El Toro de la Muerte
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El Toro de la Muerte

Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States | SELF

Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States | SELF
Band Rock Alternative


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Long live the Bull: Colorado Springs' favorite rock band releases its eagerly anticipated debut EP"

"You can come anytime you want to see us be stupid and loud," says Ryan Spradlin as we make plans for an El Toro de la Muerte photo shoot during his band's Sunday evening rehearsal.

Buried deep within a warehouse that's just crawling distance from the North Nevada Avenue K-Mart, El Toro's dank practice studio has a lot of history for the four musicians. Spradlin (vocals/guitar/keyboards) and Jay Schwan (drums), who've been in bands together since high school, used to rehearse here with their group Sacco & Vanzetti, while Mike Nipp (bass, vocals) and Jeff Fuller (vocals/guitar/keyboards) practiced with their old band, Against Tomorrow's Sky, in the studio next door.

"The place smells like piss and cigarettes," promises Schwan, who'd served as the band's keyboardist prior to drummer Julian Dumont's departure last winter. "It's like 2002 all over again."

Actually, it's mostly pot that permeates the building's bleak corridors, thanks to a medical marijuana dispensary that shares the premises. Wall-mounted air fresheners periodically spray the hallway, adding a vaguely sickening aroma to the mix.

El Toro's cramped rehearsal space isn't all that luxurious, either, despite a couple strands of Christmas lights, some salvaged acoustic tiles and two floor-to-ceiling carpets faded to the color of mortuary makeup.

Yet it's in this setting that the magic happens, as El Toro rips through airtight versions of songs from their debut EP, Dancer These Days, whose release will be celebrated with a five-band gig at Zodiac this Friday.

Through it all, there's an obvious camaraderie, the kind that enables lifelong friends to give each other endless shit, as when Fuller drolly tells a bandmate, "It's the right note, you just played it wrong."

As for Spradlin's warning, El Toro is definitely loud, but not at all stupid — as anyone who saw their electrifying set at this year's Indy Music Awards Festival can attest.

"Despite the group's menacing name, its music is as gentle and smart as it is well-honed," wrote Westword music critic Tom Murphy, who also hailed El Toro's "richly appointed pop that borders on symphonic without coming off as pretentious" and likened the band to "an indie-rock version of Supertramp."

That was back in 2009, when the group had one single ("Atop the Belle Isle" b/w "Blood on Their Tongues") to its name. And while "gentle" may not be the most common way to describe the raging "Bull of Death," the rest of the review rings pretty true — even the Supertramp bit. With a little imagination, the contrast between Spradlin's ragged upper-register vocals and Fuller's comparatively smooth delivery could be viewed as a warped fun-house reflection of the '70s prog-pop icons' dueling approaches.

Still, with the release of Dancer These Days, any lingering "symphonic" elements have taken a back seat to concise, if somewhat twisted, alt-pop songwriting. Not that they're gone entirely: There's a middle eight in Fuller's "Like a Ghost" that's downright majestic, and whenever Nipp joins in with the other two vocalists on the band's ubiquitous "whoa-oh-ohs," things can still get pretty anthemic.

These days, Spradlin is more likely to compare El Toro's sound to that of '90s alt-rock icons like the Pixies, whose rough-hewn, punked-up power pop would fit nicely on a mixtape with the band's newest songs.

But mostly, El Toro sounds like El Toro. During their six-year existence, they've won over enough hearts, minds and votes to take first place in the Indy Music Awards' rock category this year.

Plus, their collective résumé reads like a who's who of local indie-rock practitioners. In addition to the aforementioned Against Tomorrow's Sky and Sacco & Vanzetti, their alma maters include Jetpack, Enemy Swim, the Zimbricks, Age of the Engine, Victory Boy, the Gadflys, and — best name of all — Lorito Opens His Beak. "Yeah," says Schwan, "all the bands here in town are interrelated and incestuous and it's kind of ridiculous."

Away from the studio, in the comparative quiet of a downtown happy hour, Nipp and Schwan drank beer and answered questions about what may well turn out to be the year of the bull. While Fuller was out of town and Spradlin's car had broken down on his way back from the airport, the interview still went on for two hours. Here are some highlights.

Indy: So let's start out by talking about concept albums, specifically the one you guys shelved. What happened to that?

Jay Schwan: I think it was one of those situations where those songs had been around for a long time, and it took a little too long to get them down.

Mike Nipp: Yeah, to get them fleshed out and recorded the way we wanted them recorded.

Jay: And that never happened.

Indy: So they were starting to feel stale?

Jay: Well, that and we kind of switched around a little bit. We had a different drummer, Julian, and now he's not in the band anymore. So we kind of re-thought what we were gonna do. It was like, - Colorado Springs Independent

"Artist Profiles"

El Toro de la Muerte
Style of music in 10 words or less: "Indie/alternative rock"
Band members: Mike Nipp (bass), Jay Schwan (drums), Jeff Fuller (vocals/guitar/keyboards), Ryan Spradlin (vocals/guitar/keyboards)
Three artists they admire: Neutral Milk Hotel, The Smiths, Mogwai
Year of origin: 2005
Recordings: Atop the Belle Isle (2007), Dancer These Days (due October 2011)

While they seem like nice enough guys, the members of El Toro de la Muerte have something of a contrarian attitude when it comes to music.

"Everything now, and for the last three or four years, has been kind of trending toward Americana and more blues-folk stuff," says El Toro co-founder Ryan Spradlin. "And when we started six or seven years ago, that's what we were trying to do a lot of. And now I think we're trying to do a lot more, I don't know, it's kind of weird, it's kind of like '90s Pixies, Nirvana, alternative-type stuff. Not necessarily because it's our favorite thing to do — we pretty much enjoy everything — but I think we're always trying to do something that's a little different than what people are into at the time."

Of course, there was a time when Spradlin was trying to make music that hardly anyone could enjoy. Spradlin and drummer Jay Schwan have been in bands since high school that, in retrospect, he figures were a bit "overly original."

"We were into that whole thing where, you know, everything has to be trying to push the frontier," the musician recalls, noting that El Toro's more motivated these days by melody, songcraft and just playing music that's fun. "People always want to play to their ability, but the best songs in the world aren't written that way. The stuff me and Jay were doing was all kind of Fugazi math-rock type stuff, but now that I look back on a lot of what we were playing, for the average person, it was probably sort of unlistenable."

So is Spradlin aware that there's a new album from math-rock duo Hella out this week? "I know, I love listening to that stuff," he says. "But my mother doesn't." - Colorado Springs Independent

"And the First Indy Music Awards Go To"

1st Place: El Toro de la Muerte - Colorado Springs Independent

"Steal This Track: El Toro de la Muerte"

In a world where the perfect pop record can be made in your living room — given the right equipment, sufficient talent and all the time in the world — it’s easy to lose track of the immediacy and spontaneity that make rock and roll so visceral and exciting. Fortunately, Colorado Springs-based El Toro de la Muerte hasn’t lost track. On the forthcoming EP, “Dancer These Days,” the veteran rockers prove that art-rock can still rock.
While El Toro de la Muerte has won both fans and awards aplenty in Colorado Springs since its 2004 inception, the band remains relatively unknown in Denver. “Dancer These Days” should change all that. Drawing on power pop and ’90s alt rock, the record’s seven solid tracks suggest influences as diverse as the Police, Pavement and the Shins, with the kind of expert musicianship that allows the seasoned quartet to pull it all off. Above all, though, “Dance These Days” has the kind of urgency and playfulness that comes from a band that knows its game.

“We wrote this ep and recorded it as fast as possible,” says Ryan Spradlin, guitarist and vocalist for the band. “In the past we have felt like we overplayed and overworked songs before recording them and the recordings would suffer from sounding a little uninspired. This time, we tried to keep everything really straightforward and light.”

Our favorite songs off the EP — to be released October 1 — include “God Alone,” “Dancer” and “Like a Ghost,” but “The Chattering of Rats” showcases everything we love about this band. Ryan Spradlin and Jeff Fuller’s guitar and vocal work propel the song with a delicate balance of mastery and humility (not to mention some killer organ), while Jay Schwan’s hyperkinetic drumming and Mike Nipp’s minimalist bass work provide the song’s unassuming and unassailable backbone.

On the strength of the tunes collected on “Dancer These Days,” El Toro de la Muerte plans to play a lot more shows in the coming months, including several in the Denver area. If you don’t know them now, you will know them soon enough. As an introduction, steal “The Chattering of Rats.” You can tell your friends you heard them first. - The Denver Post

"Winner 2010 Outstanding Group or Band"

Awards. - Pikes Peak Center for the Arts

"Tonight at the Larimer Lounge"

From the Westword:

"When you call your band “The Bull of Death,” you have to excuse people for thinking you play some variety of metal-core. This Colorado Springs quintet is almost as far removed from that kind of thing as possible — except that a couple of these guys were once in heavy-as-heavy-can-be bands such as Thruster. You wouldn’t know it from the delicate instrumentation and harmonies that make up the music of El Toro de la Muerte (due at the Larimer Lounge on Saturday, April 11). Sounding a bit like an indie-rock version of Supertramp, replete with a diverse array of instrumentation, this outfit trades in a richly appointed pop that borders on symphonic without coming off as pretentious. Despite the group’s menacing name, its music is as gentle and smart as it is well honed." - Westword

"Band To Watch Out For"

From the Dallas Observer:

"And last, but certainly not least, we've got El Toro De La Muerte. Probably my favorite of the bunch and probably the most experienced as well, these guys combine crafty songwriting with a certain je ne sais quois -- like you feel like you've heard a band that sounds just like them before, but you can't quite place exactly who that band is. Either way, they're pretty rockin'. And they throw one hell of an annual Halloween show/party. " - Dallas Observer

"Live Review"

Opening up the festivities were El Auto de la Muerte, which includes members of one of the most fearsomely original bands in the city, El Toro de la Muerte. With Jeff Fuller (keyboard/guitars/vocals ), Julian Dumont (drums/vocals), Ryan Spradlin (guitar/keyboard/vocals), Mike Nipp (bass/vocals) and Jay Schwan (keyboards) at the helm, they did a set of Cars covers that made you smile, made you dance and made you happy that someone out there remembered how simply spooky cool the Cars were.

That said, while the Cars covers were top notch, please check out El Toro de la Muerte if they play anywhere near you. I saw them open for Low Red Land a few months ago, and they are one hell of a show.
- Colorado Springs Gazette


Atop the Belle Isle EP

This had two tracks which have been played on various local radio stations including KRCC/NPR 91.5, KILO 94.3, as well as various interenet radio stations.

Dancer These Days EP

7 Songs available Oct 2011



El Toro de la Muerte is a rock band hailing from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Drawing from influences such as the Pixies, the Cure, Cursive, and the Smiths, their energetic live performances and unforgettable Halloween tribute shows aptly display their diverse musical backgrounds and unique brand of alternative rock.

They have had the honor of sharing the stage with many great local and national acts including, Manchester Orchestra, the Crash Kings, Low Red Land, Birds and Batteries, Heartless Bastards, Hacienda, The Peculiar Pretzlemen, Drag the River, and many more...

~In 2008: won the local Tapas and Toons competition for Best Band.

~In 2009: nominated for Best Band/Performance by the Pikes Peak Center for Cultural Arts.

~In 2010 we won Best Band/Performance by the Pikes Peak Center for Cultural Arts.

~In 2011: won Best Rock Group voted by the readers of the Colorado Springs Independent Newspaper which was followed by a great review of our ep in the Denver Post.