If someone were ever to sit down and draw out the family tree of local Miami bands, there would be a disturbing amount of inbreeding. Almost every band shares each member with at least three other bands.
And just as one in two hundred men is a direct descendent of Genghis Khan, most Miami bands can trace their heritage back to a handful of bands that popped out of Hialeah in the mid '90s, one of which was The Inside.
Currently, the Inside's impact can be traced back from bands like Rimsky, Plains, Humbert, Stop the Presses, Haochi Waves, recently defunct Radioboxer, and a progressively growing list of musicians the group has impacted. To put it in further perspective, the outfit's original studio space, back in 1999, is the current location of The Shack North recording and rehearsal studio.
Still, the Inside remains an obscure object of local cult fascination. In some part because of the foursome's flirtations with success, but also for its continued legacy among inner circle Hialeah musicians; particularly due to constant reappearances by guitarist Jorge Graupera Gonzalez in projects like The Brand, The Jorges, Guajiro, and Plains, and lead singer/guitarist Omar Garcia in The Brand.
The Inside was firmly settled into local music history, until earlier this year, when Juan Fernando Oña, drummer for Haochi Waves and former drummer for The Brand, was going through some old tapes and stumbled across an impressive musical find - the lost tapes of The Inside's unfinished full-length album, Fiction.
Oña contacted the remaining members of The Inside (unfortunately bassist Drago Strahija died in a plane crash in 2010), and began to put the tapes together to finally release the album, fifteen years after its initial recording.
This Saturday, August 24, new and old fans alike will finally be able to hear Fiction, as part of a listening party that will also feature progeny bands Haochi Waves, Humbert, and a special reunion performance of The Brand featuring Oña, Garcia, Gonzalez, and Leo Valencia at The Annex, AKA the Shack North.
We reached out to Jorge Graupera Gonzalez and Omar Garcia, and asked some questions about the Inside's musical legacy, the Miami music scene, and what could've happened if they'd never broken up.
Crossfade: What was your first reaction when Juan called and said that he had found the original recordings for Fiction?
Omar Garcia: I think my first reaction was confusion. These recordings were not just lost, but forgotten. Also, the tapes were poorly labeled and we didn't find out exactly what Juan had found for almost two weeks while he digitized the recordings. Once he identified the different tapes for the different sessions and had a clear idea of what he had found (and what would need to be rerecorded), the mood changed to excitement.
Jorge Graupera Gonzalez: I was really excited to hear some of this older stuff. It was recorded about 15 years ago and I was really curious to hear what the younger me sounded like and was doing so many years ago. It's like discovering an old photograph you had forgotten about and you see yourself as you were many years in the past. It's hard to deny the power of recorded documents when they are removed from the present by so many years.
You guys were one of the early seedlings for Miami's alternative musical foundation that's been growing for nearly two decades. Not only have all of you been in various successful bands yourselves over the years, but your influence on the Miami music scene is hard to even begin to grasp. How aware of your impact are you? Do you hear some things you were doing musically 15 years ago in bands playing in 2013?
Graupera: I'm not really aware of it, or at least not actively so. I have had some people that will mention how they loved this or that band in passing. They'll talk about certain details or particularities that were really just fleeting moments for me but I guess when it's perceived by someone else it can be so much more. It's been brought to my attention that all those shows and those records are out there and people DID listen to them and that's cool, but it's still sort of an abstract thought to me; others influenced by something I've done.
Garcia: You know, I'm not aware of any impact The Inside or any other band I played in made. My only awareness is that occasionally someone will say, "yeah, I remember that band...I really liked you guys." It's hard to know if/how you effect people. I remember being really blown away by Bird's (Sean Gould) guitar playing, but I don't think I ever told him that. I don't think anyone really knows the true impact they have on others.
The songs on this album still appeal to me today. As Juan put the tapes together he would call me and say that he found this or that song and I couldn't remember it at all. When he would send me rough mixes it felt like I was hearing the songs for the first time - I wouldn't know what the next lyric was going to be or what the chorus was going to sound like. I remember listening to Ten In The Morning and I thought, "wow...did I write that?" It was nice to have a little objectivity - and to feel that the songs still work for me today, that's a bonus.
You guys broke up in '99, right when it seemed like you could've been on the cusp of having a true breakthrough. I don't want to ask if you regret how things went, but have you ever envisioned an alternative universe where you'd held things together to try to make it work?
Graupera: I personally haven't done that, at least not that I can remember. I'm sure I did at the time though, many years ago. The Inside could have certainly done more but we didn't have a plan in place and the right guidance needed to maximize on the potential. It happens all the time to young and inexperienced bands.
Garcia: I'm glad we had the time together, but I'm glad we broke up, too. I think we had gotten everything we could get out of one another in that musical environment. I, personally, needed to move into other headspace. Jorge and I started The Brand a few years after The Inside, but it was very different conceptually. Fernando and Drago needed to move onto other projects, too. I'm just glad we tracked this last record before we split up.
Continuing from that Hialeah musical family tree, who are some of your favorite bands playing in the scene now? And feel free to use this space to talk up your own current project(s).
Graupera: I really like and admire some of the more enduring bands like ANR. Plains did a joint tour with them since they are our labelmates on 10K Islands. These guys were solid every single night and have great songs to boot! They aren't afraid to be melodic and can do a pop song with verve. I also like Humbert who never disappoint. That just years of experience at work.
Garcia: Humbert has always been the quintessential Hialeah band...they care so much about Hialeah as a community. They are a great band but they are also great people.
Our condolences over the passing of bassist Drago Strahija in 2010. Is this a bittersweet occasion considering he won't be there? What would've been his reaction to the rediscovery of the LP?
Graupera: I think Drago would have really enjoyed the process and would have contributed a great deal to the more challenging technical aspects of putting it back together. He had quite a brilliant mind and he was a sweet guy too. It's still hard to believe he's not a phone call away.
Garcia: I think Drago would have been excited. Even though it's been over 3 years since his passing, I don't think I fully grasp it. I was living in Seattle at the time so it felt surreal and separate. There will be lot of mutual old friends attending the listening party and I think that will make it really real for me.
What do you make of the current music scene in Miami? Obviously, people aren't happy about it, but then again are they ever? Since you've been involved for so long, do you think part of the scene is complaining about it?
Graupera: This question comes up a lot in the local music scene. I think the answer is very simple: Miami will never be a live music city like LA, NYC, Chicago, Austin, Portland, etc etc. It's geography and it's the culture. If you're good you can create a buzz but then you have to start touring and go further and further every time. You're not going to "make it" unless you pack your bags and go.
Garcia: Miami has always been a tough place for bands trying to get noticed on a national level. It's isolated from the rest of the country and you can feel it when you come here after being gone for a while. Everybody complains about the scene their in, but in Miami's case, I think it's worse than average because it's hard to get out of the state and it's hard for the rest of the country to effect us at a local level. Unfortunately, touring was the only way to get any real perspective.
Is there anyway we can expect a The Inside reunion show, and not just listening party?
Graupera: There's going to be a surprise of sorts but I can't elaborate any further. You'd have to go and see for yourself.
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Garcia: That's really hard to do with all the surviving members living in different corners of the U.S. Maybe one day we will all be in the same city at the same time, but it hasn't happened in 10 years.
-- Ric Delgado
The Inside's Fiction Album-Release Party. With Haochi Waves, the Brand, and Humbert. Saturday, August 24. The Annex, 9811 NW 80th Ave., Hialeah. The show starts at 8 p.m. The album will be available for download, but only 100 CDs will be pressed, and will only be sold at this show. Donations will be accepted, and all proceeds will benefit Strings for Hope, an organization that visits orphanages to teach children about music.