With New Tour and Album, Deaf Poets Crank the Volume Even Higher

Imani Girvetz
A scene in Back to the Future shows Michael J. Fox getting knocked on his ass by a comically gigantic amp after playing a single power chord on his guitar. For crowds attending a live Deaf Poets show, it can sometimes feel like that scene is on loop, with audiences willingly returning over and over again for the abuse, happy to be knocked on their asses.

“There have been one or two amps that have suffered on behalf of us trying to find our tone,” drummer Nico Espinosa says over the phone. He adds that listeners are continually surprised to find out that it’s only him and guitarist and lead singer Sean Wouters making all of that ruckus.

“Always,” he says. “We always get people like, 'Man, I look up and there's two of you.' That's all credit to Sean messing around with his tone and really working so he can fill [a room] with his sound.”

But the band's chest-rattling, Black-Rebel-Motorcycle-meets-Iggy-and-the-Stooges righteousness isn’t loud enough, at least not for its two members. So Espinosa is taking his drum kit to 11.

“I got bigger drums,” he says excitedly. “I just got brand-new drums from SJC. I got the biggest drums I could get. I got big cymbals so I can go old-school rock. I didn't get a 26-inch bass drum like Jon Bonham, just because it wouldn't fit in my car. But I got 24, which is still one step over.”

He’ll have plenty of chances to test out his monster kit on the band’s upcoming 20-date American tour, beginning with a midnight set at Miami’s Taberna Los Rosas this Friday, May 5. The show will be the official album-release party for their latest effort, Lost in Magic City.

As for what fans can expect from the new record, Espinosa says it’s the most coherent work they’ve ever created. Wouters adds, “It's more or less a journey when you listen from the first track all the way to the ending.”

The album title refers to Miami’s nickname, because the Magic City is so deeply ingrained in who Deaf Poets are as a band and as people.

“Primarily, each song, the theme of each track, relates to Miami [and] experiences we had growing up,” Espinosa explains. “Somehow the city was always involved in everything we do on a personal level, and we thought it would be fitting to incorporate that into the music — whether it's people we've met or experiences we've come across growing up together, so on and so forth. It's definitely very Miami.”

One of the defining Miami-related rock 'n' roll experiences that has helped to crystallize their place in the musical world is III Points. Wouters says III Points has been instrumental in inspiring the band and pushing Deaf Poets forward to where they are now.

“We've had the opportunity to perform at III Points every year. It's been, every time, an incredible experience," Wouters says. "The biggest stage we ever performed at, one of the biggest shows we ever did, was last year on the stage that LCD Soundsystem was supposed to be on, which is humongous for two people. That's one moment in Miami that made me realize a lot of things about music and what I want to do.”

In addition to playing the homegrown festival, Deaf Poets have also become go-to openers for national touring acts. These are opportunities the band doesn’t take lightly, reveling in every glowing moment. For example, in November 2015, the band opened for another duo that loves to make a lot of noise, Matt and Kim. “At that moment,” Espinosa recalls, “being onstage and being with a bunch of people, I was like, All right, man, this is a rock 'n' roll moment. This is what it feels like. Everybody is vibing out, taking pictures, buying our stuff, autographs, and all that; it was awesome. It was like putting Miami on the map, that there's rock music here.”

It’s not always all banging on drums as hard as possible and blowing out the speakers, though. For last year’s III Points, Deaf Poets showed their appreciation for the city’s electronic scene by teaming up with Miami-based trance producer and vocalist Virgo on the ethereal track “Trinity.”

It was a “smooth process,” according to the band, and also plenty of fun.

“When I was doing my drumbeat,” Espinosa says, “I was like, 'Yo, let’s go for Drake.' I love Drake. Perfect! I loved that experience.”

Wouters adds, “What was nice about the experience was that it all fell together.” He had written the guitar parts for the song before the project with Virgo. They used it as the foundation for “Trinity,” with Wouters also coming up with lyrics. Though the vocals didn’t feel right because, according to him, “it didn’t have the intimacy the song had,” in the end, Virgo sang it in precisely the way he’d originally envisioned. It’s something both of the Deaf Poets would enthusiastically try again.

For now, they're focused on Lost in Magic City. The record’s recently released single, "Are You DP" purposely includes the band’s initials because it's derived from a series of personal experiences.

“We collected stories from things we’ve gone through,” Espinosa says, “in particular where we felt we got the short end of the stick. We always seemed to find excuses for it, when in reality, we are the ones in charge who determine our outcome.”

Because Deaf Poets have been so well received both in their hometown and by national touring acts, few would hold it against these two to pack their shit and move to a rock 'n' roll mecca like Austin or Los Angeles. Despite the occasional frustrations, or “limitations” as Wouters puts it, there’s hardly any other city they would rather be in.

“Since we’re in a different type of music scene,” Wouters continues, “we have less competition in the rock world. There just aren’t that many rock 'n' roll bands. If hypothetically Nico and I were a DJ group, it would be pretty difficult in terms of competition. We’ve had a lot of luck. People have treated us very well. Venues respect us and consistently book us even now. We’re really just happy to be a part of it.”

In fact, Espinosa and Wouters bring with them a piece of home whenever they go on tour. For Wouters, it’s a little palm tree he takes with him everywhere. For Espinosa, he literally wears his Miami pride wherever he goes. In addition to rocking his Dwyane Wade Miami Heat jersey onstage (“It’s my Miami good-luck juju”), Espinosa also has a Heat tattoo on his leg. “There’s no erasing that. I try to take my Miami Heat gear with me as much as possible so people know where we’re from. You gotta represent.”

Deaf Poets
9 p.m. Friday, May 5, at Taberna Las Rosas, 2898 NW Seventh Ave., Miami. 786-780-2700; Las Rosas FB. Admission and parking are free.
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Angel Melendez is an unabashed geek and a massive music nerd. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University and an accomplished failure at two other universities, Angel is a lush and an insufferable know-it-all, and has way better taste in music than you.
Contact: Angel Melendez

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