?
DH: There was one show we played where it just so happened that they placed me right next to the fog machine – like an industrial fog machine located directly next to my face, and it just so happened that there was an easterly wind, and the fog machine was west of me, and every 30 seconds, this fog would come out and only envelop me. So, as I’m playing, I go from clear as day, seeing everything, to being completely covered in fog. That was awesome.
TN: From zero to five seconds, I would look over and see Dave, look down and check my pedals, look back and he was gone. I think that probably has to be our winner since there was professional wrestling before we played.
MA: What I really enjoyed about that was there’s this fountain, but it’s like 3 inches deep of water. And one wrestler takes another wrestler, and we’re like “There’s no way he’s going to throw that guy into that,” because he’d basically be throwing him onto rocks. DB: They thought the water was deeper than it was. He was definitely injured.
MA: He got up, and he just looked sad. He didn’t look injured, he just looked sad, and he just walked away.
MA: My worst experience – this was before I was blessed with the greatest band in the world – was when we were supposed to open up for two of my favorite bands ever, a band called The New Frontiers and a band called Days Fail, and they were a big deal in, like, ’05. It was going to be us – when I was in a band called The Frenzy – Days Fail, and The New Frontiers. I was like “YES! This is going to be amazing!” And so an hour before the set, the high-as-a-freaking-kite club owner was like “Hey, man, uh, I totally forgot, but I gave this other band your slot like 8 months ago. So, what we’re gonna do is, uh, you’re gonna go on after the national acts.” And I was like “Wait…what?” “Oh, yeah yeah yeah. You’re like 22, right? So your crowd won’t even show up until like 1 a.m.” And I was like “I’m a Christian – my crowd’s asleep at like 10:30. What are you talking about?” And so, the second band played. Everyone left except for the bartender and the drummer’s wife. And then the bartender left.
TN: I think the most uncomfortable gig I’ve ever played—there was a singer/songwriter acoustic duo, kind of Civil Wars-esque, that would hire me out to play bass for them. So, it was like mandolin, acoustic guitar, upright bass. And somehow, we got put on the wrong bill, and we played a heavy metal fest. It was like scream-core bands and then, “Hey, we’re gonna pick you some tunes!” That was awesome.
DB: There was an instance where we played a festival that didn’t get promoted. So, we travelled 5 hours away, all our gear, full band, everything. Head up there, get out there, it’s like 135 million degrees outside. So it’s like burning hot, we get on stage, and we’re just like, “Yeah, this is awesome!” We’re just like waiting for the people to come, and it was like already the middle of the festival and there were only like 5 people.
TN: This was the first time they’d ever put on a festival, and they didn’t advertise. They were just like “People will show up! They’ll see it, and they’ll just come.”
Katie Boyd: I haven’t played that many with you guys, but the Raw Artist showcase was kind of interesting. There was weird stuff happening at that event. There was like a fire dancer and a fashion show before us. It wasn’t bad; it was just weird. There were just like lots of artists set up, someone making fancy cakes. That was a cool gig.
TN: We’re like warming up backstage and going through the set list, and then they’re like lining girls up for the catwalk.
What’s your weirdest fan experience?
DH: I have no fans.
MA: That’s not true. I am a huge David Hernandez fan.
So, I guess I’m probably your weirdest experience But I think the one that comes to mind though is I went to play at 502, and there was this guy—I’m also a producer here in town. I have a recording studio, and there was a guy that wanted me to record him. I met him away from my studio, and I was like “This guy’s weird, I feel uncomfortable.” And so I was like, you know, I don’t think it’s going to work. But our shows are public knowledge, so he came to our show. He came in like a trench coat and a fedora and he was really creepy. People I didn’t even know were walking up to me and were like “What’s the deal with the guy in the fedora?” I was like “I don’t know, just don’t worry about it.” And so I’m walking on the stage, I’m about to count off the first song, and I look to my right, and he’s on stage. He’s tapping on my shoulder, and he goes “Can you give me a ride home?” I was like “No! Get off the stage! What’s wrong with you?” It was really weird. I think he was high.
What’s the best venue you’ve played?
MA: Actually the best venue I’ve ever played was the Majestic. I’d like to point out, it’s very important, that there were maybe 80 people there, and this was in high school. But it was the best venue I’ve ever played at.
TN: I think we talk consistently, as a band, that we love 502. 502 and Sam’s, but 502: the staff is incredible, the sound is the best sound in town, the lights are great. It’s just probably one of the most top notch venues in San Antonio.
How did you come together?
MA: Everybody but Katie actually leads worship at a church called The Park Community Church. I’ve been leading worship there for about 4 years, which is insane, and then you showed up, then Hernandez joined later. We’ve been playing together—like me and Dave Brent have been playing for 3 years. And then [David Hernandez] came, and it’s been like 3 years.
TN: I’ve been around for about a year and a half, going on 2, when my wife and I moved here from Nashville. I helped plan a church in Austin, and then we decided we wanted to join a local body of believers. We settled into the park, and I think like the second or third week I was in the park, I was helping lead worship. And then Katie’s just awesome.
MA: Yeah, right when I became self employed as a producer and a musician, [Katie] came when was at that first place with the roaches.
KB: That horrible, awful place.
MA: There were roaches! And like a freaking panel fell on a client’s head. She was singing into the microphone and all the sudden CRASH! Fortunately it was a foam panel. To be fair it was not my studio, and I realized that I did not want to keep doing that, and I left. But [Katie] came, and [she] played there. I remember I asked [you] to play something, and I was like “You know, you’re welcome to play, like, ALWAYS. Would that be a thing that you would do?” And [she] was like “Yeah!”
Okay, last question. It’s a big one. What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?
DB: That is a big one.
MA: Cinnamon toast crunch.
DH: CINNAMON. TOAST. CRUNCH.
TN: Oatmeal squares. Brown sugar or golden maple, but oatmeal squares. Greatest cereal ever.
DB: My favorite breakfast cereal is marshmallow Fruit Loops.
TN: That’s called Lucky Charms, bro.
DB: It’s Fruit Loops with fruit flavored marshmallows.
KB: Mine are Lucky Charms.
DH: They’re magically delicious!