Helotes rock band Hydra Melody began in 2001 as an after-school jam session for Stinson Middle School students Robert Pompa and Jordan Berlanga. Initially, eighth-grader Pompa played guitar and seventh-grader Berlanga played drums, but Berlanga, though he considered the guitar a “hobby” he “learned through finding tabs on the internet” soon came out from behind the kit.
“Once `Berlanga` hopped on guitar,” Pompa recalls, “he started singing and pretty much took over.”
The duo added a new drummer and a bassist and began playing pop-punk under the name Ready to Fail.
“I already had all these songs I’d written,” Berlanga explains of his switch to frontman, “so I thought let’s try this.”
Lineup and directional changes in ensuing years prompted a name change, and as Hydra Melody they’ve released two truncated albums — 2008’s six-song Day of the Dukes and last year’s three-track Maybe One Day — and plan to drop a full-length in either the summer or fall of 2010. Songs like “You’re What I Do on the Weekends” stretch the pop-punk frame with more involved instrumentals and abstract lyrics, and though it’s hard to differentiate between their voices, Pompa and Berlanga are swapping vocal duty. “Day of the Dukes is mostly me singing,” Berlanga says. “But on the Maybe One Day EP and the stuff we’re doing now, it’s more evenly split.”
After a January 17 show at White Rabbit, Hydra Melody will head to Southern California, where they’ve scheduled a handful of gigs, including a show at Hollywood’s famous Viper Room.
We talked to Pompa and Berlanga about evolving as a band and their conflicted feelings about the Mars Volta.
How did Ready to Fail become Hydra Melody?
JB: We added a keyboard player `Justin Berlanga` and new bass player `Bobby Hass` to Ready to Fail … and it wasn’t really pop-punk anymore. The keyboard added a different element that we really wanted to use, so we decided that name wasn’t really suitable at that point. It was kind of a dumb name to begin with.
Did people begin comparing you to the Mars Volta after you added a conga player `Manny Prince`?
RP: Even more so.
JB: We were already hearing that, but people really started comparing it then, and I think that kind of gave us the initiative to really go in a different direction.
I get the feeling you’re getting tired of that comparison.
RP: They would say that, and you listen to our songs and it doesn’t really sound like the Mars Volta —
JB: Well not anymore, yeah, but some of our earlier stuff that we don’t have up on MySpace … the Mars Volta was a huge influence, so it kind of came across that way, but I think we were really just trying to find ourselves at that point. We knew we didn’t want to play pop-punk anymore, and the music we were writing definitely wasn’t pop-punk anymore. I think it was really more a time period when we were trying to figure out what we wanted to do … learning the instruments more. We had just been playing power chords and little silly leads. We were trying to challenge ourselves.
What would you classify yourselves as now, if you had to?
JB: Man, I’d like just to say it’s rock. It’s just rock ’n’ roll, ’cause —
RP: I’d say progressive, progressive rock. … Our music progresses a lot. It goes from one style to another, but it’s still us. I’d just feel it’s necessary to call us that because it does progress.
JB: We all like a lot of different genres of music, and it all shows, I think, within the collaboration. So there’s a lot of different styles going on, and to us it’s something new. We’re trying to create something new, that at least we haven’t heard before. •
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