- Bradley Flora
Although already established as the biggest-drawing rock band in town, El Toro de la Muerte has more ambitious plans for the year ahead. In addition to playing more festivals and out-of-state shows, they're looking to release two new albums.
This newfound optimism, notes El Toro's Ryan Spradlin, has a lot to do with the band's conversion of a warehouse into a recording studio, as well as a recent tour this past June.
"It was kind of a last-ditch effort to have fun, to come back and play the rest of the summer, and then be done," says the musician. "It wasn't like we were ever going to stop hanging out at the studio and playing music together, but we were going to quit putting a lot of time into this band. I think all of us were pretty stressed out and unhappy."
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But last-ditch effort paid off, much more so than expected. Playing for audiences up and down the West Coast re-energized the group, and by the time they'd returned, the investment of time felt more worthwhile.
Although primarily a live band these past seven years — a full album was recorded and scrapped prior to the release of last year's debut EP — Spradlin has confidence in El Toro's much-accelerated recording plans.
"I think it's totally realistic, because we're gonna start recording the majority of it live in the studio," he says. "We have a louder, live-er sound than we have always been trying to find, and that's not something we've ever been able to really convey to anybody we've recorded with."
Not that it was for want of trying. El Toro spent thousands of dollars recording that original unreleased album.
"I went back and listened to it the other day, and I'm like, man, these tracks sound really pristine and perfect. I mean it's 100 percent more ready for the radio than even the one that we put out. But it's just not us."
The next two releases, then, will be "more grimy and live-sounding." Meanwhile, their studio, which they randomly named Allneonlike, has been racking up local clients, including Briffaut, Water Bear, and the Men of Deep Throat, as well as scheduled sessions with the War Parts and Molly Brown. There's also a half-finished We Are Not a Glum Lot album and a cover of a Blind Lemon Jefferson song that Spradlin, Grant Sabin and others expect to release as a 7-inch single.
As for the main attraction, Spradlin says he and his bandmates are having more fun than they've had in the past year. "We've been writing a ton of stuff, and everybody seems to like what we're writing, and we're not arguing. And for the first time, everybody's writing music in the same vein. It doesn't sound like one of us is always playing in a totally different band."
2nd place: We Are Not a Glum Lot
3rd place: The Flumps