Interview: Vinyl Dharma, a band on the rise

It’s early 2008, and Vinyl Dharma is still glowing from playing in New York on Tila Tequila’s New Year’s Eve bash after winning MTV2’s Bands on the Rise contest.

Then they came home.

“We came back, we’re all pumped up like ‘yeah we got some exposure, let’s go do some shows, do a little tour in Texas,” Vinyl Dharma guitarist John Montemayor said.  “And no joke, like two weeks later when we got back, we had this trailer, like a 6 by 12 trailer, we put all our equipment in and we had it parked right in front of our house, and somebody broke into it and they stole everything.”

Everything, from microphones to cymbals, was taken, approximately 12 to 15 thousand dollars worth in equipment.

Now that they are back on pretty much back on their feet equipment-wise, they spent the last year following the MTV competition diving into the local music scene, giving CDs to people checking out shows, promoting themselves heavily on Myspace.

The band is now putting the finishing touches on their debut album they hope to get out in March.

The album, “The Greater Perfect System,” is taken from a Middle Age concept. The greater perfect system was a series of notes that when played when the planets and stars are in alignment made people at peace.

The album is a collection of songs that build around the theme from the first track, “Starz n Moonz,”

As high-brow as these concepts are, sometimes it’s just about old-fashioned heartbreak, such as the track “Infidelity.”

In personal touch that’s found throughout the tracks, if you listen close enough–or rather if you’re lucky enough to know the band–it’s more than music, it’s a snapshot of experiences. In “Infidelity,” it’s about a breakup experienced by lead singer Johnny “Dharma” Marroquin.

“If you listen to the lyrics, it’s pretty much word for word,” John said. “At UT Brownsville, we’re guitar majors and there are lot of guitar players there and not enough practice rooms, so we would all go sit on these benches and practice all day. So if you listen to the lyrics, ‘I met you on the bench while I played my guitar on the court’, and he’s talking about the tennis courts there. So he talks about how he meets the girl and how they used to go out and dance to The Cure on the midnight floor.”

All in all, it’s been a pretty whirlwind year since the group left UT Brownsville to move up to Austin in August of 2007 in order to be eligible to participate in the MTV2 competition.

“You had to prove you were from Austin, “John said, “so we’re like ‘let’s go and change our licenses, and when we went to do that MTV stuff, we all had paper licenses.”

John and drummer Josh Ibarra knew each other from playing together in their South Texas hometown of San Benito. They met up with the other Vinyl Dharma members  keyboardist James Zarate and bassist Fernando de la Garza while at UT Brownsvile.

Before moving up to Austin, the band had a good following built up in Brownsville and other surrounding South Texas towns. The band played cover shows of mostly 80s music, playing new wave synthesizer heavy music from Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears and the Pet Shop Boys.

“We all have influences,” John said, “but you learn from them and grow. It just comes down to we love to play music.”

They aren’t signed on a label but Vinyl Entertainment handles management and booking.

The band used to handle their own booking, John said, but having Vinyl take care of this let’s them work on what they like the most.

Vinyl Dharma plans to keep active in the music scene and promote the new album when it comes out. Another place you can hear the band will be in the new Heather Graham, Jennifer Coolidge movie Ex-Terminators coming out this year.

“I think for us we play what we like to play,” John said. “We’re not trying to be like Nickelback or anything, we’re just doing our own thing.”

For more Vinyl Dharma, check them out on Myspace.

View Vinyl Dharma’s MTV2 performance

Vinyl Dharma unplugged at Guero’s Taco Bar

Angela Maldonado

Senior Editor - Angela Maldonado hails from Selena Town, aka Corpus Christi, but has made Austin her home since 2002. Her background is in journalism and radio, formerly serving as a producer for NPR’s Latino USA. In her stint with the show, she interviewed some awesome bands and had a nice chat with Joan Jett. In her previous life as a media gypsy, Angela wrangled huge inflatables on radio remotes, ran live broadcasts, promoted books and worked as an editorial assistant at the Austin American-Statesman.

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