Denton has been known for harboring the type of house shows that keep our youthful hope alive. That was exactly the case with a little house on Bernard Street this past January, when Denton's jazzy, experimental rock quartet Señor Fin threw a house show for the release of their debut full-length, Underneath. They packed in an endless sea of 20-somethings and college students who clutched cans of cheap beer. Despite the 40-degree weather outside, once inside, the layers immediately came off. As I stood at the party's core, peering over tufts of hair for a halfway decent view of the band, I warmed up and I realized why Señor Fin went the DIY route.
"We expected a large turnout, but didn't really understand how many people were going to come until they all tried to fit in our little house," drummer Mason Lynass said.
Like so many, Señor Fin has a story that probably resonates with countless bands in the area: Four guys, most of whom are UNT music majors, met in school, rented out a small house and now make music together. The story is as simple as that. With no fancy recording equipment, no especially professional gear and no hefty bankroll, the band sought out the skills of their friend, Sam Coronado, to record songs that they have been melding and reshaping for more than two years. One main thing the group has going for it is the fact that they all share a home -- and more importantly, a space to create.
"We have all grown closer due to living with each other," Jesse Botello said. "We do not only feed off of each other to improve the sound of our ensemble, but we also feed off of each other as individuals. All of us practice daily in our own personal space when we are not rehearsing or cooking delicious meals. I personally love living with other musicians who are serious about their passions and have fun doing it."
The guys could have easily booked their album release show at any of the traditional venues around town, but they didn't. Not only did they want to feel closer to their audience and make themselves more accessible to everyone, but the lack of venue restrictions allowed them to play Underneath in its entirety that night. Guitarist Jesse Miller says that in this way, the group is in complete control of its art.
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"To me, DIY means controlling all aspects of whatever art you make," Miller said. "Considering we did pretty much all the work of releasing our album, short of printing the CDs ourselves, I would say we're pretty DIY-core. Part of that is out of necessity. We don't have a ton of connections with labels, promotion companies, booking agencies, and we pay for everything ourselves, so it's just cheaper. But I would say part of it is also out of preference. It's nice to be in complete control of your work of art."
The band says that when they were first starting out, a lot of their initial gigs were at house shows, and while some were more enjoyable than others, the energy is incomparable and you are more free to create.
"We love Denton house shows," says guitarist Jesse Miller. "The vibe is always high energy and positive. I really think the Denton show-goers prefer house shows to shows in a traditional venue."
In an effort to continue nurturing the local music scene that it finds so enthralling, the jazzy, experimental band says that it has noticed one hiccup that it hopes to correct: There is a clear disconnect between the jazz and indie rock scenes within Denton's framework. Both are really big, really unique and quality scenes, but neither knows the caliber of the other, says Miller.
"My experience has been that a lot of the jazz guys have no idea there's a big rock scene here, and a lot of the rock guys don't realize how cool a lot of the jazz music here is," Miller said. "I think there could be a lot more crossover, and that's something we try and do as a band, both in our sound and in our audience."
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Apart from bridging the large and unique gap in Denton's musical subculture, the band has simpler goals, the types of goals that bands on a shoestring budget often have: paying for mixing and mastering, managing the printing of their albums, putting their music up on multiple Internet music sources like iTunes and Spotify, booking shows, touring and then promoting themselves.
"We would love to sign with a friendly, successful independent record label," Miller says. "Having some help with distribution, promotion and booking would be great. We feel pretty worn out trying to do all those things on our own."
Each of the guys in Señor Fin expresses a different goal they hope to eventually achieve with the band, but drummer Mason Lynass speaks for everyone when he says, "Right now we're just interested in being friends, making music together and seeing where it takes us."