CALEXICO – In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Calexico skateboarder Anthony Ramirez was determined to create a live band out of the electronic and dance-punk influences he was feeling in Mexicali clubs.
Not much of a musician at the time, Ramirez felt compelled to emulate and merge the sounds of what inspired him at the time, mainly the dance-punk on bass and guitar of the indie rockers Mexicalis Noise. Beat Propaganda and the vibrant DJ-heavy electronic scene happening there.
âI used to skate the streets of Calexico and listen to music that came out on skate videos,â Ramirez recalls. âI started to listen to bands like Mstrkrft who came to play in Mexicali. I wanted to start a project like this; however, I wanted to make it a live band.
He would introduce these elements into his own music as Ramirez and various Calexico friends shaped their own sound in the garages and living rooms of Calexico-Imperial Valley during and after his time in Calexico High School. Ramirez was a Class of 2006 Bulldog.
Ramirez’s current band, Glass Spells, which is based entirely in San Diego but was born in this border town, is a fitting representation of these early inspirations.
Described on their own promotional material as ‘disco goth’ centered on ‘funky basslines, dance rhythms and piercing synths’ with ‘infectious female vocals’, the Glass Spells trio are the perfect amalgamation of electronics. proven track record from Toronto, Canada-based Mstrkrft and Noise Beat Propaganda, a post-punk band that, in their heyday, was led by a female singer and relied heavily on the throbbing sound of a funky but slightly overdriven bass guitar.
Bass and synth are Ramirez’s weapons of choice.
These influences can be heard loud and clear on some of Ramirez’s early efforts, like his Calexico-based pre-Glass Spells project Therapist, which has a closely produced video floating around on YouTube for his original 2012 song âSuicide Box,â a single. very much in the vein of Noise Beat Propaganda.
Today, however, Ramirez is focusing on Glass Spells, which after a one-year hiatus came back in full force in 2019 and recently released an EP of new music on June 26, “Mirrors,” a five-song recording. available on all of the major music streaming services, like Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp, to name a few.
âWe actually worked on a lot of new music. We hope that once COVID is under control, we can continue playing shows and hopefully do a little tour, âRamirez recently said in an interview with this newspaper.
âI have the impression that our sound from before would only appeal to a certain audience; it was more aggressive with a heavy bass guitar, âexplained Ramirez. âOur new sound and our new songs can now appeal to different people who like different genres. You can dance to them, listen to them while driving or just hang out.
âMirrorsâ is led by the eponymous single, âMirrors,â which was released in September 2019 but has had nearly 23,000 streams on Spotify. Glass Spells has around 4,000 monthly listeners on the streaming service, and Ramirez said the group has found some sort of audience in Bern, Switzerland (Spotify can identify where most people listen to from).
The song “Mirrors” has a much more accessible sound, with dreamy female vocals, cascading synths, and a dancing disco beat peppered with unmistakable pop hooks in the single chorus calling the listener to “Wake up now”.
Ramirez is hopeful that âMirrors,â the EP, will have legs to survive the pandemic so that the band can bring their music to the masses and capitalize on the positive response the band has received over the past year, especially by being featured on “Local Break,” San Diego’s Vehicle for Local Artists on the popular alternative radio station, “91X” (91.1 FM).
Getting to this point has been quite a journey for Ramirez, who is the only remaining original or local member of Glass Spells, which started at Calexico in 2014.
While in high school in the mid-2000s, he wanted to learn an instrument so that he could realize his budding musical vision.
“I never really thought I could play an instrument because I used to watch bands play, but eventually going to shows I thought maybe I could do it,” Ramirez said. âMy friend convinced me to buy his bass. At first I said no, because I wasn’t playing. But I asked my parents if they would buy it, and they did, and that’s how I started.
For a few years, Ramirez performed in a mix of cover bands and original projects, such as The Ascenders and Therapist, before launching Glass Spells. While Therapist was clearly a first attempt at this electronically influenced sound through live instrumentation, with her singer, her dance beat focused on the hi-hat, kick and snare, and the frantic bass style of Ramirez, he wanted something more electronic in his vibe.
“I wrote a few songs and shared them with friends, drummer (valley natives and locals) Mallory Garcia and singer Mellany Martinez, who completed them, and synth player Michael Rascon and Suz Gonzales also. contributed, âRamirez said.
This is how Glass Spells started, but the band had to face challenges as there wasn’t much of a music scene in the Imperial Valley.
âThere was no place to play. I think it was a big fight for me so we had to play Mexicali or go to San Diego, âsaid Ramirez. âThe only place I started booking shows in the Imperial Valley was the Strangers Bar in El Centro.â
After Glass Spells released their first single, “I Feel It,” in 2014, the band experienced further changes when singer Martinez was replaced by Suz Gonzalez.
In 2016, the group stood out. The San Diego Reader recounted how they recorded an eponymous album at Emprise Soundlab studios in Mexicali with musician and composer Gerardo Montoya. Then, in April, the band premiered a new single, “Rebellion”, followed in May by a video for the song “Away From Space” and the album’s release in September.
Even though there was a lot going on creatively, behind the scenes it was more difficult. Vocalist Gonzalez, keyboardist Rascon, drummer Garcia and Ramirez lived in different towns, which led to the band’s disbandment.
âThe band went through a few changes, we stopped doing concerts and writing music in 2018. It was difficult for us to get together and work on music when we all lived in different cities, so we decided to stop, âRamirez said. .
âIt’s a lot of hard work being a musician. You go through a lot of challenges. You have to do a lot of networking to try to get a show and get noticed, âhe said. âThe groups in San Diego train a lot, like once a week, and work a lot together, and that was one of the challenges, because we lived in different cities, and it was difficult for us to have a practice group. ”
A new version of Glass Spells would come back to life in 2019.
âA friend of mine gave me advice and told me to keep doing what I love to do. In 2019, I reached out to Tania (Costello), who was in my circle of friends in San Diego, with some new music I had written for Glass Spells, âsaid Ramirez. “I asked Michael Buehl, who is also in my other band, Twin Ritual, if he wanted to play the drums.”
Since its re-enactment, Glass Spells hasn’t stopped playing live shows, releasing new music, and increasing its audience and cheers.
“We are delighted to have already gotten such a good response,” said Ramirez.
Between 2016 and 2020, the sound of Glass Spells changed a lot for the discerning electronica listener. It’s angular, early post-punk singles gave way to a more ethereal and dreamy pop aesthetic at times, but it’s always been slightly detached and dark, very dancey and really modern.
Ramirez shared a bit of his creative process on the way he composes music.
“I will randomly think of lyrics or imagine or remember a scene from a movie or TV showâ¦ bass line, and from the bass line I will add the melody” Ramirez said. âSometimes it’s something visual. I guess I’m playing it, so I’m going to run over to the computer and sit down and record what I’m thinking about.
Lately his inspiration has come from TV shows like “Stranger Things”, “DARK”, “American Horror Story”.
âI see (the music) as an empty sculpture and then I add layers,â Ramirez said. âI always created my music to reflect what I was doing at the time. As I change my music changes too, and as I learn I use it to create new sounds.
As Glass Spells continues to grow, Ramirez said he wants to reach as many people as possible and bring the band’s music to movies and TV shows.
Band member and singer Costello, of San Diego, has similar aspirations.
âMy goal is to create songs that people can relate to and dance to. I want to create music that people can sing along to and have a good time doing it, âshe said.
Being the lyricist of the music that Ramirez composes, Costello works closely with him. Her lyrics are inspired by her past experiences, as well as the feelings she feels when listening to what Ramirez has composed.
âWhatever music makes me feel, I write about it,â Costello said. “Sometimes Anthony comes up with a lyric or two, and I put my own twist on it.”
For Ramirez, music has opened doors for him that he never thought possible, including the chance to travel and share his craft with others.
âI met a lot of people playing music that I might never have met, and I got to travel and play for people I never thought I would,â he said. -he declares. âIt’s nice to be able to play in different cities. âMusic for me is a way to be creative and a good way to express yourself and challenge yourself to do better by learning new tricks and making progress,â he added.
This story is featured in the July 02, 2020 electronic edition.