Hojas Rojas
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Hojas Rojas


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"Pulse Twin Cities Top Ten Local Albums 2006"

Round the Dial's Personal 2006 Best-Of LIst

Top Ten Local Releases:
Hojas Rojas

A sharp Bright Glimpse into a style and a lyrical direction that's both comfortingly familiar and challengingly curious. Check out their website, find the song "Spiderkiller," then tell me I'm wrong. Fabulous. - Pulse of the Twin Cities


Pulse Twin Cities Review August 3 2006

Hojas Rojas
Magnolia Recording Co.

Originally formed from the ashes of The Leaves in 2004 by singer/multi-instrumentalist/ board expert D.J. Kukielka, and now featuring the mighty musical talents of New Congress member Manuel Guzman on bass, Centurions/ Spikedriver skinman Tim Hovanetz and razor-sharp axeman T.J. Shaffer on guitars, this band has undergone a spectacular metamorphosis and incorporated new members to forge a truly unique sound that nearly defies categorization.

But filing the album you’re holding in your hands right now under “Electronica,” “New Age Alternative” or even “Modern Rock” would be a grievous error. A more suitable tag, if there even is one—this music is both hauntingly familiar and wonderfully strange all at once, like running into your doppelganger in a foreign city or falling asleep during a blizzard and waking to a bright, sunny summer day—for Hojas Rojas might be: “Working class electronica-augmented guitar swoon-rock.”

The group’s latest studio effort, KillMeILoveYou (released on Tom Feldmann’s local Magnolia Recording Co. label), defies such easy genre-placement, though. Alternately a howling, spitting, careening beast on the loose and a gentle, half-drunk bar-stool philosopher, the record courageously batters down the walls dividing club music, roadhouse raunch and sugary pop, leaving an indelible imprint on even the most jaded listener.

Already a popular act on the Minneapolis scene (especially at the West Bank’s rock central—The 400 Bar), the band has labored tirelessly over the past six months, honing their stage show, writing new material and working with lauded producer Mark Stockert to complete the 13 tracks whirling dizzily around in your player and your skull. And what a combo! The album literally bounces from one extreme to the next at the drop of a hat—from tender, teasing ballads like “I Hope It Snows,” which brings to mind the warm, fuzzy alt-pop of Teenage Fanclub, to sonically-aroused, keyboard-driven rabble-rousers like “Sunbeam,” dreamy, wasted-love anti-anthems like “Spiderkiller” and quirky, Pink Floyd-ian sound collages like “Rainfall.”

True, there are hints of that Wayne Coyne-inspired experimentation here, but there are also musical nods to a wide variety of artists—a quick spin recalls the half-stoned, cock-eyed swagger of English pub rockers The Faces, the delightfully twisted blues raunch of The White Stripes, the bone-rattling yowl of Sonic Youth, the brittle, pain-wracked longing of Steve Forbert, latter-period Johnny Thunders, Brian Wilson-era Beach Boys, Built To Spill, Moby and, of course, Pink Floyd.

Hojas Rojas proudly bare their souls here, and with inspirations and influences of that caliber—as well as years of combined stage experience and a genuine, heartfelt love of uplifting, honest rock, pop and folk—there’s simply no telling just how far this truly one-of-a-kind outfit will go. Check ‘em out for yourself at www.hojasrojas.com or www.myspace.com/hojasrojas. For a live taste of these killer tracks, check out HR at the following venues: Aug. 12 at the Theatre Garage/Sin City’s 7, 1900 Lyndale Ave., Mpls or on Aug. 23 at the Fine Line, 318 First Ave. N., Mpls. Rock on, people

- Pulse Twin Cities


Perfect porridge press6.28.6

After a year working on their debut album, KILLMEILOVEYOU, Minneapolis electro-artrockers Hojas Rojas have scaled Mt. Influence and upon descent, returned with an album rooted in blues, folk, modern rock and yes, even some electronica.
Modeled after Pet Sounds and The Soft Bulletin -- but thrown for a loop with the release (and subsequent influence) of The White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan, KILLMEILOVEYOU is perhaps the most incongruous, yet enjoyable local album we've heard this year.

The group's Minneapolis CD release show is Friday, July 14th at the 400 Bar with Thin Man and Action vs. Action.

We sat down with Hojas Rojas' singer/multi-instrumentalist DJ Kukielka to talk about the group, the new album and why The White Stripes ruin everything while making it better. Read on...

What's the back story behind the group?
In 2003 I had written a bunch of songs that I wanted to record. I had only been "singing" for a year and a half and didn't have a band. I had met Mark Stockert, and he had told me about his studio and analog recording sounded really cool to me, so we set up some studio sessions. I guilted an old friend, Manuel Guzman to play bass, and another old friend, a drummer, to drive from Milwaukee to form my studio band. Things went surprisingly well and within a few sessions over a nine month period we had finished a folk-rock album, "Let Yer Ego-go," which I quietly self-released. We played a CD release at the 400 Bar in January 2004, and by that time the drummer had moved to San Diego, so all the proceeds went to paying for his flight to Minneapolis. (The rehearsal for the show was one night at a cabin in Wisconsin - during a major blizzard.)
After that, I began booking shows, the first of which in March 2004 at the
New Band Night at the Entry, which is the first show that Tim Hovanetz played drums (I booked the show before he knew he was playing with the band.) We then played a lot of shows at the 400 Bar, getting some good slots opening for national acts like Earlimart and Film School. I was writing a lot and our sound was changing. We were experimenting with a lot of different songs, covering Beck, Radiohead, and Cloud Cult. Soon it was time to start recording again, and taking more time and doing it more carefully.
So we began recording KILLMEILOVEYOU in March 2005. I wanted an album modeled after Pet Sounds and The Soft Bulletin. I have to admit though, that I was profoundly influenced by the stripped-down rock-pop of Get Behind Me Satan, which I fell in love with during the middle of recording. It showed me how little you need to have a great song. Good drums, good vocals, a little hook. Oh yeah, there was also a break-up in there somewhere. So we finished recording in March and decided to take a few months off before releasing our first HOJAS ROJAS record. Now, we've got a great new guitar player, TJ Shaffer, and a handful of new songs that we will record this fall, and I've never been more excited about our music.
How would you classify your sound?
Art-rock. or Folk-pop-rock with a little electronica.
Tell me about the new album - where recorded, any interesting stories, etc.
With Mark Stockert at Underwood Studios. We originally started recording without a click track and ended up scrapping those sessions. I wanted to do it right and it made a world of difference.
Sounds like there's a wide range of influence here - "Under the Covers" is a Jack Whitish track rooted in country blues vs. the complete electro-ambient "SSLHD" vs. the piano soloed "Everythings Gonna Be Ok?" Can you talk about that?
My writing is very much influenced by what I am listening to. There are some songs that I think are very obviously influenced by certain artists. But I try to make them as original as possible. I let the songs evolve naturally. The worst stuff out there is contrived. If I am writing and I hear a bit of Jack White or Wayne Coyne in my guitar or my voice, I just let it be. There are also a lot of songs on KILLMEILOVEYOU that I think are genuinely unique. Like "I hope it snows," and "Spider Killer." I like the idea of some songs sounding a little familiar and some sounding totally new.
Tell me about your CD Release Show?
We're doing two. One on July 14th at the 400 Bar in Minneapolis, with The Thin Man, Action Vs. Action, and Matt Marka (Koalas had to cancel.) AVA is one of our favorite local bands, and John from Matt Marka's band played bass on a couple of the songs on our album. Then we're going to Duluth to play at Beaner's Central on July 22nd. I am doing an acoustic performance on the daily talk show, and an in-store at the Fetus in Duluth on Friday the 21st. We're already getting some good radio play on KUMD so we're really excited to get up there.
Any other news/ gigs?
We are going to play a lot of shows in town this summer and fall and do some regional touring as well. Two goals are to play New York and Nashville this fall as well. And some recording this beginning this fall. The new material is really exciting.

- perfectporridge.com


Hojas Rojas - KILLMEILOVEYOU by Nick Leet

First thing's first. I'd heard the name of this band before, but never seen them live or heard their recordings. I checked my trusty mailbox and saw their album cover. It consists of James Bond-esque silhouettes and an early '60s motif. My first thought was pop punk. Oops, I did it again – I was wrong.

This disc is filled with the group's collective love of the Flaming Lips. No guys, I'm not going to criticize you for your love of the Flaming Lips. Lord knows everyone should like the Flaming Lips. The main reason I'm not going to criticize you for the strong influence is because you do it so damn well. The songs on this disc are well written and have a nice dash of weirdness. DJ Kukielka (words, guitar, synthesizer, piano, percussion, loops and production) should be commended for his chops at each of his many jobs in this band. Tim Hovanetz (drums and percussion) keeps the different avenues of the songs tight with the help of Manuel Guzman (bass). My favorite track on "KILLMEILOVEYOU" is the title track with its sentiment of "All I need is your love, your love and music." Well put guys.

If you're a fan of the Flaming Lips and like your music with dashes of Wilco, pick up this record, support this band, hell change the oil in their cars. Talented songwriting and performances like this one should be honored. This band should be, in a matter of time, at the top of the Twin Cities music scene heap. So what are you waiting for? Stop reading this and go buy "KILLMEILOVEYOU."
Rift Magazine #17 August 2006
- Rift Magazine


Four stars - Lunch of Champions.info June 27 2006

When I listen to Hojas Rojas’ new album, “Kill Me I Love You”, I am immediately reminded of noble princes climbing mountains, battling dragons, and toiling against inner demons all in the name of saving virgin princesses. This album is noble, indeed.

It tells the tale of a long journey through peril and into uncertainty. A tale of love. Of burning desire. It speaks of days past where you weren’t so afraid of telling the truth. Noble days. Sad days. Days darkened by abuses. But always at the end of the day there was hope, right? That seems to be the question that “Kill Me I Love You” is asking. Is there hope?
This story is set up on the album’s first track, You Don’t Know Me At All, where lead singer, D.J. Kukielka sings:

Please forgive me when I speak
when my heart is strong and my mind is weak
Youre the only one I love
I let you down

Through beautifully layered pianos, strings, guitars, and vocals all set to rock solid drum beats, Hojas Rojas strings together quite a tale.
Kukielka’s vocals do an excellent job of covering a wide range of emotions, while Tim Hovanetz keeps things together on drums. Manuel Guzman (bass) and T.J. Shaffer (guitar) put forth notable efforts that really allow Kukielka’s vocals to soar.

This album is mixed brilliantly and features an ambiance that is scary yet strangely comforting.
If The Legend of Zelda were a feature length movie directed by Ang Lee, this album would be the soundtrack.
Songs like Rainfall, Under the Covers, and Sunbeam would blare as Link tears through red and blue monsters en route to saving his true love. Meanwhile, These Days and the album’s title track tell the tale of his burning desire to find his true love.
On These Days, Kukielka sings of the daily battle:

These days we’re fighting the same war we’ve fought a million times before.
And every time we lose.

Also, as a side note, the intro to Sunbeam sounds a little like the music from the boats in Super Mario Brothers 3. How awesome is that?!

Summary: Hojas Rojas has put together something special here.

- lunchofchampions.info

"ISC Semi-Finalist"

'Helium' finished as a semi-finalist in the 2007 ISC!

'You Don't Know Me At All' made it to the semi-finals in the 2006 ISC!

Competitions are lame, but this one is ok. - International Songwriting Competition

"Two Way Monologues"

Two way monologues (dot com) 8/7/7

Anticipate many reviews spawned by NXNE coming to you from me in the coming weeks. So many great -- and not-so-great -- bands played this festival, so it’s only natural for us to want to get the word out. Hojas Rojas are one such band, and this is the quote that got me wanting to hear more from them: “Hojas Rojas are often thought of as a cross between the Flaming Lips and Wilco.”

I’ve never truly given a damn about Wilco, but I know enough about them that the concept of splicing their sound with the Flaming Lips is intriguing. Now, it could be my complete lack of Wilco knowledge, I admit, but for me I hear more of a cross between the Flaming Lips and Jack White and his White Stripes. This is especially evident on my favourite song, and one of the better songs I’ve heard in years, “Under the Covers.”

There are more original songs, there are more advanced songs, but there isn’t a better song than “Under the Covers.” There might not be a more basic song structure, and the three firmly-struck guitar notes repeated every twenty seconds or so could probably be played by me -- and I am by no means a guitar hero. So what makes “Under the Covers” so bloody good? This is a grimy, garage-rock song that you could have probably convinced me belonged to my beloved White Stripes; if it did, it would stand up as one of their best. If I’m walking through Regent Park banging my head three times to those guitar notes every time the “Not going to let that get in my way” lyric hits, then you’ve done something right. Of all the bands at NXNE that I hadn’t heard before, Hojas Rojas have the best song I’ve heard with “Under the Covers”.

Back where we began, Hojas Rojas starts the album with “You Don’t Know Me At All”, which practically begs for a room emerged in bubbles with random celebrities dancing in bunny suits, full of gently rocking, hands-holding fans. “You Don’t Know Me At All” is very Flaming Lipseque. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, right? There are a couple of instances in the song where that theory is put to the test, but the entire album doesn’t mirror the Lips too closely so I’ve decided I can deal with it.

Later on “Sunbeam” finds KillMeILoveYou battling the Pink Robot again. Where Hojas Rojas differs from the Lips is that they don’t dive headfirst all the way into absurdity, instead just wading in waist deep. And it’s a saviour, because it keeps them separate and is easier to pull off. It also allows the choruses to repeat more often. Have you ever found there’s so much going on in a Lips song that even their most brilliant choruses can go to the backburner? You won’t have that problem here, where they hit you like a sunbeam and stick with you over the days to come.

And much as with the Lips, who are clearly an influence, KillMeILoveYou struggles with inconsistency. The first half of the album is stellar, working an intergalactic pop-grunge style that blends a unique combination of influences and shows massive potential. The second half loses much of that. By the time album closer “Everything’s Gonna Be Ok” starts playing, I’m lost. Hojas Rojas attempted something bold; the album gradually moves forward with interludes and builds up towards what should be a crushing ending. But it doesn’t succeed in its intentions, as much as I wish it did. I can’t fault them for going for it, because I wish more bands would have the onions to try.
- Two Way Monologues (dot com)

"HELIUM Review 1"

A new leaf

A good candidate this year for most improved band: Hojas Rojas, whose 2006 debut offered decent if undistinguished Flaming Lips-ian alt-rock. The quartet truly comes into its own with its second effort, "Helium," an eight-track collection on Eclectone that lands with a party Saturday at the 400 Bar, also featuring Big Ditch Road (9 p.m., $7).

HR sounds scrappier and looser on the new disc, which is one of the improvements. Tunes like "The Girl Song" and the title track have an off-kilter quality, reminiscent of Pavement, that belies the band's subtly climaxing guitar parts. Frontman D.J. Kulkielka adds to the charm with a lovable lonely-guy howl and coy lyrics, evident in songs such as "Stupid," "Foolish" and "Delusional." Sounds like someone was thumbing through a thesaurus after a bad breakup.

Chris Riemenshneider
- Star Tribune

"HELIUM Review 2"

Hojas Rojas aren't reinventing the rock 'n' roll wheel with their about to be released sophomore album, Helium, and that's OK. Their formula: bar band rhythm section, a pair of overcharged electric guitars, a singer who makes up in passion what he lacks in precision, forms the template for dozens of other bands in the Cities. So, why should you care about Hojas Rojas? Because simple formulas done right are still plenty enjoyable. So, sure, Helium's eight songs have pretty much two gears (boozy and boisterous, boozy and reflective) but the band's managed to come up with at least one gem in each category on this effort (the title track's a great tightly wound rocker and "Foolish" is the kind of woebegone ballad that's wracked catharsis isn't fakeable). And hey, ths is pretty much the same template the 'Mats ended up riding to mythic hero status so whose to say where Hojas Rojas' story will ultimately play out?

Rob van Alstyne, reveillemag.com - Reveillemag.com


Helium (Eclectone Records 2008)
KILLMEILOVEYOU (Self-released 2006)
Let Yer Ego-go (Self-released 2004)
My Dog's Breakfast (Self-released demo 2001)



Hojas Rojas is headed into the studio May 2009 to record their new EP.

The band was formed in 2004 by D.J. Kukielka (primary songwriter and guitar) and Tim Hovanetz (drums). Newer members T.J. Shaffer (guitarist) joined in 2006 and Donovan Johnson (bass) in January 2008. The band believes in challenging listeners with creative songwriting and has evolved from a layered-synth-and-loops sound to a more raw-guitars-bass-drums sound. There are a wide array of influences pretty near the surface from Zeppelin to Dylan to Drake to Flaming Lips. At times Hojas Rojas can sound post-punk, sixties psychedelic, then anthemic blues-rock. Five years in the band feels that they have something honest and exciting to add to the saturated indie scene and are going to continue to plow forward, heads down, doing what they want to do.

From Whiskey For the Holy Ghost (dot blogspot dot com) Spring 2008
"Hojas Rojas, a Minneapolis based indie rock band, have recently released their sophomore album entitled Helium, and are about to embark on a short national tour. Their off kilter indie rock is mixed with a strong sense of the history of the Minneapolis rock scene. The song I received (and posted at the bottom) is called "The Girl Song" and is a fast burning rocker that is both grand in scope and heartfelt in presentation.
With the Pavement-esqe rhythm change and the Bloc Party indie riff for the intro, what carries the song is the boatload of drunken, emotional wailing let out by the lead singer. His plaintive scream takes this song and helps carry its jittery melody and holds the listener in through the frantic music. If not only in style, then definetly in emotional spirit, they convey the spirit of many Minneapolis bands that have come before them, from the Replacements to the Plastic Constellations. The down and out, only you can save me mentality that makes good rock and roll music become great is present in this song. I can image this frantic music and wild singing would present great theatrics for a live show. Check them out if they are coming your way."

Hojas Rojas has performed with:
The Cops
Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter
Film School
Cloud Cult

Performed at NXNE 2007, MPMF 2007, Reveille/Eclectone SXSW Party 2008
East Coast Tour 2008