Jose Oyola and the Astronauts
w/ Fake Babies, The Guru, M.T. Bearington, Chalk Talk. (After-party at the Outer Space with Elison Jackson, Ports of Spain & Head with Wings) Sat., Feb. 2. The Space, 295 Treadwell St., Building H, Hamden. (203) 288-6400. 7:30 p.m. thespace.tk. $15, $12/advance.
José Oyola is a networking master. Between his show-booking outlet Taco Hut Productions and his own musical ventures (be it his current solo project or his defunct band Prisms whose stickers still adorn parking meters and telephone poles all over New Haven), Oyola is seemingly everywhere and knows everyone. He's about to release his debut solo album Give, Give, Give. Take, Take, Take., and for the record release party he's throwing at the Space Saturday night he's got a solid collection of high-quality local bands lined up, including M.T. Bearington, Fake Babies and Elison Jackson, who've all signed on to show support. He's worked harder than most to play as often as possible and to make lots of talented friends along the way, and the strategy has paid off.
"I like to hear what my peers are doing," says Oyola. "And it's nice to see all these familiar faces at shows, but those familiar faces also invite friends you don't know and it keeps growing. … There's no competition really. You do your thing, we do ours, and we can help each other at the same time. Hopefully it will exponentially grow from that."
Last January, Oyola wanted to go on tour. He didn't have a band, but that didn't stop him. He asked Sam Perduta of Elison Jackson to come along, and Perduta agreed with no hesitation. Oyola managed to book the pair all the way down to New Orleans, despite having only a 12-minute set.
He'd always preferred being in a band to playing solo, but some friends urged him to record the songs he'd been playing. The result was an eight-day recording session at Adorea Recording Studio in Hamden that eventually became Give, Give, Give. Take, Take, Take.
"I just got a cast of the musicians I wanted to use that had played the songs with me before, and we got it done," says Oyola.
To help fund the recording and printing, he used a Kickstarter account, asking for donations from fans and friends.
"Kickstarter is nice, but it's not as easy as it seems," he says. "Also, Kickstarters are everywhere now. It's a lot harder, but if I didn't, this album would've never been recorded. It's a great tool, but people underestimate how hard and how stressful it is. At the end it was worth it because I've got my album out and it's ready to go."
The music is melodic, quirky, stripped-down and raw, with sparse instrumentation (no full drum kit) and a feel reminiscent of the likes of, say, the Moldy Peaches.
Music that Oyola has been listening to lately includes the likes of the Flaming Lips, the Mars Volta, Frank Ocean, older Arctic Monkeys, Battles, Minus the Bear and the Doors, but nothing on his album sounds like any of those things.
The album art is a Polaroid photo of Oyola when he was seven or eight years old, wearing a Yale sweat shirt. At the time, he wanted to be an astronaut.
"I took that picture because I had just won student of the month," he says. "I had face paint on and my goofy glasses. I always told my mom I was going to go to Yale, and I think it's ironic because I didn't make it into Yale but I made it to New Haven."
Oyola first grew up in Worchester, Massachusetts, followed by a year in Puerto Rico and then an extended stint in Hartford. At age 18, he moved to New Haven to attend UNH. Now he's at Southern, studying physics, not quite an astronaut, but he's learning about the vacuum of space nonetheless. And the band that backs him up on his solo shows is called the Astronauts. On Twitter, he follows the Curiosity rover on Mars and gets excited when they put a new picture up.
"It's pretty interesting to see a landscape with nothing built on it," he says.
Even more educational changes are on the horizon as he's transferring to NYU in February to be a student in the music marketing program.
"I love physics but I'm too distracted right now with music stuff," he says. "I'm sort of doing it already right now, too. It'll be nice to study something I can apply the very next day."
One thing Oyola won't be doing any time soon, however, is moving to New York.
"I like it here," he explains. "I like that I'm in a city with a small town feel. The city seems like a vortex of humans. I don't want to have to live in a tiny apartment and wait tables to get by. I don't think the answer is in New York. I don't like when Connecticut bands are 'from New York.' I wish more bands were happy about being from Connecticut. It's more unique."
That hometown pride and respect for the scene he's a part of makes for good vibes and has helped to create quite a buzz surrounding the album release show — it's well on the way to being a sellout.
"The response has been very heartwarming," says Oyola. "It's nice to see that people actually care that you're doing something."