Phonolux
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Phonolux

San Antonio, Texas, United States | SELF

San Antonio, Texas, United States | SELF
Band Rock Alternative

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"Flying Phonolux's Feathered Fortress"

Buddy Calvo isn't playing musical chairs anymore. He's not mincing words, either.

Calvo, lead singer, pianist and chief lyricist of the underdog indie rock and prog-pop band Phonolux, said the band has crossed a new musical threshold with its new EP, “Feathered Fortress.”

There's no denying it.

Its centerpiece is the swelling, self-possessed psycho-drama “Hurricane.” Equally revealing are “And Then He's Gone,” “Goodbye” and “She Don't Know.”

“It's heavy without being metal,” Calvo said about the piano-driven rock project recorded at Public Hi-Fi, the Austin studio owned by Spoon's Jim Eno. Brad Bell engineered the sessions.

“We're really excited because it's a different step for our music,” Calvo said.

The release follows two albums and finds Phonolux at the crossroads. For one, original bassist Art Guillermo Jr. has departed. But not before he decorated “Feathered Fortress” with his trademark inventive bass lines.

In his place is Armando Mora.

But also weighing on Calvo is an upcoming milestone that has confounded many a musician, from Pete Townshend to Britney Spears. He turns 30 on Saturday. That may account for his dark mood and the self-assessment.

For those unfamiliar with Phonolux, the best way to put it is that they should be mentioned in the same breath as Girl in a Coma, Hacienda and Piñata Protest.

On disc, the ominous rock music is often brilliant, always melodic, fiercely quirky and even cinematic in scope. Calvo's breathy snarl ranks with any of San Antonio's best rock voices — it's an amalgam of the Smashing Pumpkin's Billy Corgan, Macy Gray and a touch of Oasis' Liam Gallagher.

Onstage, Phonolux used to be the musical chairs band, the one whose members played each other's instruments, often changing song-to-song.

It was cool. It was entertaining. It was precious. It was a gimmick.

“We used to jump around and change on the instruments, but we we're becoming Jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none. We decided not to do that anymore,” Calvo said. “It made us feel that we were providing a gimmick for people. I realize you have to give people a show, but we're more interested in just playing the music. We just wanted to focus more.”

But there was a benefit, too. By practicing on the same instruments (Calvo often jumped from piano to drums to guitar), the band improved.

The “Feathered Fortress” EP reflects the focused approach. Guarding Calvo's flank (and playing better than ever) is guitarist-vocalist Miguel Romero Jr. and drummer Dave Novak.

Thematically, the songs are about hypocrisy “and religious beliefs.”

“We're a spiritual band but none of us are particularly religious at all,” Calvo said. “We really don't believe in God. We believe in ourselves for whatever that's worth. That's where we're at.”

Calvo, a talented filmmaker, said he is frustrated by the local music scene. It's a bitter pill, he said, to see some acts get recognition and for Phonolux to remain an underground obscurity “playing music for musicians.”

Phonolux performs at Limelight Saturday July 20.

“A lot of the bigger bands in San Antonio, in Texas, in the United States and in the world are just bands that are full of (expletive),” Calvo said. “They lack substance. There's no substance in the fabric of their soul. They're commoners. ... That goes for music, government, films, anything you can think of. We just felt like talking about it on this record.”

He channeled that frustration into his songs — particularly “Hurricane.” He swears it wasn't reading about Taylor Swift's latest achievement or seeing the latest accolades for some of S.A.'s homegrown acts that set him off. Well, maybe.

“It was probably all of those things,” Calvo said.

It also makes for some newfound and epic sonic heaviness.

“We love that term 'heavy.' But I think a lot of people in bands nowadays don't understand what heavy means,” he said. “They think heavy means 'loud' or it means 'more distorted.' And I guess sometimes it does.

“But for us, it's a feeling that you get when you hear a song. I'm a big (Led) Zeppelin fan, and there are so many Zeppelin songs that are played without distortion that are just heavy. It's a just a feeling.”

If swinging wildly is how Phonolux creates its music, then swing wildly they must. But Calvo can be as easygoing as he is scathing.

With a birthday looming, he said he wishes he were about 10 years younger. Of course, not without a little pathos.

“Man, if I was 19, we'd have a chance to be a bigger band,” he said. “We'd be fresh out of high school, in college with so many friends. And it sucks. For better or for worse, I've told my lifelong friends, 'Don't come to the shows because you're my friend. Come to the shows because you like my music.'

“So, if there's three people in the audience, at least I know those three people are there because they love our music. I don't need people looking at their watch, waiting to get out of there, because they're doing it as a favor to me. Don't do me any favors. We're pretty good, but we've never had any delusions about being a huge band. Our motto is: Ever onward.” - MySA.com


"Feathered Fortress"

Phonolux’s recently released “Feathered Fortress” builds on the already-undeniable reputation of their work. The band’s third—and first studio-recorded—album is arguably their best.

The four-track EP is mature, cohesive and focused. Front man Buddy Calvo’s raspy, true-rock vocals lead you through with piano breaks, sick bass lines and riveting guitar solos. The sound is heavy but not overwhelming, characteristic of the band’s signature sound: indie-grunge… plus piano!

To what can we attribute such fine-tuning? Maybe it has to do with their recording the album in a studio, or a new band member (bassist Dave Novak took over in May 2013 following the departure of founding member Art Guillermo), or the new sense of self that Calvo found while writing lyrics for the four-track EP.

“We are always trying to do something different with everything we make,” he says. “This is the first time we’ve recorded in studio. Before, we were doing everything ourselves.”

The band self-recorded and self-produced their first album, followed by an acclaimed sophomore effort, “Nashville Fires,” in April 2012. Calvo is enthusiastic about the band, which shows no sign of slowing down now. He says Phonolux’s style is ever evolving.

The lyricism on “Feathered Fortress” give listeners a personal look into Calvo’s serious self-reflection. This is rock-and-roll, through and through, and these are truly talented musicians. Pay attention to how guitar and piano solos in “Goodbye” blend so well into the fabric of the song.

After being teased by these four great tracks, all that’s left to do is wait for more. The band will be heading back to Jim Eno’s in Austin later this year to record the rest of the tracks for a full-length album.

“This time, we are going to let the studio mix and master [other Phonolux tracks],” Calvo says. “But just one song for now.”

On Monday, July 8, Phonolux will premiere the music video (produced by members of the band) for their first single, “Hurricane.” The band plays their first show back from hiatus, with all new material at Limelight Saturday July 20th. - SATX Music


"Night After Night"

"The quartet brings together '00s alt rock and 60's pop rock influences for a sound that rocks with melody to spare...Phonolux offers something different for the local alt-rock scene, and that's a good deal."

Jim Beal Jr. - San Antonio Express News - San Antonio Express News


"Aural Pleasure"

"60s and 70s rock, pure and simple... This is a serious band interested in writing and properly recording good songs."

Enrique Lopetegui - San Antonio Current - San Antonio Current


"Phonolux Seeks Extras"

"The guys from Phonolux are some of the best songwriters, singers, and multi-instrumentalists in town. Their self-titled 2009 debut was one of that year’s best..."

Enrique Lopetegui - San Antonio Current
- San Antonio Current


"Song Of the Day - Texas Music Matters"

"Phonolux, they're kind of under the radar... Redefining what San Antonio rock music is."

Hector Saldana - "Texas Music Matters" KUT Austin 90.5 FM - "Texas Music Matters" KUT Austin 90.5 FM


"Phonolux"

"Melodic modern rock songs that resemble deep, classic album tracks. I highly recommend scoring a copy of this album."

Javier Padilla - Backbeat Magazine
- Backbeat Magazine


Discography

"Phonolux" self titled debut album
"Nashville Fires" sophomore album
"Feathered Fortress" EP

Photos

Bio

Founders Dave Novak and Buddy Calvo met through a craigslist post in 2007. Phonolux began writing and rehearsing original material in the fall of 2007. Before long, they began to record their debut self-titled, self-produced album in 2009. The album "Nashville Fires" followed in 2012 -- both receiving positive reviews. The summer of 2013 will see the release of the third studio project, an EP entitled "Feathered Fortress". Steady live regional shows will support the EP's release.