Tune Up: Junkie

When we dial up James Castilleja of Junkie, he speaks with the ease of a kid who hasn’t yet started to write a five-page paper due the next day, but who isn’t bothered at all by the looming deadline. To an extent, that’s not far fetched from his routine.

In his final year of high school, Castilleja has caught an unavoidable affliction: senioritis. His decline in motivation for all things school related, however, has thankfully not followed him into the garage where he riffs with his bandmates Mark Perez and Daniel Garcia.

For the last few years, the threesome has been writing music reminiscent of surf punk artists like King Tuff and Wavves, yet they have managed to bring a sound to the scene that is fresh and inviting.

Aside from talent and a lingering high, Junkie utilizes one thing in particular to cull their receptive audience: their age. Still young, the band is living in the midst of a time riddled with the overwhelming sensations of angst and unrequited love. Luckily, they are writing it all down and sharing it with us in a way that is satisfyingly relatable.

BTR caught up with Junkie to chat about their writing process and the future of the band post-graduation.

BreakThru Radio (BTR): Why don’t we start with how Junkie came to be?

James Castilleja (JC): I met Mark through a band that we were working on for a while before this. He stopped doing that and asked me to do this project with him called Junkie. So I said sure! We jammed out for about two months, wrote songs together, and that’s how it really started. We added our friend Daniel to the mix, who was always around. He started picking up all the music and now he plays bass. That was about two years ago, and here we are.

BTR: How do you like being a part of the San Antonio scene?

JC: San Antonio is great. It’s growing into something really beautiful. A lot of people and bands are starting to make more stops here, which makes people want to be more interactive with the scene. I wouldn’t say there are two many local bands at the moment, but the few that are around are really catching attention. It’s great. I think a lot of people are starting to recognize that. And it’s not even just San Antonio. It’s all of Texas, like Austin and Dallas. But San Antonio is a good place to start.

BTR: In the last year you’ve released a handful of singles and an EP. What was the writing process like for those songs?

JC: What usually happens is we jam out in my garage, hang out, and get a little stoned. [Laughs] Mark will come with a piece, and Daniel and I will stem off of it from there. Mark wrote a bunch of pieces that we all worked on and before we knew it we had hit songs that we were stoked on. Writing the EP was a very, very long process. It took a while, but it was extremely fun and we’re proud it’s our first official EP.

BTR: Did you record that yourself?

JC: Yeah, that was the first actual recording we did on our own. Sometimes it doesn’t sound that great, and that’s why. But it was our first try. It was a very raw process.

BTR: Are there specific themes that shine through on that release?

JC: I’d say there are a lot of songs about lovers or relationships. There are also songs about hanging out with your friends, things that people want to be doing and wish they could be doing all the time.

BTR: You sound very laid back. I bet you have a great time with this band.

JC: Yeah, this is…I love this band. [Laughs]

BTR: You’re all fairly young.

JC: Mark is the oldest. He’s 20. I’m finishing up high school actually.

BTR: High school? That’s exciting. Do you have plans after you graduate?

JC: Of course. Junkie.

BTR: How dedicated. So you have a very specific sound that’s reminiscent of surf punk bands like King Tuff and Wavves. Are you influenced by any musicians in particular?

JC: I was into a lot of different music before Junkie. Then Mark showed me a bunch of new music starting with Wavves. I dug deeper in that genre, but they were the biggest influence for us.

BTR: You have had some of your music put out on cassette. How did that come about and how are you feeling about its resurgence?

JC: We put out music on Yippee Ki Yay Records. [Yippe Ki Yay Records, http://www.yippeekiyay.org/] I think it’s a great thing and I hope more people get back into buying cassette players so that we can start selling more of our music. [Laughs] Yippee Ki Yay came to us after seeing us a few times and he told us he’d been wanting to put out our music. We didn’t know how to go about it exactly, but he walked us through it. We had the money to invest and so did he. We recorded two new singles and put them together with one of our first releases. And that’s that.

BTR: Do you think you’ll keep putting music out on cassette?

JC: Vinyl is definitely a dream of mine, but cassettes seem to be the latest and cheapest way to get your music out their in a physical way. Hopefully more people start jumping on it.

BTR: So do you have plans to release more music soon?

JC: We are actually working on an LP right now, which has been really fun. We are shooting for about 14 songs and we have about six songs right now. It’s great to finally be writing our first record. It’s something new and we are all in it together. These songs are our favorite tracks yet, they sound great. It’s exciting and really difficult to stay quiet about it.

BTR: Is there a projected release date for that?

JC: No, not at all. We are kind of just letting it flow out of us and once we’ve got the material we will start thinking about what we’re going to do from there.

BTR: In the meantime, any upcoming shows or tours?

JC: Touring is always a dream, but we just need to keep playing shows and keep writing songs. Hopefully by the summer we’ll have some money and it’d be nice to tour.

For more from Junkie, head to their Facebook, Bandcamp, or BTR’s own In The Den.