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Native Daughters' Eddie Maestas on letting music speak for itself

Native Daughters was formed just before local guitarists Eddie Maestas and Thomas Chagolla wrapped up their affairs in the inventive and cathartic post-hardcore band Mustangs and Madras. The two wanted to start a heavy instrumental band inspired in part by Isis and Neurosis, so Chagolla switched to drums and they recruited Gene Martinez on bass and Colin Madden on drums.

When that mix of sounds seemed out of balance, the group brought in various guitarists — including Justin Hackl of Only Thunder and Trees, who provided the technical proficiency that allowed the music to jell into a vivid soundscape. The band's debut album, War Elephant, recorded at Black in Bluhm, is a strong representation of its elemental live sound. We recently spoke with Maestas about the appeal of the heavy style the group has embraced.

Westword: What is it about the heavier music that appeals to you at this point in your life?

Eddie Maestas: I think it all boils down to once a metal kid, always a metal kid, for me. During the late '90s and early 2000s, I felt like metal was bullshit. I wouldn't say I turned my back on it, but I took the route with all the Swedish metal and exploring that and the black metal. I liked a lot of it, but a lot of it was also really dramatic. I did reviews for a friend's zine, and he gave me Isis's Panopticon. I had seen Isis at the Raven in 1998 with Cave-In. I thought, "Man, this is fucking heavy."

I was into Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate at that point — more mellow stuff like Midwestern emo. I had remembered seeing [Isis], but I popped that album in, and I felt like I had missed out. Then I heard Oceanic was even more of a pivotal record. So right away I started getting into American metal again, like Isis, Cave-In and Botch. I call it avant-garde metal, but what got me back into it was Isis, for sure.

I realized that was the type of thing I wanted to be playing. Heavy stuff, less vocals, not really concerned with vocals. When Mustangs was done — when Tom Chagolla and I first started Native Daughters — we made the decision to not have a vocalist. Especially for metal or heavier music, it can be really dramatic as it is. If the vocals and the lyrics are too melodramatic, then it's overkill.

A lot of the East Coast hardcore shit that's been killing it lately, like Converge and Trap Them — they're putting their vocals really low in the mix, like it's almost another instrument rather than some guy singing about how mad he is. I've heard everything that everyone has had to say in music. We're over it. Just shut up and let the music speak for itself.