I'm With the Band: Rockin' Out With Redneck Buddha

Thumbnail image by Coraliz Albelo

By Carlos Micames

Larry Eilliams once said “rock and roll has no beginning and no end for it is the very pulse of life itself.” Redneck Buddha is a band from the west coast that represents classic rock influeces in an exciting and captivating style: think Pink Floyd-meets-Arctic Monkeys.  The bands, whose memebers all study at UPRM, are currently recording an EP while simultaneously dealing with studies. Their logo can be seen on t-shirts worn around campus, or in Facebook events near the area, and their brand of music is recognizable at any local show. The band has been playing for around two years and have worked hard to expand their fanbase, as well as their music, to attract different audiences in a scene dominated by electronic and metal music. The three members, Julian Sundaram (bass and vocals), Héctor Ramos (guitar) and Ovidio Pool (percussion) all add different elements to the sound, which certainly constitutes an interesting partnership. The deep, grungy voice of Julian, paired with the hardcore, gritty guitar playing of Héctor and rhythmic, catchy drumming of Ovidio, form a trippy, yet enjoyable sound. It emulates hard rock music, yet still sounds rhythmical enough to move to. As Redneck Buddha continues to perform with big names such as Former Astronauts, Diversion Sonora, and Alma Nebula (another amazing up and coming group from the West), it will be intriguing to see their development on this stage. I met with the members of the group to hear their opinions on the musical scene and their plans regarding their music.

How would you classify the current music scene on the West Coast and what methods have you taken to adapt?

Héctor: The music scene on the west coast is definitely growing in impact and slowly spreading around the entire island.

Julian: It’s also becoming more rock and roll with time. We never tried to adapt to the scene but rather play our own music and enjoy ourselves. Eventually, our music began attracting people and I guess the scene just adapted to us.

Ovidio: The metal scene is probably the most visible around the area. There are so many metal bands out there and we’re part of a few that detach from that trend. I agree with Julian, we just did our own thing. We played our own style of music and what we liked and it seems to work.

What is your main inspirations musically?

Ovidio: Periphery, Tesseract, John Bonham. I love to experiment with the cymbals and toms to see what rhythms I can create.

Julian: I guess mostly blues I suppose, old school punk, like The Ramones or Sex Pistols.

Héctor: skate punk, pop punk, mostly punk rock. I also have my alternative side which has added a new dimension of “catchiness” in my playing. It’s kind of complicated to explain but it’s all there everytime I play.

Redneck Buddha at the studio. Photograph by JS Recordings.

What are your composing methods for your songs, both musically and for lyrics?

Julian: I always find this question difficult. Usually it’s based around a very catchy, tough sounding bass line. The rest of the instruments are meant to accompany the riff and add different effects to the song. For lyrics, I see songs as movies or books. I imagine a scenery and I write about it. It starts with a catchy phrase that sounds clever and then I base the entire song around that phrase.

Is it difficult for original rock bands [ie, non-cover bands] like yourselves to attract crowds?

Héctor: Yes, definitely yes it is. Here in Puerto Rico particularly it’s more difficult because most people will only listen to what’s on the radio and they’re not willing to search and listen for any local artists or composers. It has to do mostly with what’s in the media.  If you’re out of the media then it becomes harder to be heard.

Ovidio: I think it’s hard for any new bands that don’t have an established fan base to begin with. All bands start with a few friends and family hearing your music as you work your way forward. It’s hard for every single one unless you have some great connections.

Julian: Being an original music band makes it more complicated. Anyone will go and hear a cover band playing the same songs but playing original music that no one recognizes takes time.

What has been your favorite show so far?

Héctor: The second show we did because we had a better understanding of the identity of the band. Plus we had more people who recognized us and that’s always a great thing in any show.

Ovidio: Definitely the second one at Cien a Uno.

Julian: For me the first show we did was the best. Although we made some errors, the energy from the crowd was more dynamic.

Redneck Buddha perform at Cien a Uno. Photograph by Coraliz Albelo.

What are your goals for the band?

Héctor: Mainly I would say it’s to get our music out everywhere. Not just stay in Puerto Rico but expand to other horizons outside of the island. I’m not saying it’s bad but we have to get our music out there and begin another journey.

Ovidio: I just want to do music. There’s not much of an explanation for this. Most of the day I’m out there banging on tables and pans annoying people and the drums help release all this energy. The opportunity to do what I love and play good music is great. Plus, the main music scene on the island is metal and we don’t play that music. Our style is different so it puts us with other bands like Diversión Sonora and Former Astronauts. I identify us as similar to those bands because we’re not so different musically, but we’re not out there playing metal like the rest of the bands.  

Julian: I agree with Héctor and Ovidio: The main goal is to take our music internationally. Actually make something out of this for those who say it’s just a hobby. This isn’t something we’d like to do part time. All of us here love music and love to play it. The opportunity to make a life out of this and share our music with the rest of the world would be incredible.

Photograph by Coraliz Albelo.

What are the next steps in order to get people to recognize your music?

Julian: We’re currently working on recording an EP with a couple of our original songs. It seems to be going well. With each new show, more and more people are recognizing our songs and hopefully, when we have our recorded songs, it’ll be much easier to promote the band and our music.

Héctor: We’re also working on playing outside of the west coast. Playing in the metro area, south part of Puerto Rico and basically all over the island.

Ovidio: Yeah, we’ve been able to connect with other bands with similar styles and play shows with them. It helps to attract new listeners and get our name out there for the public to hear.