CIVX is a band that has come a long way since they started out in the winter of 2014. After winning a slot on the Tachevah Block Party in 2014, getting to play Coachella in 2014, and putting out an EP, CIVX went through a lineup change. However, they’re still going strong.
During a recent interview in La Quinta, CIVX talked about what has happened recently. After the departure of Nick Hernandez, the band’s former frontman and bassist, guitarist Dillon Dominguez has now taken over vocals. They also recruited new bassist, Clay Samalin.
“Obviously, there was a switch between an original member of the band and the guy who sort of put CIVX together, Nick Hernandez,” Dillon Dominguez said. “Through time, and we have a lot of good memories with him, but he started a family business. It started to get where it couldn’t be his priority anymore. When he left, we took on Clay, and he and I jammed together growing up. I asked him if he wanted to join and he was all for it.”
The band couldn’t be happier with Samalin, and the chemistry between him and the rest of the band has been great. At the time when Samalin was recruited to play bass, he had only been playing it for a couple of weeks and was originally a guitar player.
“I had been playing for 2 weeks and had just picked it up,” Samalin said. “I called Dillon and he was like, ‘Hey man, you want to jam with CIVX?’
Dominguez explained how smoothly the transition was for them.
“He’s always been a guitar player for as long as I’ve known him and I didn’t really ever hear him play bass, but I assumed by doing one that he should be able to pick up the other. He’s surpassed what we’ve even imagined and he’s been really great to play with.”
Samalin did say it was stressful at first.
“At the beginning, it was stressful,” Samalin said. “Learning the old songs, being ready for shows, and once I got that down, it took the stress off my shoulders and it got to where we could create new stuff together. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve really been enjoying it.”
For drummer Joel Guerrero, it’s been a change in the right direction concerning the rhythm section.
“I’ve been comfortable with it,” Guerrero said. “When we were originally with Nick, it was obviously a lot of Nick and I playing together, bass and drums. He really liked playing really complicated basslines and I would try to incorporate that with the drums, and that’s where you hear the old style with a lot of bass and drums. Now, it’s still the same, but not as intricate as before. My drumming has kind of changed, but it’s a lot more powerful. Clay and I try to work together a lot, but a lot of the time, it’s become more on where I focus on the guitar as well and not just bass. It’s well-rounded with my style of playing instead of focusing on just one instrument. I like the change a lot. I like the direction that we’re going in.”
CIVX also had to write entirely new material and have since omitted some of their previous songs from live sets.
“Originally, we tried to structure things before hand and go in with an idea, and now is we don’t really go into anything expecting less and we don’t even really need to write a song,” Dominguez said. “We’ll just start playing and we have something. We just move from there. It’s a lot more jam based with songs now.”
Their previous EP released on a cassette through Sourdough Records was also right after Hernandez left the group.
“On our EP that we released on cassette, that’s Nick,” said Dominguez. “It was during that whole time that we started and knocked that whole round of recordings out. Then the transition with Nick took place, and all the recordings were done without any vocals. At that point, we wanted to get it out as fast as possible, when Nick decided to move on, that was when it was put on me to start doing vocals. It was all within a week where I just went in and wrote songs to the original mixes. We weren’t sure if we wanted to look around for a new vocalist or try and take up the position.”
The first show where CIVX played live at the Purple Room this past spring with all the transitions was tough.
“It was absolutely nerve wrecking,” Dominguez said. “It was my first time singing and Clay’s first time playing bass. It was still cool, but it was nerves like I’ve never felt before. I’m used to going on and playing guitar and not having a problem with it. But when you have that mic and the anticipation of all of it, you’re thinking about your guitar parts and getting the lyrics right. When you get past that first note, everything gets buttery and way easier. As the gigs have gone on, I’ve felt a lot more comfortable.”
The future of recording as it stands right now for CIVX.
“We released our first EP earlier this year, but like Dillon said, those were songs we made with Nick last year. After we released that, we started writing new material given we have a new vocalist and a new bass player. We knew that things were going to change and since the release of the EP, we’ve been trying to work on new material. One of the new songs we released is ‘In Trance,’ which we recorded at Sourdough Records. During that time, we got a message on Twitter from this producer in London and he said the quality kind of lacked. He wanted to help us out and that was our first new song written as a new band and released, and we actually just released a remastered version of ‘Smoke Rings’ from our first EP.”
On the day of the interview, CIVX was due to play a show in Thermal, which Guerrero said would probably be their last for a while.
“Today, we’re playing our last show in the desert for a while, we don’t want to exhaust our performances and we’ve been playing a lot recently, and we feel it’s time to write new material and a lot of the stuff we’re playing live is new. It’s kind of the beginning of what’s to come, and it’s basically a new band with new music. I guess from here on out, we’re going to write new material and focus on getting back into the studio. We’re not sure about a full length LP though.”
After playing a show in Los Angeles, CIVX got to know the band Mind Monogram.
“They’re really good guys and they have a cool thing going in L.A.,” Dominguez said. “We played in Echo Park with them and got established over there and we’re playing in Echo Park again in August at the Echo Park Rising. Through them, they have their own studio and label, and through them, they want to sign the next material we release. They’re wondering we should go full length or EP, and they want to get something out as soon as possible.”
CIVX found themselves in an interesting position this past spring when they opened a show for Black Pussy at The Hood. Black Pussy has received national attention for issues related to their name from feminist groups and others who take offense with the name. Black Pussy has also received death threats and some venues who refuse to book them.
“We found out we were going to play that show about 4 days in advance through our friend Jack Kohler of War Drum,” Dominguez said. “He asked us if we wanted to play the show with Black Pussy and War Drum and we didn’t know who it was with. Going in, I heard the day of and I was with the band and I was like, ‘Black Pussy? Huh, that’s different.’ I wasn’t sure what to expect, I only heard they were kind of like a desert rock band, and I met the guys and they were all super nice. A couple of days later, I saw something online about feminists were all against what they were doing. They’re out there with the intention that they’re sticking to their name. ”
Guerrero was also somewhat baffled by the attention Black Pussy receives in various cities.
“I didn’t think anything about the name,” Guerrero said. “There are so many odd names out there for bands. I didn’t realize there were people protesting venues they were supposed to play at and people making death threats until we added each other on Facebook. I’d see their posts about how venues would cancel their shows or controversy to their name. I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize we played with a band that has problems.’”
CIVX have also befriended Alchemy and also played a few shows with them, including their EP release party show back in June.
“We’ve loved them since the beginning. We actually played with them in one of those competition shows to get our slot on Tachevah. They had a different lead singer at the time but it was all different music. We were like, ‘These guys are great!’ We told them, ‘Hey, if you play shows, we’d love to put something together.’ We didn’t hear from them and they pretty much disappeared. Then we were going to play the Coachella Valley Art Scene and they asked us about another band, and we said, ‘We should reach out to those Alchemy guys, we haven’t heard from them in a long time.’ Apparently, they found a new lead singer and we’re just getting their material together. We played that show with them and it was a blast, they’re really cool guys and fun to hang out with. We love their music and we’re happy to see them like they’re happy to see us, it’s a good mutual friendship. Just seeing them progress and then for them to play Tachevah this past year and then at Coachella, they really deserved it and had it going on.”
As to what’s in the future? Joel Guerrero explained what he’d like to see for the band in the near future.
“Definitely put a full-length, definitely keep working on getting more with out of town shows, and the last 2 months it’s been going great with that. We’d like to plan a little tour and a lot of friends have done it, and it’s just a matter of working hard, saving up, and just getting it together. That’s something we haven’t experienced all of us. I’ve been playing music for many years now, but I’ve never thought about going on tour. That’d be a great experience. Even if it’s just touring in Northern California or Southern California. Other than that, just network more.”
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ALL WORDS BY BRIAN BLUESKYE