Back in 2016 on the Vegas music scene. It was the year The Musket Vine released not one but two full albums, played Brooklyn Bowl and Sayers Club, and rocked 11th Street Records for Neon Reverb. So what?
“We took several breaks, as I served in the military for six years and was deployed to Iraq,” says singer and songwriter Mahonry Tovar. “It was like every time we gained momentum, something happened. I went on deployment, I came back, we did it again and then I left for another deployment to Kuwait.
Needing a job and a way to leave home, Tovar recalls, he enlisted in the US Army Reserve at 18 and deployed to Iraq at just 20. “It seemed like a really good option because they were going to pay for my college. My parents were really religious and they didn’t support my music. They always thought it was a waste of time.
Tovar then graduated from the Los Angeles Film School with a degree in music production. But throughout his service and his studies, he never stopped making music. And he never stopped thinking about The Musket Vine.
Last Halloween, Tovar reunited with bassist Ernesto Ricardez and drummer Jorge Aguiar, and the musicians began playing shows like a three-piece version of The Musket Vine. They have since added lead guitarist Julio Pacheco and rhythm guitarist Jessie Montez, signaling the official return of a band once heralded by Las Vegas Weekly and others as a potential act of escape.
Tovar originally formed The Musket Vine in 2014 as a blues duo with Aguiar. Soon after, they had added Ricardez and guitarist Lu Lee, who simply went by the name “Elmer”. “I had more of a strong, direct punk style, and [Elmer] incorporated reverb, delays and effects on the guitar,” says Tovar. “So from then on, I started writing more in that kind of genre.”
Before Tovar went overseas, the band released Sleepless nights and unwanted memories, two synth albums channeling the dreamy and atmospheric pop of Beach Fossils and The Smiths. Tovar’s vocal prowess, meanwhile, was reminiscent of Brandon Flowers or Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys. These albums contained some of the most engaging and exciting tunes created by a Vegas band at the time, and they were surprisingly polished, considering they were recorded in Tovar’s bedroom.
“If you listen to it, people assume it was recorded in a big studio,” Tovar says, adding that he usually composes the music himself before his bandmates add styling. “That’s one of my main goals, writing good songs that are catchy. That doesn’t mean making complex music. It means making something that sounds great and can be sung by everyone.
As the band delved into influences such as Mac DeMarco and Melody’s Echo Chamber, their sound developed a strong heartbeat and Tovar began to address themes of attraction and love. At Sleepless nights opens “Queen”, for example, he begs a lover to come home with him before launching into the mantra, “I want to adore you / I want to adore you”.
Tovar then experimented with more hip-hop and trap sounds on a solo project he called Jidiani, which he says proved therapeutic. “[The hip-hop was] more like my aggressive side,” he says. “At that time, I had just returned from the war. I had PTSD and was very aggressive. So I was like, ‘Let me get this out somehow.’ “
Although The Musket Vine may be reunited, Tovar is in no rush to make new music just yet. For now, he is focused on bringing people back into the band through live shows and the catalog of music he already has.
“The music is timeless,” says the 26-year-old. “Music is gonna be good forever.”
The Musket Vine instagram.com/themusketvine, facebook.com/themusketvine
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