Deaf Poets' Garage Rock Takes the Band From North Beach to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Photography by Monica McGivern
Nico Espinosa was exhausted when his band, Deaf Poets, took the stage during the final day of Wynwood's music and arts festival, III Points. Espinosa's band was scheduled to play the third and final day of the fest, but he'd spent the previous two days working a retail job in the Design District. When his shift ended the day of the show, the drummer walked to the festival grounds to spend five more hours on his feet, sneaking around backstage to say hi to some of the headliners. By the time he jumped onto the smoky stage, he remembers, "My back was gone."
Not that anyone in the crowd could tell, though, as he snapped his arms up and down on the drum kit, leading Deaf Poets in what they do best: playing rock 'n' roll.
"It was great," Espinosa remembers. "We're not used to having so much production when we're performing."
But that might be about to change. This Miami garage-rock duo is on a hot streak.
After about five years as a band, Deaf Poets — Espinosa and guitarist and vocalist Sean Wouters — are gaining some serious momentum, both locally and nationally. The group's single "Degenerate Mind" was featured on the soundtrack of the latest Tony Hawk's Pro Skater videogame, which, for a '90s rock kid, is basically Carnegie Hall. They recently opened for fellow musical duo Matt and Kim at Revolution Live. And Wouters and Espinosa are quickly amassing material for a new album.
Music lovers have the North Beach Elementary School art club to thank for it all. That's where the two met in 2000 after Espinosa moved to Miami from Argentina at the age of 10.
Wouters and Espinosa remained close into high school, joining a band their freshman year. The two lived a few blocks from each other and would often find themselves the only ones at rehearsals, jamming out with nothing but a guitar and drums. Eventually, they thought, Why can't we just do this? And Deaf Poets was born.
Four new singles turned into a music video, which turned into more gigs, which turned into a full-length album, which turned into a New Times award for Best Band of 2014, and so forth and so on. "We were kind of like, Holy shit, I think we have something here," he says.
The Deaf Poets style is classic garage rock that's slowly moved out of the garage and evolved into a more polished sound. Its pace is frantic — rushing along at a sprint — and made with only a guitar and drum set, their sound fills a room surpassingly well.
Now Deaf Poets are poised to make a real career out of music, but still, Espinosa remains earnest. His five-year plan is simple: "Hopefully, we're still doing what we're doing — maybe something bigger," he says. "If I can just play music and pay my rent, that would be awesome."
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