Fenix TX shakes up capital

D.C. has seen the coming of several outrageous Texans this year. But move over George W., Fenix TX is looking to stage a national takeover – and they made a big start in the nation’s capital.

The boys in Fenix TX have lived the rock star fantasy. They’ve played stadiums, had their video on MTV and mixed with the punk rock elite. They’ve come through town twice in the last year, and each time the band has made a big impression.

With a new lineup and with its first new album in five years, the band is looking to spread its unique punk sound across the globe. The Hatchet spoke with Willie Salazar, lead singer of Fenix TX, before the band played its May show at the 9:30 Club. He talked about the new record and the band’s plans for the future.

With its new album Lechuza (MCA/Drive-thru), Fenix TX tried to create a unique blend of pop punk and rock-and-roll. As Salazar explained, “We tried to make an album that was like nothing else we’d ever heard. We made a record that’s just totally out there.”

Lechuza is a power-packed half-hour of music that shows a band in evolution. It delivers the pop saturated punk that fans have grown accustomed to but also mixes some hints of straight rock. Heart pounding songs like “Threesome” and “Abbazabba” make clear the band has a definite rock influence.

“When you break it down, we’re just a rock band, that’s all we’ve ever been,” Salazar said.

Although Salazar has a clear mind about the sound of his band, many have looked to push Fenix TX into a specific genre. Salazar, laughing a bit, explained that some have begun to call Fenix TX “cuddle punk” in reference to their slick poppy take on the punk sound.

Although he takes it with a light heart Salazar is disturbed by the constant stress put on classifying music into genres. “Once you’re in a genre people expect you to stick to it. We’re a band, and we just want to play whatever we feel like playing and not be pissed on for it,” Salazar said.

Salazar said identification with genres is often more about style than actual music.

“All the styles of music are, a lot of times, more about attitudes and clothes then actual music,” he said.

Attitude adjustment is what Fenix TX is all about with its new record and tour. Former Guitarist Damon Delapaz recently moved to the drums, leaving the axe to the band’s former roadie James Love. The band’s former drummer left because of a conflict within the band.

Willie explained the situation, carefully choosing his words: “It was a lot of things, musical issues, personal issues. We just decided that we couldn’t keep playing with him.”

Salazar does not seem too heartbroken about the lineup change.

“It’s a totally new vibe now,” Salazar said. “We have a newer, better stage presence.”

The band has survived a number of changes throughout the years, and Salazar feels they have a handle on adversity. When the band’s self-titled debut was first released, the band went by its original name, River Fenix. Salazar said the band had a near run-in with the law using the mane.

“We originally released the record on Drive-Thru in 1997 but then we got a deal with MCA,” he said. “We were going to re-release the record but then we got a call from some guy representing River Fenix, and I was like, `I thought that guy was dead.’

“They said that if we released the album with that band name they’d sue us.”

Since the release of that self-titled record on MCA, the band has gotten the opportunity to spread its music across the nation. The record’s single “All My Fault” received airplay on MTV and was featured on the MTV original movie Jailbait.

But success has not gotten to the band’s head. Throughout the last two years the group has toured tirelessly playing with bands such as Blink 182, Bad Religion and the U.S. Bombs. Salazar feels that touring is the most important and fun part of being in a band.

“It’s all about the crowd reaction,” he said. “If you can go out and play and see kids dancing and having a good time, that’s the coolest. It’s all about the kids.”

And fans love Fenix TX. At both of this year’s D.C. shows, the band has managed to fill the 9:30 Club with a diverse crowd.

“When we were RiverFenix it was a really old, like college-age punk crowd,” Salazar said. “Now we see all these kids at the shows. It shows that we’re really getting out there.”

One thing that Fenix TX has proven is that the band can play any venue from small clubs to large stadiums. On their tour with Blink 182, the group tried its hand at big stadium rock shows, an experience that Salazar is surprisingly nonchalant about.

“It doesn’t matter to me where we play,” he said. “We could be playing underwater and I wouldn’t care. It just matters that we’re playing at all.”

Another thing that Salazar brushes off lightly is the success of other label-mates. A New Found Glory, which has followed on the coattails of Fenix TX getting a record deal from MCA and receiving airplay from MTV.

“They’re cool guys. I mean good for them,” Salazar said. “We’re not in competition. More power to them for getting on MTV.”

Fenix TX need not worry about competition. With their new lineup and album they have shown that they are still out to make quality music.

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