Synths and Attitude: San Antonio's Sex Mex blends keyboards, punk and pop for edgy sound

Although new on the scene, the quirky four-piece has already earned praise from Spin Magazine.

click to enlarge Sex Mex has only been performing as a full band since March of this year. - Courtesy Photo / Sex Mex
Courtesy Photo / Sex Mex
Sex Mex has only been performing as a full band since March of this year.

Sex Mex burst onto San Antonio's music scene last year with a catchy yet blistering synth-punk blast. Think of a warped collage of The Cars, Suicide and Devo delivered with DIY home-recorded grit and a heaping dose of attitude.

Originally the bedroom recording project of member Nathan Gray, Sex Mex's first gigs featured him performing solo with backing tracks — a desperate effort to get his music out to the world.

"I used to do a lot of stuff with tracks, sending Ableton [music software] into amps to sound like guitar," said Gray, who plays drums and sings in the current four-piece lineup. "I couldn't find band members if I didn't get out and do something. I was experimenting just to put myself out there, thinking folks would hear it and help me out. And now it's an actual band."

Filling out the rest of the group are Gray's girlfriend Becky Moore on tambourine, Matthew Colliflower on keyboards and Nick Devora on guitar. Though they have only been performing as a full band since March, the outfit has already earned praise from Spin Magazine, which included it earlier this year on a roundup of noteworthy punk releases.

"San Antonio's Sex Mex are too punk to be pop, too pop to be punk, too late to be new wave, as they tell me," the magazine said in praise of the quartet's off-kilter sound. "Keep it cooking, freaks."

To date, Sex Mex has dropped a self-titled CD, and a trio of digital releases are listed on its Bandcamp site.

Despite the praise from Spin, the band's rough-and-ready attitude hasn't always endeared it to the Alamo City music scene, as evidenced by a recent brawl that erupted at a scheduled gig at Hash Vegan Eats. Yes, a vegan brawl.

"I was helping with sound at a show we were playing with a hardcore band of 17-year-olds," Gray explained. "The drummer jumped into one of my amplifiers, broke it, and I got all pissed off. Instead of apologizing, he started cussing me out, saying he didn't care. I punched him, he punched back and then the whole band ganged up on me. It was an ... interesting show. We did not get to play."

Sex Mex's influences aren't obscure, but they certainly stand out in a local music scene that veers more towards roots or metal. Gray rattled off varied inspirations, some punk, some pop; some predictable, some not: Alice Cooper, The Cars, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Dion, The Ramones, The Spits.

Gray has always been interested in music, but it was a personal tragedy that pushed him to finally realize his vision.

"In high school, I always liked catchy, energetic music — punk to an extent," he said. "And I always wanted to do it, but didn't. For a while, I was gonna be a dad, but my girlfriend had a miscarriage. When that went away ... I thought, 'Now I might as well do what I actually want to do' ... . This crappy thing happened, but I can take it and do something else, so I don't feel like I'm wasting time."

To be sure, Sex Mex isn't sitting idly by. In addition to a full slate of local shows, the band will undertake a Midwestern tour in November, and it also has a 7-inch EP coming out on Italian label Goodbye Boozy.

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