In a tiny house on the South Side of Austin, in a bedroom barely enough to hold them all, the members are Kidlat Punch are working on new songs. Things are going great, and the band is wading through the new material with ease. Then drummer Turk Tacderas knocks over a floor tom after a particularly hard hit. Guitarist Alex Villarreal’s eyes bulge at Tacderas, as he’s too busy singing to help. “I got it!” Tacderas mouths over the music as the rest of the band plays on, finishing the song without the tom. They never miss a beat.
Story by Jim Hampton
The incident is the only evidence that the members of Kidlat Punch haven’t been playing music together for years. It’s surprising just how much ground they’ve covered since Villarreal and Tacderas formed the band with two other friends, bassist Olivia DeBeck and singer/guitarist Josh Palacios, in January. “We’ve known each other since high school and constantly talked about being in a band, but none of us could play drums,” Tacderas said. “Then one day I was like, ‘If we’re going to do this, I’m going to go buy drums. Let’s do it now.’ So we set up a day, we showed up, we stumbled through a song and it wasn’t even that bad.”
With all four members either majoring in theater at the University of Texas at Austin or working, scheduling can be difficult, but the band credits the stage as one of their main influences. “I think we’re very fortunate to all be good friends, but we’re also very fortunate to work together in other creative outlets,” Villarreal says. “We’ve all done theater together. We’ve been working together on a very collaborative level for a while. I think our music is also really theatrical and has a lot of stories. We’re all playwrights and screenwriters too.”
This background shines through the band’s lyrics, which are heavy on stories, scenes, characters, clandestine symbolism or cryptic metaphors. “I really like straightforward lyrics and things that aren’t too hard to comprehend,” Palacios says, citing Modern Baseball as a major lyrical influence.
Songs like “The One Where You Walked Me Hope” tell a complete story, from a sprawling conversation at a party, to drinking too much, to falling asleep and not remembering how. “Where the Hell’s the Bus At…?” is an inner monologue on taking the bus to a love interest’s house and having to wait in the rain. “Mahler’s 20th” recounts an awkward exchange: “Is it too soon to say I like you a lot? / Oh God, there I go putting my foot into my mouth.”
Since their inception in January, the band’s setlist has continued to grow as they’ve searched for their collective identity. One element of that identity is that everyone shares songwriting duties. “At any given time, all of us have instances of, ‘Hey, I’m working on a song,’” Tacderas explains.
The new songs are fantastic, each occupying the ragged, poppy musical territory the band marked for their own this summer on their debut EP, “…if only we could hear them.” They experiment with new grooves, tempos and dynamics in a way that sounds both deliberate and confident, like gunning the engine down an empty stretch of highway. Nobody can say where that highway will go, but if Kidlat Punch are on it, chances are it’s a road worth taking — as long as they can keep their toms secure.
You can hear Kidlat Punch debut these new tunes alongside Stepfather Gets Mohawk and Shannon Brielle tonight, when they play a house show at 7518 Eastcrest Drive. Like every event this Halloweekend, costumes are heavily encouraged but not necessary, but don’t be the dork without one.