Tightly crammed into futons and sprawled over wheelchairs in their Hialeah practice space, the members of Stillblue look like siblings. The seating arrangement is an attempt to squeeze in a video call, but the family vibe is no coincidence. For drummer and newer addition Diego Gamez, the atmosphere is what drew him in.
“It showed me a whole different side of life,” Gamez says. “I got to play with people that I was meeting and still learning, and they were pretty open to coming over to my house and having a drink after a show or something, and it just bonded us. They’re like my siblings . “
Before the current five members reunited, Stillblue lived in the mind of vocalist and guitarist Enrique Rosell. Although he played in a few high school bands and then performed as a solo artist, devoting himself entirely to music was difficult, to say the least. Writing, recording and performing alone, his music seemed incomplete. His parents, Peruvian immigrants, urged him to find a stable source of income. As soon as he graduated and got a job in August 2019, he posted flyers on the Florida International University campus.
“I was like, OK, more bullshit. Let’s actually do it,” he says.
Soon after, Rosell assembled Stillblue, although apart from Danny Estrada, none of the members of this first iteration remained.
“I’m one of the original members of Stillblue. I’m proud of that,” he laughs.
Estrada humbly describes himself as the band’s lap steel guitarist, but the oddly played instrument is a defining feature of most Stillblue songs. It imbues the band’s folk guitar melodies with an otherworldly scream that acts almost like a second – or, in some cases, a third – vocalist.
“I bought a lap steel because I was like, Damn I’m gonna learn how to do this“, says Rosell. “I brought it and Danny tried it. Danny is a virtuoso. He’s just a really talented musician. He picked it up super easily.”
Along with the ethereal sounds of lap steel and Rosell’s vocals, a Stillblue song is usually accompanied by backing vocals from Sofia Soriano. Resting a blue Daphne Telecaster against his leg, Soriano scratches the folk body of the band’s songs.
“I really like old-school country music, which my parents are so confused about,” Soriano says of his influences.
She joined the group shortly after meeting Enrique at a Halloween-themed open-mic event and befriending Soriano’s Phoebe Bridgers costume. As important as his guitar contributions are his vocals, which add a rich contrast to Rosell’s vocals.
If Rosell looks like a babbling brook somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, Soriano is a fern that sits along the shore – strong and confident in its vulnerability. In “Kick to the Chest”, where she suffers from failure and always lends a reassuring hand, her offer is firm: “I’ll be here as long as you need me / Let’s be clear, I am what I fear.”
A love for Phoebe Bridgers and New Jersey-based indie rock band Pinegrove are two common threads that bind the band together, though their influences come from all genres and all parts of the world.
“Yamil loves this Japanese band called Fishmans, and they’re crazy. They’re nothing like Stillblue. But their sound composition and songs are so different and cool,” Gamez said.
Subtle yet essential to Stillblue’s unique sound, Yamil Granda’s bass lines reflect his personality. He jumps here and there, and though his comments are silent, he’s still in sync with the group’s collective consciousness.
As they finalize the final two songs of an EP due out at the end of the month, there’s a fullness in the air and a comfort in the band’s ability to collaborate in person after the pandemic loomed over their lineup, creating frequent obstacles. The singles “Bluets”, “Kick to the Chest” and “Song to Say Goodbye To” were completed remotely, with Estrada, Rosell and Soriano video calling and swapping audio files to put the tracks together.
Unlike the tempo of their songs, Stillblue shows no signs of slowing down. The band began gigging in January, playing everything from house shows in Coconut Grove to packed houses at the indie house Gramps. The members recently announced that they will be joining South Florida natives Polar Boys for a September tour, including shows in Orlando, Atlanta and Nashville.
“I think about it too much. I can’t explain to you the levels of happiness in my head,” Rosell says. “Because it’s not just a three-year journey that we’ve been on. It’s like a lifelong journey to get to this point.”