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Ev Fuss Apr 21, 2023

Late Night Drive Home is an indie rock band from El Paso, Texas. They started gaining traction in 2021 after the song “Stress Relief” went viral on the app TikTok, following a video that lead singer Andre Portillo posted. The other members of the band are lead guitarist Juan “Ockz” Vargas, bassist Freddy Baca, and drummer Brian Dolan.

The band has a goal of bringing more Latino artists into the indie music scene, and with their first headline tour starting this July, it seems they have succeeded. In just over a year and a half since releasing their first EP, Am I Sinking or Am I Swimming?, the group has gathered over one million Spotify monthly listeners and racked up over 42 million streams on Stress Relief.

This year has already been busy for the band, as they just concluded their US tour supporting the band Quarters of Change as well as a smaller tour of the Texas region. They also recently released a live EP with Audiotree and plan on releasing another EP in the near future.

I had the opportunity to sit down with the band before their first show of 2023 at Lincoln Hall in Chicago for Tomorrow Never Knows Festival. We discussed how the band got started and where they see themselves in the coming years.

Would you guys like to introduce yourselves and explain a bit about what you do in the band?

Juan (Ockz): Hi, I’m Ockz and I play the lead guitar in Late Night Drive Home

Andre: I’m Andre and I sing and play the guitar

Freddy: I’m Freddy, I play bass, and emotional support

Brian (Dolan): I’m Brian but everyone gets confused, cause some people call me Dolan, some people call me Brian so, doesn’t matter, but drums.

Your Spotify says that Late Night Drive Home began as a two person project between Ockz and Andre, how did the rest of the band come together?

Andre: We started making music in 2019 and then we took a break during the pandemic and 2021 rolled around. During the summer of 2021 we just kind of decided to bring the band back up and we played one of our first shows that summer and it got a lot of attraction.

Ockz: We played it in his backyard, yeah it's funny. Another thing is I used to play bass in the band, but I wanted to play lead guitar and so I asked Freddy if he wanted to play bass. He’d never played bass before until I asked him and he was like, I’m down, and now we’re here.

How would you describe your sound as a band?

Ockz: I would say we’re indie pop, with a mix of rock, so like indie rock? I’m not sure, very mixed.

Andre: It’s kind of a mix of a lot of things I think.

Freddy: We are inspired by a lot in general so it’s really hard in general to pin ourselves down to one genre.

Ockz: Yeah I know I love The Strokes a lot so a lot of my guitar work gets inspired by The Strokes.

When it comes to that sound, who are your biggest inspirations?

Andre: I would say it changes as time goes by. Like when we first started I was really inspired by the Arctic Monkeys, but now it’s just a mix of a lot of different types of music.

Ockz: I would say we were more inspired by Cavetown when we started.

Andre: Oh, yeah, when we first first started it was definitely Cavetown

Ockz: But yeah it changes like right now I’m really inspired by The 1975. I recently got into them because one of my friends showed me this song called Part of the Band and I was like oh this is really really good and so I started listening to their other albums and was like they’re pretty good, I used to just brush them off.

The band released a few singles in 2019 and then resurfaced in 2021, what role do you think the pandemic played in discovering your sound as a group?

Dolan: It’s a good question cause we took a lot of time of because we couldn’t really be together during the pandemic so I mean I listened to a ton of music, I was just by myself all the time and I was scared to go out all the time so I was just indoors, listening to music and I don’t know, I expanded my tastes a lot. I never really liked R&B and like Hip Hop and stuff like that and I started listening to a lot more of it.

Andre: I think, me personally, it gave me a lot of time to really develop my voice and the way I sing and also just like it gave me a lot of time to experiment with different sounds and I think that's what the pandemic did for me.

Ockz: Yeah I started producing more, like I was making my solo music through the pandemic, I never released it but it was me practicing guitar because I barely started playing guitar in 2020 so its recently very very new. But the pandemic helped me expand my taste in music like Brian said and making music by myself in my room.

You guys were on the road quite a bit in 2022, what has been your favorite part of making music and touring up to this point?

Freddy: I think personally, all though it sounds corny, I think like all the people that you get to meet like the fans that you get to meet across the country and how diverse they are.

Ockz: I guess seeing different cities and stuff, I love to travel, even before the band, I just always loved going to random places, it's just something that I really enjoy

Andre: Yeah also its cool cause it gives people time to discover our music and so it’s the best feeling ever when we’re playing a show and people will like know our lyrics and they’re singing

Ockz: Especially in a city I’ve never been to.

Dolan: Yeah it’s pretty crazy it gives you tons of perspective to travel and just see like-i don’t know-it’s kind of crazy to see who our fans are.

Andre: Oh yeah actually that's pretty interesting

You mentioned you guys like traveling a lot, is there a dream venue you have to play or dream city?

Freddy: I really want to go to Mexico City or London

Ockz: Yeah Mexico City or London. I guess like in the states, I think it's called the Fox Theatre in Pomona, California. I would really love to play there. One of my favorite bands had their first, I guess big show in L.A. there, they’re called Twenty One Pilots, their videos are online.

Andre: Not for me, I just like playing to be honest. Anywhere there’s a crowd  I enjoy

Dolan: Yeah I agree like you know we’ve played for some really small crowds so.

Did you all have any goals for the band for this year ahead?

Ockz: Release new music. Release an EP that we’re trying to get in the mix out.

Andre: I guess expand out music as well, just the way we approach making music

Ockz: and open for a band that we really like like

Andre: Beabadobe or something

Ockz: Wallows, The Garden, I don’t know, any stuff like that.

Dolan: I was gonna say the same thing

As you start reaching a wider audience, what is the main thing you want listeners to take away from your music?

Ockz: I guess just like to spread the message that our music comes from the heart. It’s a lot of experience that we’ve all gone through soundwise and instrumental-wise. Like I know the last album, “how are you feeling”, I was trying to encapsulate the same feeling I had when graduating highschool and going to college and stuff from 18-23 or 22, because those are the years it feels weird because you are becoming an adult but you don’t really feel like one. You’re still very youthful, I guess it’s just the same thing I want people to feel, we’re trying to transcribe the music into them.

Andre: Just to let people know that they’re not alone in experiences because I’ve dealt with situations where it’s so obvious that everybody goes through it, but to you it just feels like you're alone in that scenario.

Dolan: To me music is really emotional, so I want to capture emotions with music and the, you know, ups and downs and like basically take what could be like a week's worth of emotions and try to put that into like a two minute song and try to really capture that. I feel like a lot of us experience really intense emotions but there’s not a lot of ways to put it into words.

Ockz: It's our way of journaling basically.

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