Couple takes exercise in making music to next level
Story By: Emma Kalka
Photos By: Courtesy of Deer Mx
For married couple Miguel Bastida and Adriana Martinez, their journey into music started about four years ago as just a way to pass the time after they had moved to Hong Kong. Adriana was doing her PhD while Miguel had previously been doing classical competition in their home of Mexico City.
“When we moved here, we didn’t know anything about the city. Any people. We didn’t have friends. We were basically like an island here, so we started to do this – trying to compose (a) different style of music to see what’s going on,” Adriana said.
From there, Deer Mx was born.
Adriana continued that they found they enjoyed making music and doing things together. So, they started taking it more seriously. After they had some songs put together, they started performing and she found she enjoyed performing music more than just researching it.
Later on, the couple saw Sigur Ros and later Blur in concert in Hong Kong, and that was the inspiration to push forward with the band.
“We were like so happy to see these bands and see that you can make amazing music or you can start trying working on that. You feel pretty inspired. And we keep on pushing and that’s why we are here four years,” she said.
The two just released an EP “Portraits” – their first formal release in Korea. Symphonic released it through Ticket Box on March 2, while Leeway Music & Media distributed it through Melon and all other Korean platforms on March 6.
The EP is a collection of stories based off their experiences as a foreign couple living in Hong Kong.
“They’re touching on different topics about what it is to be here and the people here. It’s basically why we called the name ‘Portraits,’ because we wanted people to see all these portraits and different lives – different stories through the music,” Adriana said.
While they are currently based in Hong Kong, they admit they are working actively to expand outside the city. They’ve played venues there and even had a spot in Clockenflap – the biggest music festival in Hong Kong – in 2016. But they’ve set their sights on something bigger.
Miguel explained that Hong Kong is small and divided – it’s not often you see the expats and locals working together in the music industry. It’s because of the size that artists can’t really tour in Hong Kong like they would in the U.S. or Mexico.
“So, we don’t perform a lot in Hong Kong. We are only working in Hong Kong. But we’re trying to play outside of Hong Kong. Because Hong Kong is super small,” he said. “So, you play all the venues in one year and you are doing the same thing all your life.”
He added that as a band, they don’t want to go every week to the same place, playing the same songs and possibly losing support just because it’s the same crowd. Adriana added that the process for them as foreign artists is different than local artists, who can often apply for government support or can connect more easily with local audiences because they speak the same language.
“So, we’re trying to – we don’t know if we’re going to stay for long or less time in Hong Kong. But we’re sure that we’re trying to take advantage of this opportunity that Hong Kong is very small and they can give you the chances and possibilities to make shows in Asia,” she said.
Deer Mx has certainly taken advantage of that, playing in Taiwan, China and Vietnam as well as featuring in Zandari Festa here in Seoul last year. They’ve also played in Malaysia, Russia and did a show in Estonia in December. Miguel said that last year they focused on playing as many festivals as possible rather than go on their own tour, which can incur a lot of expenses if you don’t have your own promoter. However, now they have set their sights on Europe and the West and are considering striking it out on their own.
“This year is going to be maybe the first time that we move to the Western side. We want to go to maybe Europe, maybe a festival there is interested to book us. Or maybe do some shows. So maybe we need to take that risk. We did it in Asia, maybe we can start to do it Europe,” he said. Adriana adds that they hope to finally make it over to Mexico as a band as well.
Another challenge the bands says they have in Asia is the fact that their style of music doesn’t really fit the status quo. Miguel said that many people here enjoy pop music, which can make Deer Mx’s music a bit difficult for them to digest.
“The music – even though Adriana is the singer – it’s very aggressive,” he said. “We try to make it aggressive. The vocals are very powerful. The beats we try to make are very punchy. And distorted beats.” He continued that if folks are into pop, they may not enjoy their music, but if they are into eclectic music – such as Bjork or Nine Inch Nails – they would like what they play.
They’ve been described as industrial and played with bands that have a harder edge, sounding similar to A Perfect Circle. But Adriana says that while playing in Asia, they keep an open mind since they are never sure what they’ll get with the audience. Miguel said when they played in Malaysia, they met some guys who were into Tool and The Deftones who loved their music.
“I realized that in Korea, we expect whatever. We’re just open to see any reaction. I would say the first time we played in Korea, it was by ourselves – it was not in a festival – and it was nice,” she said. “I can expect anything. It’s what I learned about Asia. Never have the answer of anything. It’s just want you do. And we’re happy then.”
Even though their style is a bit different, the couple recently pushed out of their comfort zone by accepting the challenge of doing a cover of a Kpop song from BoomBoomSeoul’s Joe Kim. The two redid g.o.d’s “Road.” It was a challenge, for sure, but one that Miguel and Adriana are happy they undertook.
“It was difficult to sing something that you have no idea what you are singing. Very difficult, but we loved the experience,” Adriana said.
“We were struggling a bit with it, because the song is a bit, it’s not a happy song. But you know pop is very difficult, so we were like, how can we do this kind of thing?” Miguel continued. He added that they finished the song in a “very Deer way.”
“We were very happy because it’s the first time to do a cover,” he said. “It was a challenge, but we enjoyed it.”
Up next for Deer Mx is hopefully returning to play in Korea this summer. Beyond that, they have a couple of music videos for tracks off the EP to release and are hoping to release a full-length album by next spring.
To follow Deer Mx, check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Deer.Mx/.