The release of Splitting Sky, the debut from Washington D.C. four-piece Borracho, probably flew under your radar. Hell, it just about flew under mine, but fortunately through the diligence of the band acting on their own behalf, I got to hear the record and have come over the last couple of months to get to know it decently well. It’s a first album, for sure, but Borracho bring something of their own to staple riffy groove that’s only going to serve them well going forward, and if their recent performances with Truckfighters in NYC and at the Stoner Hands Of Doom XI fest in Maryland are anything to judge by, they have the potential to leave a real stamp on the heavy rock underground.
Songs help, and if Splitting Sky has anything, it has songs. From the memorable choruses of “Never Get It Right” and “Grab The Reins” to the tight execution of “Concentric Circles,” Borracho show there’s more to quality rock than cool riffs and solos—but of course there are those too. Lead guitarist Steve Fisher and guitarist/vocalist Noah supply in good form while bassist Tim Martin and drummer Mario Trubiano fill out the sound and set the pace.
Trubiano was kind enough to take a couple questions on behalf of the band and help people get introduced to Borracho, starting with how they got together following the breakups of the members’ former bands…
What happened to bring about the end of Adam West and Assrockers, and was there a point where you knew Borracho was going to be the main priority?
We were all buds who played music together for years in Assrockers and Adam West. In 2007, Adam West did not go to Europe to tour for the first time since 2000, and Assrockers’ activity level was pretty low while we were looking for a new bass player. I kicked the idea to Steve and Noah about doing something with me on drums, Steve on guitar and Noah singing, since the three of us have all been big fans of stoner rock for a long time. They both liked it in theory but we didn’t get right on it. As soon as Tim heard about it he wanted in, and he was in.
We had the Assrockers rehearsal space available, so one night we finally got together, Steve came in with his gear and the rest of us took up one of the others’ rigs. I think Noah had two or three songs he’d been working on, and Steve had a lot of riffs, parts and sections, and we just jammed that night. There was undeniable chemistry, but it was pretty rough.
In 2008, we got together regularly, and even cut a two-take, live-in-studio version of our song “Rectify” that we arranged to have on a split 7” with Adam West to be available for what was to be the farewell Adam West tour in Europe. But that year was pretty focused on the new Adam West record ESP and that tour. Assrockers was still writing, playing a few shows, and rehearsing, with Bruce Falkinburg [ex-The Hidden Hand] on bass.
By 2009, with Adam West fully retired, Borracho began to hit a stride. We had a lot of songs ready to record, had played some cool shows with our buds from Ol’ Scratch, Cortez and Sun Gods In Exile, but we weren’t playing out too much. We began tracking what we thought was going to be our debut in a fly-by-night studio in an old vacant mansion in Arlington, Virginia. We actually moved into the mansion for rehearsal during the same time. It was a super cool spot, but the outcome of the sessions wasn’t up to snuff for a bunch of reasons, and it actually was never finished at all. Some progress on the recordings continued into 2010, but we were all pretty disappointed with what we got and ultimately shelved it. We ended up with some reasonable demos of “Concentric Circles” and “Never Get It Right.”
During this period I started realizing I was becoming more of a drummer than a guitarist, which was a pretty startling revelation. Bruce left Assrockers, and the band moved to a space that we didn’t ever fully get comfortable in, and really just stopped playing with any endgame. 2010 was notable for Borracho only for launching our website, and getting together with more old friends we had shared the stage with before in our other bands. We loved bringing The Brought Low to D.C., Scott [Fuse] from Cortez came down here with his other band Black Thai, and we met and played with the guys in El Grande, who have become our local brothers in rock.
Tell me how Borracho’s sound developed to the point of Splitting Sky. What inspires a song like “Concentric Circles” as opposed to “Grab The Reins?”
Most of what ended up becoming Splitting Sky was material we all collaborated on. Our writing process became pretty fluid—usually starting with a riff and a jam. Steve is a riff-aholic!! I’d say the earlier days when we were all getting more comfortable with our instruments, we were more structured. We’ve built a much more collaborative process in the last year or so, and our newer material came together pretty quickly just from jams during rehearsals. Splitting Sky has a mix of tunes—from those that were brought in by Steve or Noah and some that we really wrote all together. I think that really is the reason why you can hear some of the difference in influences.
We actually have a bunch of great songs that didn’t make it onto the record, more because they didn’t mesh with other songs the way the eight tracks from Splitting Sky just work together. We actually have quite a bit of faster material—tunes that didn’t make the record, but that don’t lack in quality, just space/time. We’re hoping to put these tunes to good use soon!
We definitely all are huge fans of all kinds of music, and the area of overlap in our tastes is pretty much squarely the sound you hear from us. That being said, I wouldn’t expect our next record to sound a lot like this one. We don’t feel any pressure to be limited in our approach, and so far the new material we’re working on has its own vibe and we won’t know what the next song will sound like till we jump into it. I think we all feel fortunate to be able to play music with the same guys for five and 10 years, and be able to sustain the chemistry we all have even after changing instruments. Our sound just comes from clicking as musicians and friends.
The D.C. scene has been strong going back decades at this point. Do you see Borracho fitting in with the D.C. or Maryland pedigree of bands at all?
This is a fitting, but funny question that could be answered in a bunch of different ways. First off, we’re humble guys. We play music because we love it. It’s a flattering prospect to be considered a part of some pedigree. But it feels different in D.C. than maybe it did in Baltimore and the area of MD most known for the doom scene. The past 10 years in D.C. proper hasn’t been very nice to heavy bands. We’ve felt almost alienated in this town at times. I think there’s something to be said about the bands you’re referring to—Pentagram, Spirit Caravan, Clutch, Sixty Watt Shaman, etc.—actually all being guys from Maryland. Part of that scene was that a lot of kids grew up together, they were mostly all friends. It kind of nurtured itself.
Borracho is a bit different by nature because we’re all from all over the place. It’s interesting that we met here—our only shared experience is here and it’s been that way for years so certainly there is a good amount of Maryland dirt cooked in. But we all take something from our respective scenes in Boston, New York, Colorado, the Midwest, and even London, where Steve spent some formative musical years. We don’t have these influences of what our direct peers, who we grew up with and played in a bunch of other bands with would have.
Any shows coming up, plans or closing words you want to mention?
We’ve got some shows in the works in September and October, including a CD release show. We’ll be announcing each of them as they are confirmed, but we should have some shows in the D.C./Baltimore area, a trip up to the Northeast, and a trip down South. The vinyl release of Splitting Sky is scheduled for early-September on No Balls Records, and we’ll be selling them at shows, on our site, and through No Balls directly. We also have another announcement that we’ll be making soon about another vinyl release. You’ll have to wait for that one.
Lastly, thanks to everyone in the scene for all of the support, and for making this one of the best underground scenes for bands and fans. We look forward to delivering quality music long into the future, meeting a lot of great people—fans and bands—and continuing to nurture this scene with all of you!
Borracho’s Splitting Sky is available now from the band’s Bandcamp page at borracho.bandcamp.com.
JJ Koczan still thinks Assrockers is an awesome band name. firstname.lastname@example.org.