DAMEN MARTIN: "I write what I write. I don't pick the genre. It is what it is"
Proverbial Cool Aid, a fiery three-piece (sometimes four-piece) original alternative/rock band hailing from the heart of Houston, Texas. The band is fronted by the incomparable singer/songwriter Damen Martin on guitar and vocals, with Lulu pounding the drums and Glen Ackerman laying down bass lines that will make your heart race. Proverbial Cool Aid has recently opened for the iconic Paul Wall and left crowds spellbound with their electrifying performance at the Whisky A Go Go, sharing the stage with the legendary Great White. They are currently working on their second studio album at Wire Road Studios in Houston with the assistance of the renowned producer Josh Applebee. Indie Boulevard was honored to have the opportunity to sit down with Damen Martin, the enigmatic frontman of Proverbial Cool Aid, to talk about their music, what inspires them, and their highly anticipated upcoming album, which is set to be a powerful showcase of their talent.
IB: Hello Proverbial Cool Aid, and especially Damen, it is an absolute honor to have the opportunity to converse with you. I must express my admiration for your latest release, "30 Years Gone," which left a lasting impression on me. The fusion of country music with rock is remarkable and has resulted in a sound that is truly distinct. For those who have yet to experience your music, could you describe your unique sound in your own words?
DAMEN: My sound. Hmmmm. Well, I really try and milk this Les Paul. I try and get the sonics out of the instrument, in a certain chord, a chord progression, sometimes just accentuating a single note out of a chord while I'm strumming the whole chord. The instrument does the rest. And you know, I write what I write. I don't pick the genre. It is what it is. And what it is, I'm not sure. I'm not sure what genre it fits into. Maybe it fits into several genres. Country, rock, alternative. I'm not sure. And maybe I want to fit into certain genres, but what I'm writing doesnt. But, it's in the writing for sure. A lot of bands will put forth a wall of sound, just a wall of sound, but they'll never really hit that sweet spot in the song. That spot in the song that evokes emotion. I write for that spot. And the good bands out there find that spot.
IB: "30 Years Gone" is a captivating piece of art that showcases your exceptional talent as a band. As a fan of that kind of music, I am intrigued to know more about the inspiration behind the creation of this song. Can you take us on a journey through the creative process of writing "30 Years Gone"?
DAMEN: Sure. Well, I wrote this chord progression years ago. When I was 16 probably. I had just never put any thought into what the chord progression felt like to me. And when I sat down and started writing the words, a song about that love that got away, so to speak, came out. That one that you remember from when you were a kid. This song, let's put it this way, I've heard artists in the past say that some songs are hard to perform. I always thought that they were being dramatic. But, I get it now. When I wrote this particular song, I had several moments of collapse in the practice room by myself. After the song got shaped, and now that I have to perform the song, I can usually get through it. But deep down the song hurts. It's about the one that got away you know. The one that would've made life different and it also wonders if that person still thinks about me even as an adult in a completely far away and distant life. PCA's original drummer Matt Burgon flew out from Utah to lay the drums. Miguel Barajas, my original bassist, laid the bass. The incredible bluesman William Hollis laid the Hammond track. And Francisco Grandi laid the leads. My producer, Josh Applebee at Wire Road, was instrumental in this song's creation. We sat there in the studio and talked through the arrangement, the words, and formed the song right there on the spot from the simple chord progression that I had brought it and from the rough lyrics. Josh is incredible. Once I give a song to Josh, I trust his work. When I see he's caught on to the vibe of a song, I let him work. He's a great friend of mine at this point. He knows me as an artist.
IB: Were there any particular experiences, emotions, or ideas that influenced the lyrics and the overall composition? Also how do you typically approach the songwriting process?
DAMEN: 30 Years Gone is a tough one for me. You know, the song asks the question, what if things would have gone differently? Does she still think about me? Does she still think of the good times that we had together? Who would I have become in this life if we would've stayed together. The songwriting process. Well, the song writing process for me is different with every song. Some songs I have the whole song written. Some songs, Josh and I will sit there and work it out together and then I'll get out there and do it. Some songs we do live in the studio. Some songs I piece mail. Every song is different.
IB: It's impressive to hear about the high-profile gigs you've had the honor of playing, including opening for well-known music industry names such as Paul Wall and Great White. Could you share more about your experience performing with such established artists?
DAMEN: You know, as an indie guy, you send your stuff in, your links, to a promoter, to a venue, to another artists camp, and they either say yes or no. With Paul Wall and the Whisky I just sent in my links and they said yes. Basically, on the strength of West LA, I got both those gigs. Those guys can say no to anyone. One of the guys at the Whisky told me they get anywhere from 30 to 40 apps a day. Ya, I was thrilled to play on those tickets. Paul was a very nice guy. I met him briefly. It was a hot day and he was shooting a promotional thing or a video or something, and I went in his GrillzMobile for a minute. He was nice. I hope I run into him again one day. The Whisky. Well, that was a superbowl moment for me. Getting 7 of my original songs on stage at the Whisky. What a trip. And after our set Audrey Turner, Ike Turner's 2nd wife was in the greenroom. She gave me a big hug. Me and her still exchange a message here and there. But ya, those gigs were a lot of fun.
IB: How do you approach each performance and ensure that you're delivering your best possible show?
DAMEN: So we usually have a few rehearsals for each show. And each performance you know is different. Live music you know. But during the shows I just try to get in the zone with my guys. It's tough to reach that perfect show, but we look for that right? We try to get there. It's just hard to obtain. But every show is fun and different.
IB: Can you tell us more about your experience working with producer Josh Applebee at Wire Road Studios on your second studio album?
DAMEN: Man, I love Josh. I met him years ago, in 2005 or 2006, at Sugarhill briefly in the breakroom or whatever it was at Sugarhill. I guess our relationship, modern day, started with West LA last year, 2022. He did West LA for us and another song in a weekend and they turned out how they turned out, so naturally I went back to him. Then, when I put my mind into writing and recording another record, I called Josh. Josh and I attack every song differently. Josh knows me as an artist. My moods. My neediness at times. He's a great producer and a friend at this point. I love working with him. And Wire Road is just a fantastic facility. The guys at Wire Road are great.
IB: I am intrigued to know more about what to expect from your upcoming second studio album. Could you share with us any teasers or hints about the overall direction or themes of the album?
DAMEN: Well, 30 Years Gone and It Goes Sometimes are the teasers. Those are the first two singles off the new record. The songs are turning out fantastic. And so many fantastic musicians are making guest appearances. I'm so pumped to be working with so many of Houston's great musicians laying tracks on my songs. What an honor. Another 30 days or so and I'll release the record. We are getting close.
IB: How does it differ from your previous album 'Proverbial Cool Aid', and what can listeners anticipate in terms of musical style, tone, and experimentation?
DAMEN: The first PCA record, you know, I was in my 20's. I've matured as an artist. My producers have matured. They've gotten better at their craft. This album I think will show some maturity in the writing and the production value. The first record was almost an acoustic record. I've taken this record electric, sonic at times, harder at times, but always melodic.
IB: I'd love to hear more about your upcoming live shows. Could you share with us any upcoming shows or tours that fans can look forward to?
DAMEN: So we are headlining at The End in Houston on May 6th and then we are heading out to Cali again to play The Viper Room on June 24th. But, I have a list of places that I want to play and I'm just knocking them off one by one.
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