By Avery Viers
Local Music Director
In preparation for KTSW’s upcoming Third Thursday event on Aug. 18th, I was anxious to meet up with San Marcos based-band, Arbordae, to learn more about the three Texas State University creatives expected to take the stage this month at The Porch.
Curtis Rowe, Caleb Alvarez and Ethan Lugbauer made for easy interviewees on Aug. 12th, shortly after I arrived at Stellar Coffee Co. with a sense of enthusiastic anticipation. Intensely interested in gaining insight into Arbordae’s background, creative process and inspirations, I couldn’t wait to sit down and hear straight from the band members themselves.
AVERY VIERS: How did you guys meet? Have you known each other for long?
CURTIS ROWE: We’ve known each other for a while! We met in high school.
AVERY VIERS: Oh yeah?
CURTIS ROWE: We were in the same class – Ethan and I. Caleb was a couple of years below us. We met at the end of high school and ended up going to college together.
AVERY VIERS: Where are y’all from originally?
ETHAN LUGBAUER: We’re from Tomball, Texas! It’s right outside of North Houston.
AVERY VIERS: So obviously y’all came out here to be students at Texas State, right? Are y’all still in school right now?
ETHAN LUGBAUER: Yes!
AVERY VIERS: What year are y’all in? Are y’all juniors? Seniors?
CALEB ALVAREZ: I’m about to be a junior.
CURTIS ROWE: I think I qualify as a super senior!
ETHAN LUGBAUER: I’m a super senior.
AVERY VIERS: What are y’all majoring in?
CURTIS ROWE: I’m majoring in English language arts while minoring with a teaching certificate.
CALEB ALVAREZ: I’m in computer science.
ETHAN LUGBAUER: I’m in the sound recording technology program.
AVERY VIERS: Nice! When did you guys officially decide to start making music together?
CURTIS ROWE: Ethan and I have been making music together since junior year of high school; we had a little emo band. We’ve been playing ever since. Once we moved in together in college and we were like, “Let’s start making music again!” Caleb had been a friend of ours for a while and, uh, well I’ll let [CALEB] talk about that.
CALEB ALVAREZ: I hopped in a little over a year ago – they needed a bass player. They had scheduled a show a month out without having a bass player. Curtis reached out to me and was like, “Do you want to try and play with us?” So I said, “Yeah!”
CURTIS ROWE: Oh, and that’s another thing – I actually gave Caleb bass lessons in high school!
CALEB ALVAREZ: Yeah! We weren’t even friends yet; I was low-key about to pay Curtis.
CURTIS ROWE: I think we had like three lessons. He paid me for one of them and after that I was like, “C’mon man, you don’t have to pay me for this. It’s fine.”
CALEB ALVAREZ: Then I dropped the bass; I barely learned it. And then a month before that show Curtis asked if I would learn the songs on bass – so I did. I learned all of their songs.
CURTIS ROWE: We had just released our EP [pine/gnomon] in April 2021. We had booked a show about a month later in May. I typed out all the songs on bass, handed them to Caleb and said, “Here, learn this. Listen to the songs and just play along. You got this.”
AVERY VIERS: That’s awesome! So you guys have been playing together for over a year now, then?
CALEB ALVAREZ: Yeah! Just over a year and a half, I think.
AVERY VIERS: How did you guys initially get introduced to the local music scene in San Marcos?
ETHAN LUGBAUER: Window Shop!
CURTIS ROWE: Window Shop helped us out, yeah. Window Shop gave us a house show at their place on Sagewood and that was our first show that wasn’t really, really small. They had a bunch of people out there. Last winter we had a couple of shows here, actually, at Stellar.
CALEB ALVAREZ: It’s cool because people are reaching out and asking us to play shows now, which is nice. It’s definitely not as much of a struggle to play somewhere, you know?
ETHAN LUGBAUER: Yeah – no one knew who we were, like, at all.
CALEB ALVAREZ: Not to say that [now] people know who we are, but at least now it’s a little easier.
AVERY VIERS: Right, yeah. You’ve gotten to the point now where you’ve gained some creditability.
CURTIS ROWE: Yeah! We didn’t really have a social media presence… We didn’t really have any kind of presence in town, honestly. We hadn’t played anywhere. We were just thinking about asking places to play.
CALEB ALVAREZ: Window Shop was really cool at the start of all of this. They really helped us out; they have a really good following.
CURTIS ROWE: After playing [that first show] with them, I don’t think we had a single show until the following November when we played here [Stellar Coffee Co.]. We did do a Halloween Show with Say-So – those guys are the homies.
CALEB ALVAREZ: Yeah! Then we played here. I think playing Stellar was a big deal for us.
CURTIS ROWE: We threw that show together. We had a few bands hop on with us and had a ton of people come out. It was really, really fun. I guess that was the biggest moment for us since we started getting shows more easily after that. We haven’t really stopped playing since.
AVERY VIERS: I saw your set at The Funnyshack last week, it was fun to watch! It was my first time seeing y’all and also Demure play, as well.
ETHAN LUGBAUER: Demure rocks, too. They’re also the homies.
CALEB ALVAREZ: Everybody at that show was a homie. Scarin’ Folks, Demure and Window Shop.
AVERY VIERS: So, you said you released your first EP last April. Can you walk me through that process a little bit?
CURTIS ROWE: It was… arduous. We started writing for it I wanna say back in October or November of 2019. We had that one day where we wrote three of the songs for the EP in one session and we demoed them. We were chopping them forever. We finally got everything together by May of 2020, maybe June. We kept recording and rerecording and listening and going, “Oh, we have to retry this.” We kept at it until literally the night we decided to release it – there was a lot of last-minute mixing and mastering. We kept going back and forth with our friend, Jacob, who is an affiliate of the band; he doesn’t really play with us regularly but he helped with that EP. We kept going out to his car and listening to the mix. I had a little notebook and kept writing down notes like too much build-up at 8k. At the same time, Ethan would be listening to figure out a bunch of stuff I don’t know – some technical SRT stuff. Eventually, we just said, “screw it,” and put it out.
AVERY VIERS: How was the general response from people around y’all after you decided to release it?
CURTIS ROWE: Friends and family really liked it!
CALEB ALVAREZ: I remember I really liked it. I wasn’t in the band yet. I remember listening to it three times and thought it was really cool.
AVERY VIERS: Do all three of you work equally in terms of songwriting at this point?
CALEB ALVAREZ: At this point, yeah.
CURTIS ROWE: For sure. We’ll all come in with different ideas and work to expand them as a band.
AVERY VIERS: Do each of you have a favorite song in the set list that you get excited to play?
CURTIS ROWE: My favorite always tends to be the newest one; whatever the newest song is I always feel like, “This is it! We struck gold!” We had this new one that we played at the [Funnyshack] show and it was our first time playing it. It’s definitely my favorite. I’ve come up with a name for it but I haven’t cleared it past the band so I don’t wanna drop it quite yet.
AVERY VIERS: Right, right.
CURTIS ROWE: I love that song. I love it a lot.
CALEB ALVAREZ: There’s a song we play now that Curtis and Ethan started working on a long time ago up until we all worked on it – the three of us – like a year ago. I don’t think we’ve played a show since working on it together where we haven’t played it; it’s definitely my favorite song to play. It’s called “Wick.” We’ve demoed it, we tried recording it but we haven’t gotten around to releasing it yet.
ETHAN LUGBAUER: I like playing one song, in particular, that’s on the EP that’s got really sick drums behind it. It’s just kind of fun to feel myself get really into playing it when we play in front of people.
AVERY VIERS: Yeah, that makes sense! Do y’all have anything that you’ve been working on that you’re planning on releasing soon?
CURTIS ROWE: Soon is a strong word… But we’re constantly writing. Every time we practice, even for shows, we try to write something new. I’m a little ambitious with it – I write a lot by myself. I wrote something today, actually. I want to have thirty or forty demos of songs before we start writing an album; purely because I want to put all the songs together and start with deciding how we’re gonna do it. That’s been my ambition for a while now. As of right now, I don’t have a date in mind; mostly because we have a lot of minor details that we’ve been tinkering with for probably five or six months now.
ETHAN LUGBAUER: We want to be able to throw away thirty songs if we have to. We would rather have too many demos than too little.
AVERY VIERS: The whole process seems super tedious, I can’t imagine. What is the process of mixing a demo like? Once you finish recording, how much time would you say you spend on the SRT side of things?
ETHAN LUGBAUER: I would say… a long time. I get pretty hung up on things at this point. I think I could put, at least, eight hours into each song and it still wouldn’t be enough.
CURTIS ROWE: I think we all have a bit of a perfectionist problem.
CALEB ALVAREZ: Yeah! I think it’s the main drama in the band from the beginning.
CURTIS ROWE: In kind of a bad way, too!
AVERY VIERS: I totally see why, though! For the three of you, I mean, this is your art form.
CALEB ALVAREZ: Definitely. You want everyone from the outside to think you’re perfect.
CURTIS ROWE: I get really hung up about communicating the intention of the song correctly; I want my guitar to be exactly what it’s supposed to be. I want everything to sit together really nice – that’s my thing.
AVERY VIERS: I hear you, that makes total sense. What would you guys say your favorite and least favorite aspects of the music scene in San Marcos are right now?
CURTIS ROWE: My least favorite thing is that there are just not enough stable venues.
ETHAN LUGBAUER: Yeah, me too.
CURTIS ROWE: I feel like we have a good amount of bands, though. It’s frustrating. I feel like not a lot of places stay rock band venues; or just any sort of artist-focused venues. I also wish there was a bit more range – I would love to start hearing more local artists doing some really weird stuff. I mean, I want to hear some guy on stage with his laptop, saturating his voice with autotune and screaming into a microphone. I just like weird people doing weird stuff. Attic Ted is cool.
ETHAN LUGBAUER: I agree. I think there aren’t enough venues here – there are plenty of stages, but it’s definitely a weird thing. I know Window Shop – whenever they play at most places in town – they’ll be told to turn down their volume pretty frequently. I mean, I guess it makes sense, but that’s what I mean when I say there isn’t really a dedicated place for musicians.
CALEB ALVAREZ: I feel like most bars aren’t booking bands for the live music – most places book bands more so to get people in the bar.
AVERY VIERS: I completely agree. I’ve talked about this with a handful of other artists in town, too. I would love to see a venue in San Marcos for people that are invested in listening to local musicians. It’s super unfortunate that at most venues right now, music is secondary.
ETHAN LUGBAUER: That’s why we love playing house shows so much, I think.
CURTIS ROWE: Yeah. People are there to see the bands play and to have a good time dancing and singing along with us.
ETHAN LUGBAUER: Even after we play, too. We love getting to watch the other bands and get into their sets with them.
CALEB ALVAREZ: Watching other bands inspires us a lot, too.
AVERY VIERS: I know you mentioned that y’all are close with Window Shop – are you close with any other local bands?
CALEB ALVAREZ: Demure. Scarin’ Folks are cool. Say-So, for sure.
CURTIS ROWE: Say-So, no doubt. Ethan is recording their EP for them right now which is really cool. Logan is definitely a homie.
CALEB ALVAREZ: Any of the artists we’ve played with in the past have been really cool.
CURTIS ROWE: Yeah. I think we played with Elephant Ears once – they were really nice. We played with Ask For Elizabeth once – they were really nice, too. Everyone in Ask For Elizabeth was really friendly; they rocked.
ETHAN LUGBAUER: Totally. That was a really inspiring show. Everyone in [Ask For Elizabeth] was absolutely incredible.
CURTIS ROWE: I can’t really think of a band in San Marcos that I don’t like. I like everyone that makes music here. I just wish there was more space for us to play.
Want to learn more about the band?
Listen to Arbordae on Bandcamp: https://arbordaeband.bandcamp.com/
Follow Arbordae on Instagram: @arbordae.band
Written by: Hannah Walls