Local Music

What It's Like to Be in a Band With Your Significant Other, According to Miami Musicians

Jenna Balfe and Dennis Fuller of Donzii.
Jenna Balfe and Dennis Fuller of Donzii. Mauricio Abascal, @maupix
Love bites; love is bliss. Especially in Miami, a notoriously rough scene for dating, it can be tough finding that magic formula for making a romantic relationship work, let alone finding someone willing to slide from your DMs into real life.

That's why it's a little surprising Miami has so many working musicians who've taken the plunge and booed up with a bandmate. Or maybe in this shallow wading pool of romance we call home, it makes total sense for two artists with deep feelings to unite in love.

These seven couples in bands dish on the ups and downs — the passion and symbiosis, the creative differences, the daunting task of separating work from pleasure — of creating sweet, musical magic together.

Donzii. "Our relationship began in 2013 when Dennis and I met on an island, mutually distraught by the litter strewn about the shore," Donzii's Jenna Balfe says of her partner and bandmate, Dennis Fuller. "Dennis studied music at the college level and had always tried to get me involved in his projects. I remember auditioning on vocals for a group he was playing with and completely bombing it, but he didn't give up! A few months later, he asked me to come to another rehearsal with a different group, one with a drum machine and darker tendencies. We didn't know it then, but this was the beginning of Donzii."

Jenna continues: "Our first songs [were] birthed in the tiny garage of a dilapidated Pinecrest mansion that has since been torn down. I think we played our first show in 2015, and shortly thereafter, we moved to NYC to pursue a master's degree and the opportunities that come with living there. In the group, our roles are as such: Dennis starts writing a beat on a drum machine and then a simple bass line. If he can't think of anything, he gives me the bass and lies on the floor until he hears something that sticks. Then he takes that idea and gives it quirky bits, a little complexity, but not so much that the rhythm becomes heady. As he works these parts out, I write poetry and freestyle melodies until we both look at each other, knowing we have something."
click to enlarge Maitejosune Urrechaga and Tony Kapel of Pocket of Lollipops. - JESSIE ASKINAZI
Maitejosune Urrechaga and Tony Kapel of Pocket of Lollipops.
Jessie Askinazi
Pocket of Lollipops. "Honestly, we are both lucky to have someone who is into the same thing," Pocket of Lollipops bassist Maitejosune Urrechaga says of her relationship with drummer Tony Kapel. "One of us will start something, and the other finishes. We are flexible in nature to celebrate each other's existence in everything we do, be it Pocket Of Lollipops, our love life, art happenings, friendships, and so on. Our influence on each other caters to the creative process."

Says Kapel: "We like to rock 'n' roll in our underpants while we sip coffee in the morning till chamomile at night." Pocket of Lollipops is celebrating its tenth anniversary as a band, but the couple has been together since 1995. "We were both artists when we met," he says. "She would come over to where I was staying at the time (skipping school) and watch me play drums. She at some point started doing stage props and setups for a band I was with. We've always been 'yay' for each other's goals. Hugs to the rock 'n' roll lovers."
click to enlarge Jay Thomas and Oscar Quesada of the band Jay Thomas. - @VALAINNYC
Jay Thomas and Oscar Quesada of the band Jay Thomas.
Jay Thomas. "I don’t think I would have a lover who wasn’t linked to my musical life. Music is the foundation of our years together," alt/electronic singer-songwriter Jay Thomas says of his romantic partner and bandmate, cellist Oscar Quesada. "We avoid the question a lot of couples ask themselves — 'Where is our relationship going?' — because we are more focused on where our music is going. We do have to turn off our working relationship sometimes. We’ll declare 'boyfriend time' and get into something nonmusical for as long as we can hold out."
click to enlarge From right: Melanie Sarria and Sebastian Hidalgo of Airhockey. - MELANIE SARRIA AND MIKE DIAZ
From right: Melanie Sarria and Sebastian Hidalgo of Airhockey.
Melanie Sarria and Mike Diaz
Airhockey. “Being in a relationship and working together presents some challenges. Perhaps the most important thing is to maintain a distinction between our personal time and working time," Airhockey's Melanie Sarria says of her partnership with bandmate Sebastian Hidalgo. "We are very lucky that our relationship started before we formed this band, so music has become one of the many things that connect us. The most rewarding part is that we found a new bond we never knew was there until we decided to [start] on this journey together. I think we just realized we were capable of more than we thought.”

Says Hidalgo: "Writing together has helped us push each other to accomplish things that I don’t think we would’ve been able to otherwise. There’s definitely some challenges, but we seem to be more or less on the same page as far as what we want, and the result always motivates us to keep going and exploring new possibilities." Sarria and Hidalgo have been together since 2011 and began working on the initial ideas for Airhockey around two years ago. Their band's first single, "You Don’t Mind," dropped last month.
click to enlarge Cuci and Tony of Afrobeta. - PHOTO BY CRISTINA ISABEL RIVERA
Cuci and Tony of Afrobeta.
Photo by Cristina Isabel Rivera
Afrobeta. "You get to communicate to each other in songs," say Cristina "Cuci Amador" Garcia and Tony "Smurphio" Laurencio of Afrobeta. "One that comes to mind is our track 'Even When I Hate You.' Making music softens the edge of the anger when you have a disagreement because you are working together towards a common goal.

"The biggest rewards are creating together, having fun together, dancing, traveling together, and sharing what you made together." Garcia and Laurencio have been together as Afrobeta for 13 years and as a couple for ten.
click to enlarge Kris Alvarez and Daniella Chamorro of Firstworld. - PABLO ANZUETO
Kris Alvarez and Daniella Chamorro of Firstworld.
Pablo Anzueto
Firstworld. "Daniella and I have such a natural, effortless relationship that having her in the band feels just as natural and effortless," Kris Alvarez says of his Firstworld bandmate and romantic partner, Daniella Chamorro. "It gives her an outlet to still play music and shows, and I have her support and her guidance in everything from a drum part to deciding what kind of merch to sell and how to present it. The best thing is that she understands that it's a business and she knows when it's time to be serious and get to work. Most of all, she's talented as hell behind the drums and is probably the most popular member of the live band (she gets all the praise from the audience after we play)! She has been with me since the very beginning, and I honestly don't even want to imagine what it would be like without her."

Says Chamorro: "Honestly, it can have its ups and downs as we are not perfect, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I happened to like Kris' music and decided to play drums for him, but not because we were in a relationship. His music, in my opinion, is genuinely kick-ass. As far as practicing and performing goes, I can be critical of myself sometimes, but I have him there in my corner, as I'm in his." Chamorro and Alvarez have been a couple for almost three years and have been in the band for about the same amount of time.
click to enlarge Oly Vargas and Nick Mencia of County Gold. - COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS
Oly Vargas and Nick Mencia of County Gold.
Courtesy of the artists
County Gold. "Making music with the missus makes me happy most of the time," Nick County (real name Nick Mencia) says of his musical and romantic partner, Oly Vargas. "It's a way to connect, it’s a way to repair, it’s a way to understand each other better, and it’s a way to express emotions to each other — high, low, and in between.” Vargas and Mencia have independent musical ventures but frequently come together as County Gold.

"I’ve always dreamed of having a partner to work with symbiotically," Vargas says. "During songwriting, we have to be very careful not to hurt each other's feelings when it comes to feedback, appropriating the other's ideas as our own, or just fighting about how we see a song — like what stays in, what goes out, what gets played, if we are singing in the right key. Then, you know, there's all the other relationship stuff people deal with that gets thrown into the mix. Gotta leave that stuff out when you work together so it can stay positive (which can be really hard), but when we write a good song, it feels worth it. It feels really satisfying."
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Falyn Freyman is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Miami.
Contact: Falyn Freyman