Page Turner 

It was a winter night, pre-Christmas, and I was fulfilling a manic creative compulsion to make thousands of homemade magnets to give away as holiday gifts. While working, the soft sounds of piano jazz played in the background from my stereo’s default station, 91.7 FM. Suddenly, my senses were jarred when a high-pitched female voice came pulsating into the room, backed by the heavy throbbing of instruments. KRTU had switched to its late-night, indie-rock programming and I discovered San Antonio’s own Reader as they performed live at the station.

A few weeks later, I went to see them perform at the Limelight. When they hit the stage, I worked my way into the standing crowd and watched with curiosity as several guys got behind their instruments and Miranda Mireles, the band’s singer, bombarded the audience with Silly String and glitter-filled balloons. With a confident smile, Miranda was every bit as attractive as her voice had led me to imagine.

Their set launched with fury. Guitar, bass, and electric keys screeched over the body-pounding drumbeats. The players bounced off of each other in fits of musical exhilaration. Miranda stood still, hand on hip, eyes closed and head toward the ceiling, singing and moaning with a powerful, percussive vibrato.

Each of Reader’s genre-defying songs bled into the next in a long string of harnessed noise shaded with psychedelic tones. They captivated the ear with the spasmodic sounds of Joseph Casares’s keyboards, and pummeled the body filled with Joe Vega’s heavy-hitting drum work.

Impressed by their instrumental skills and the complex rhythms and changes that made each song distinctive, I wanted to know how such a tight unit had emerged and if they have as much fun off-stage as they were clearly having on-stage. So I did something I’ve never done before: I emailed them and invited myself to sit in on one of their practice sessions.

A week later, I drove to the home of Joe and his parents, where the band practices twice a week. When I arrived, all five members of Reader and their various equipment were squeezed into the garage.  Mario Trejo, Reader’s guitar player and senior member, handed me a pair of ear plugs, an act which indicated both their readiness to begin and their awareness of the considerable volume that would soon fill the garage. I sat on a box in the corner, eager to experience my own private concert. To my disappointment, Miranda was sick and couldn’t sing, but she shook a tambourine and encouraged her bandmates with an infectious smile.

The garage door closed, to prevent the music from disturbing the neighbors. Joe shouted out a “1-2-3-4” and the room exploded with sound. Every song began heavy and fast and ended slowly, like a painful yet eloquent death. There were no fumbles, no starts and stops.

After 45 minutes, David Cantu, the group’s bassist, announced the need for a break so I followed them inside the house. I was introduced to Joe’s parents and two yapping dogs and invited to join Reader for a conversation which ranged in topic from the local music scene to anatomically-correct dolls and circumcision.

Here is a condensed version of Reader’s history: Mario and Joe jammed together, then invited David, Joe’s neighbor, to join them. After seeing Miranda perform with the band Sexy Robots, the three guys stole her away for their band. And then, according to David, “Joseph showed up one day and never left.” For more than two years now, Reader has been a unit.

How do five people collaborate to create the songs they write? “It just kind of happens,” Miranda said.

Joseph, the most talkative member of the group, explained that each of them play multiple instruments and work in other bands. So they all bring a different frame of reference to the group. “There’s nothing stressful,” he said. “Everything is fun.”

That mindset was evident in the chumminess they displayed at the kitchen table. They had me cracking up a couple times, looking out of the corner of my eye for any signs of disapproval (which never came) from the parents of the house. After a particularly raunchy comment was made, Joe remarked, “This band is probably gonna go to hell.”

Reader is as thoroughly self-contained as any DIY band could hope to be. They manage and promote themselves, making and distributing their own fliers. Joseph records them and Joe creates their CD cover art. And they’re almost certainly the only band in San Antonio to enclose a lyric sheet, band sticker, and condom with a CD release, as they did with The Premonition EP. That’s what they call generous packaging. 


More by Brooke Palmer

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