This is the story of a band that beat the odds. A band that blasted out of Austin just one year ago on the force of its debut album ? and ran face-first into a wall. That?s all history now. In the end, what we?re left with is the story of a band that got a second chance and made it work. This is the story of Unloco, a band reborn and triumphant on Becoming I.
For Unloco lead singer Joey Duenas, 2001 was probably the worst year of his life. He was depressed. His romantic life was unraveling. His voice -- ordinarily terrifying in its power and intensity onstage -- was falling apart beneath clouds of cigarette smoke and a stream of Jack Daniels.
Most distressing was the letdown that followed the release that year of Healing, the band?s first album. Dark and aggressive, it captured much of the intensity that had established Unloco as hometown favorites among Austin?s heavy music community. Even so, Healing wasn?t the smash that the band -- and the label -- had anticipated. A tour was set up in hopes that Unloco?s explosive live shows would build the album?s momentum. But as they were preparing for the road, another crisis erupted when Bryan Arthur suddenly left the group to take over the guitarist gig with Goldfinger.
Moving quickly to fill the vacancy, the band connected with Marc Serrano, a young veteran of the Dallas music scene who was having second thoughts about the band he was working with at the time. The three members of Unloco drove north to hear Serrano at a local club. They were not disappointed. In fact, they invited him then and there to hang with them for a week in Austin, rehearse a bit, and see how things felt.
The combination clicked immediately. Right after his arrival, Marc and his new bandmates took off on their tour. Slugging it out on stages for more than eight months, they deepened their sound and heightened their energy night after night. For this reason, when they received word from Maverick that they had to head back home to crank out a new album, they were more musically ready to be tested than they?d ever been. Still, it was no easy thing to be told, in effect, that this album would be their do-or-die project.
They all knew what was on the line as they gathered back in Austin. From September through November last year they wrote new material -- 14 songs in September alone. These were demoed in November and December, then delivered personally by Duenas to Maverick in L.A. "I was like, ?Here, take this. I?m sick of it all.? The next day they were like, ?When can we get you into the studio?? They were just on it," the singer says, snapping his fingers.
Purely in sonic terms, Becoming I is a revelation. Working closely with producer Mudrock (Godsmack, Powerman 5000, 3rd Strike), Unloco examined their own assumptions about themselves and explored possibilities they hadn?t considered before. "I remember sitting with Mudrock in Dallas one night," Duenas says. "We were talking about where I wanted to go with the sound on this record, and he said, ?Well, heavy is good, but who are you to judge your own band and say you can only be heavy? I think you have so many different sounds in you, and I want to bring them out.? That?s what I love about Mudrock: He has great ears and great ideas, and he?s a great friend."
More focused, more accessible, harder hitting, and softened at times by moments of unexpected reflection, Becoming I fulfills the band?s promise of poetic candor and riveting performance. There are songs so personal that Duenas had to be persuaded to present them in public ("Texas"), songs that speak to the growing legions of fans who see in Unloco a mirror of their own fears and hopes ("Empty"), songs that are without exception honest, no matter what the cost of honesty might be.