It’s tough to front rock-star cool when you kick off a set tripping over your own gear. Seconds into Echo Stains’ first song during a First Friday session at Makers & Finders coffee, singer/keyboardist Jordan Collins’ microphone cut out. Collins tried to slide his keyboard closer to guitarist Ron Guillermo’s mic and knocked over an effects pedal.
The band kept playing. Collins danced. He busted moves like a bona fide star. It’s just that the star was Drake. Collins laughed it off through his “Hotline Bling” shimmy, and no one broke stride. Not bad for an outfit that’s only been peddling its twinkly brand of shoegaze since April.
For a city that gave rise to The Killers, whose Hot Fuss could’ve slotted in with Duran Duran’s ’80s heyday, Stains come around in a nice bit of symmetrical evolution with a sound that recalls My Bloody Valentine with a dash of early Cure and a hint of New Order, in just about the same time gap between Rio and Loveless.
It’s a bit of a shift from the band’s first aborted incarnation as a hip-hop act. “We had kind of died down and drifted away,” Guillermo says. “I started working on some music I had started doing in high school. I never finished it, and showed it to them. They started digging it. From there we just started building songs together. We didn’t really change styles; we just did the other kind of music we were into.”
Collins, Guillermo and bassist Marvin Cantorna Jr. were high school buddies at East Career & Technical Academy. After ditching the hip-hop plan in 2013, they put out two EPs, then added guitarist José Quinoñes and drummer Mike Bryson when it came time to do live shows.
Before taking on new members, though, there was still one tiny wrinkle. Collins and Cantorna had to learn to play their instruments. Collins even took a class at CSN. Quick learners, the band coalesced to do its first live show at Zia for Record Store Day. Echo Stains has begun to look for gigs out of state, but a return trip to the studio as a full-fledged five-piece might wait until the group finds the right time. “When something bad happens, that’s when we write a song,” Guillermo says.
“It will just be songs about a girl we dated,” Collins says before pausing to think for a second. “Or not dated.”