Interview: Maya's Martin Espinoza on New EP "Despierta," Representing Culture Through Music, and more


(Photo credit: Alex Knowbody)

San Jose has been making a lot of noise in hardcore for a long time now - and with bands like Maya, it’s easy to see why.

The explosive metallic hardcore group are making a big comeback in 2021, after their initial breakup in 2013. Available on Shark City Recordings as of July 15th, the release of their new EP, Despierta (“to awaken”), marks a return as much as it does a revival - revisiting and breathing new life into the project.

I spoke with drummer Martin Espinoza about Despierta, California hardcore, the importance of incorporating culture into the band’s identity, and more.

As usual, I like to start off with the same question - who played Martin’s first hardcore show, and what impact did that have on him? “Heavy Heavy Low Low at the Campbell Gaslighter,” Martin replies. “Their style is more progressive than hardcore but still heavy. [It] made me want to play shows, as opposed to just going to them.”

As I mentioned above, unlike a lot of the bands I write about, Maya have been making music together for a while - in fact, those roots go all the way back to their school days. “We began in the summer of 2004,” Martin explains. “Paco [Medina, vocals] and I met in summer school. Our teacher was in a death metal band and used to chop it up with us after class. We started jamming shortly after, and MAYA was born. Ozzy [Medina, bass] is Paco’s brother. We met JT [Thompson, guitar] through shows, and he became a brother of ours.”

Maya are definitely a band with varied influences - while hardcore is kept at the forefront, they take influence from metal, metalcore, and other heavy genres. Still, though, influences can go beyond the kind of music a band enjoys, as Martin explains. “Our sound is influenced and shaped by our daily lives, [as well as] reflection on what has been and the stories passed on by our elders. We try to capture the energy of those experiences through the sound of the music.”

(Photo credit: Gabe Becerra)

A month before releasing Despierta, Maya dropped their first single, “Sangrando.” The title translates to “bleeding” in Spanish. Martin expresses that the track was chosen as a single due to its sound, just as much as its strong representation of the band's ethics and the way they live their lives. “We felt 'Sangrando' embodied the essence of the project. It also set the tone for what’s to come on the EP.” As far as what the track means to the band, the title ties in heavily. “The message behind the song is of perseverance and faith. For every inch gained, there’s been a sacrifice made. [You’ve] got to bleed for what you believe in sometimes.”

After a few seconds of scrolling through their social media, you’ll find that Maya very proudly reps being from San Jose, California. “There was a time when being a hardcore band from San Jose didn’t hold as much weight as it does now,” Martin says. “We’re proud to have made a contribution and to be here to witness where the new generation has taken things. We love San Jose and we ride for it just as hard now as we did back then.”

He’s not wrong - as I mentioned above, San Jose, and the Bay Area in general have both been a strong topic of conversation in hardcore as of late. Maya’s first show back was a massive one. Playing alongside other awesome bands like Gulch, Drain, Sunami, Xibalba and Scowl, the show drew a crowd of over 2000 people, which would be impressive for any band - however, it's extra impressive when you take into account the fact that everyone attending had no idea where exactly the show would be until that day.

“It was a blessing to be a part of such a monumental moment,” Martin recounts. “The love we got and are continuing to receive is inspiring to us.”

On top of their pride in their city, the majority of the members of Maya come from Mexican heritage - and it is something that they carry heavily in how they represent themselves, from the integration of Spanish into the songs, aIl the way to the cover art. The art features the Quetzalcoatl, a serpent deity from ancient Mesoamerican culture, as well as a Mayan warrior, and two xoloitzcuintles - a hairless dog breed that has commonly been considered sacred for their ability to ward off evil spirits and guide their owners in death.

I asked Martin what the strong representation of the band’s culture means to them. “We all come from immigrant families and are the first generation born here in the US, [and] JT is African American. Keeping all of our cultures present in our music gives us a sense of identity. It's a form of staying true to who we are as people.”

(Photo credit: Gabe Becerra)

As far as upcoming plans, the band asks that you follow them on social media to keep up with upcoming music, shows, and collaborations. Martin’s last words are few, but wise - “Eat more tacos. We love you.”

I appreciate Martin for sharing words with us! You can find Maya at their social media links below:

Official website | Merch store | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Bandcamp

Additionally, you can stream Despierta via Spotify below:


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