The Cicada’s Song: DeZorah
DeZorah is a band that defies classification. It is a conglomerate of four extremely talented and technically proficient musicians, each bringing with them an arsenal of musical knowledge and a deep love for sonic experimentation.
by Cayetano Garza Jr. • Photos by Jonathan Montemayor
DeZorah drummer Trey Puga sports a bass drum head that has a line drawing of a cicada with the band’s name cleverly inscribed in the thorax of the insect. This image is apt in that much like the cicada, which after hatching burrows deep underground to develop into an adult, the band is the culmination of a gestation period of two years since its creation and is emerging onto the music scene a full formed entity ready to sing its song into the humid summer air.
The band began its life with the collaboration between singer Danica Salazar and guitarist Eric Martinez when they first met in Dallas, Texas.
Eric started playing guitar when he was very young, cutting his teeth by playing in a heavy metal throughout high school and for a few years afterward. Danica sang in choir for her junior and senior year in high school, but despite being singled out by her choir teacher to receive special private lessons from his wife, an accomplished opera singer, she never felt entirely confident in her abilities and decided to put music aside while she attended college in Austin. Throughout this time Eric would encourage Danica to sing for him, finding time to collaborate during visits and holidays, but nothing would come of it.
“Every time I would visit Dallas he was like ‘Hey, I have this song… I have this riff… can you do something over it?’ but I just couldn’t! I was so shy. I couldn’t do it.” Danica explains.
It wasn’t until Danica graduated and found a job offer in the Rio Grande Valley that things really started to happen.
“Eric’s like last minute ‘Ok, I’m going to go with you’” but the proviso Eric laid out was that they would work on music together in earnest.
Leaving his family and home in Dallas, Eric and Danica arrived in McAllen almost two years ago and began writing together, visiting local open mics and checking out local bands. Eric found a job working at Guitar Center in McAllen which would open him up to a whole community of musicians.
“We lived pretty close to Simon Sez in McAllen and Daven was in a cover band and we would go and watch them play,” says Eric. Daven Martinez was a co-worker of Eric’s.
It was during one of those visits that they also saw local songwriters Angel Rodriguez and Rachel Udow perform under their old moniker Something Solar. After the performance they introduced themselves to the couple and before too long they found themselves asked to come play at a local coffee house open mic night.
Armed with two songs between them, Eric and Danica insisted on auditioning for Angel and Rachel in the parking lot of Jitterz before playing the stage. From that moment on, Angel would invite the duo to participate in open mic nights throughout the Valley.
In two months’ time they would find themselves playing a show at now defunct McAllen venue The Sound Factory where they would first see Trey Puga playing drums with Your’s Truly, Gloria. Danica and Trey immediately hit it off. Eric was impressed but wanted to exercise care in the inclusion of new bandmates.
“I wanted someone who was going to be able to be our friend first, be able to hang out, be in the same room and tolerate each other,” Eric explains.
“It turned out to be way better than we could have ever ask for.”
Despite Eric’s initial apprehension, the addition of a drummer was the catalyst they needed to help them round out the lineup and develop the music of DeZorah into what it has become.
Trey Puga played drums throughout high school in marching band, jazz band and even conjunto. He is the rarest of players, one who not only sets the pace and keeps the beat for the group, but also communicates intuitively with the bass player to create a rhythmic foundation for each song. He expertly works the cymbals and toms to create a sound that blends Latin, rock, metal and jazz rhythms but is also uniquely his own.
From the moment he started working with Eric and Danica in the band’s practice space the musical chemistry was palpable. Sensing the strength in the new rhythmic possibilities, Eric asked co-worker and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Garza to fill in bass duties as they began to track demos and perform shows. Garza, who was already in a band, finally had to amicably bow out after six months and Daven, who is also an accomplished guitarist, settled into a permanent role as DeZorah’s full time bass player.
The band now had five songs and gigs were coming at a fast pace. To round out a set during their days as a duo Eric and Danica would perform Passion Pit, Circa Survive, and Mars Volta covers but as a full band they wanted to perform their own material and began to experiment sonically. Demand grew as more local promoters heard the band and began booking them for larger, high profile venues like Yerberia Cultura.
Like the emerging cicada, DeZorah was now on the highest limb, broadcasting its song.
DeZorah is a band that defies classification. It is a conglomerate of four extremely talented and technically proficient musicians, each bringing with them an arsenal of musical knowledge and a deep love for sonic experimentation. Their songs swing effortlessly between smooth Latin rhythms, heavy metal chugging grinds, technically mystifying acid jazz and dizzying math rock. Weaving through the maelstrom is Salazar’s vocals. Her unconventional vocal delivery borders on the operatic, bringing to mind the vocal stylings of performers like Jeff Buckley, Thom York, and Bjork. Even those comparisons don’t begin to fully describe her fervent attention to melody. Incorporating an effects processor as part of her performance, Salazar’s vocals become an instrument a whole other instrument that compliments and counterpoints the band’s movements during songs and also during interludes of sonic experimentation.
It was at this point they were ready to record an EP. They travelled to Dallas to work with a sound engineer Eric knew from his days in a metal band – Scott Rubealcaba of Game Room Productions. In a marathon session of three days of booked studio time the band recorded their forthcoming untitled effort.
“I’d never woken up so early, gone into a building and then a whole day goes by and you come out it’s the time it was when you first got there in the morning,” says Eric.
“It was so surreal.”
That was only a few short months ago. Since then the band has continued to refine their live show, which is just as dynamic as the music they play. Danica’s intense stage presence is a combination of calisthenics and acrobatics as she moves over the stage engaging the audience unflinchingly.