Late Night Drive Home photographed by Jaydog and Bar

Texan band Late Night Drive Home are careering ever faster down their own lane. After coming together in 2019, the four-piece from a small town near El Paso began to attract attention on social media. In particular, Gen Z has rallied to the band’s TikTok, which has racked up more than 220,000 likes with clips of bedroom pop jingles, melancholy lyricism and the occasional shitpost.

Three of Late Night Drive Home’s members – singer Andre Portillo, guitarist Juan ‘Ockz’ Vargas and drummer Brian Dolan – were brought together as a video team in high school. Vargas’ cousin Freddy Baca then rounded out the band on bass. Their earliest singles, 2019’s jangle-led ‘We Love U’ and contemplative ‘Guardians Of Space’, were lo-fi indie gems that introduced Portillo as a deeply contemplative songwriter.

Then, follow-up offerings including their 2021 smash ‘Stress Relief’, which has amassed more than 73 million streams on Spotify, proved Late Night Drive Home don’t mind experimenting with their sound. Released in February, the band’s latest EP ‘I’ll Remember You For The Same Feeling You Gave Me As I Slept’  features dynamic indie rock bangers influenced by The Strokes and Dinosaur Jr. Other key singles, such as 2023’s ‘Perfect Strangers’ and 2021’s ‘With A Dream Of You’, have a warm synth-driven sound.

Late Night Drive Home photographed by Jaydog & Bar
Credit: Jaydog & Bar

It’s a warm morning in El Paso when we catch up with Portillo over Zoom; Late Night Drive Home are just weeks away from their biggest gigs yet. The band have a European tour booked for the autumn, including seven UK dates in September and October, but before that there’s the small matter of playing Coachella.

“I’m so excited,” Portillo tells NME with a beaming grin. “We just found out that we have extra tickets [to Coachella] for our friends. So I was already excited, but on top of that, some of my other friends are gonna be there – I’m so stoked!” Laughing, Portillo admits he sometimes forgets he’s not just going to Coachella – he’s actually playing the US mega-festival. “I don’t think I will process it until I’m on the stage,” he says

NME: You’re from a small town outside of El Paso – how has that influenced your style?

“Since there’s really nothing to do out here, it gave us more time to grow up, learn how to play with each other as musicians and get a better taste of each other’s music. When you grow up in a town over here – especially where we grew up, which is much smaller than [El Paso] – all there really is to do is drive around and listen to music.

“Being in an area that’s kind of secluded from the rest of the big cities and a lot of stuff going on, you tend to find yourself and get to know yourself a bit better. I’ve never really worked with any other musicians in El Paso other than our band. So I feel like it really helped us to kind of form a process [for] creating music ourselves.

“For example, me and [Ockz] recently went out to LA for a writing trip, and as fun as it was, we’d prefer to write music on our own. I can see how writing sessions could help somebody, but it felt a little weird to me. I guess that’s just what comes with growing up in a small town like this. Also, a lot of the lyrics that I write come from a sort of smalltown mentality, which I think adds another [layer of] depth to our music.”

What sort of music were you all listening to in your early years – and has it changed?

“We still listen to similar artists now, but when we first formed the band, it was heavily influenced by Cape Town, Twenty One Pilots, Arctic Monkeys and The Killers. A lot of indie bands too – like Car Seat Headrest, Teen Suicide and The Strokes. Now we all listen to different stuff and our tastes meet somewhere in the middle, which is then put into our music.“

Late Night Drive Home’s music started very lo-fi, but has since grown more layered. Has that been a conscious choice, or are you just seeing what works?

“I feel like the more we got to know about each other and ourselves as musicians, the more we locked in on what we really wanted. It was also like going through the motions and learning what we like, and developing our tastes even more. Now, it’s more of a conscious choice to start including synthesisers and sounds that are a little bit further from garage-rock.

“We’re really influenced, at least right now, by a lot of electronic music. Right now, there’s this sound that we want to strive for, but we don’t let it heavily control what we make. We have a vision, but tend to let our creativity play [out] as the main factor.”

What’s that vision sound like?

“I’d like to consider it a fusion between indie garage-rock and electronic pop. It’s more in depth than that, but for lack of experience with terms, that’s all I’m gonna say!”

How do you find the reception to Late Night Drive Home’s experimentation – has it been embraced by existing fans?

“It’s always a scary thing when you decide to stray from what you’ve been doing for the longest time and try to develop as an artist in terms of being more experimental. For me, there’s always a concern, like: ‘I love the way this sounds – it sounds very different – but are my fans gonna like this?’

“I also find that switching it up a bit does tend to bring more interest. One of the biggest [examples] I can think of is The Strokes – they had this whole [indie] thing going on; then they started becoming more electronic-influenced, putting weird sounds in their music. Some people liked it, some didn’t. The way I see it is if we develop long-term fans – that’s all I can hope for – they’ll be people who support our music and whatever we create.”

A lot of your songs are about relationships and reflection – is that what comes to you naturally?

“Most of what I write is based on past experiences. But most of the time, I’ll make a narrative in my head for what I’m writing. I still share my personal experiences with people, but [I try to] make it broader so people can interpret the experience in their own ways and maybe find comfort [in it]. But yeah, it is based on a lot of my relationships – meaning friendships, relationships with family, or you know, random people that I meet.”

“I’ve gotten a lot better at accepting what this band is turning into”

Have you always been drawn to storytelling through songwriting?

“It’s something I strive for, but not something I’ve always done. Some of our older songs, though they still have meaning in their lyrics, aren’t as in-depth as I would have liked them to be. Our most popular song ‘Stress Relief’ was just written in the moment – I was going through a lot of emotions, and the words just kind of flew out. I just wrote my thoughts on one continuous page, but now I like to get more in-depth and revise the lyrics a little bit.”

How have you handled the social media attention you’ve been getting over?

“There was a point where, at least for me, it was a bit concerning. My thought process was like, ‘Wow, is this a life that you want to live?’ It’s not a normal kind of lifestyle and everything’s so unexpected in the music business. So it was very difficult for me to process it. But I think now I’m in a good spot where it’s like, ‘OK, yeah, I’m doing it for the art.’ That’s all that should matter.

“I’ve gotten a lot better at accepting what the band is turning into. It all still seems a little surreal to me – just the fact that so many people listen to our music and connect with what we’re putting out is the craziest feeling ever.”

Late Night Drive Home are playing Coachella this year – the band’s second set at the festival is coming up on Friday (April 19). But beyond that, what’s your dream accomplishment for the band?

“It would be really, really awesome to play Madison Square Garden. I don’t know if that’s like a big, ambitious goal. But I swear it’s one of our dream places to play. So yeah, I’ll say that, because that in itself is so powerful. I don’t know – it just holds so much meaning to us.”

‘I’ll Remember You For The Same Feeling You Gave Me As I Slept’ is out now via Epitaph.

The post Late Night Drive Home are speeding out of smalltown Texas and into the big league appeared first on NME.


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