Eight (and a half) Questions with drummer Juan José Egas Yerovi
1 TNFTV: Prior to the pandemic, what had your transition to living in Ecuador from DC been like?
JUAN: Everything has felt like a blur since the end of last year. My band Lovejet had its final show in December before Laszlo (the bass player) moving to NY and Miles (singer and guitar player) moving briefly to Portugal. At the same time, my contract at my previous job was coming to an end and as a foreigner I could not stay in DC longer than what my visa allowed me. By the end of January, I was
selected to work for a Rome-based organization, and the plan was to move to Rome in March, but then the COVID outbreak happened, the organization closed their offices worldwide and sent everyone to work from home, so I found myself staying in my hometown in Ecuador for longer than expected. In that sense, settling in back in Ecuador was not part of the original plan, but due to the circumstances it is the only place I can be right now. I don’t complain, though, because being at home is probably the best place one can be during a global crisis like this.
2 TNFTV: Have you been musically active recently?
JUAN: Since the general lockdown started in Ecuador in mid-March, not much, besides practicing with my practice pad in my bedroom. I am currently living in an apartment, so playing my acoustic drumkit here would make my neighbors very mad, ha. I am currently looking into electronic drumkits as it seems I’ll stay here until August, at least. Hopefully I’ll get to play more and have a chance to start collaborating remotely in the next few weeks.
3 TNFTV: Have you ever taught drumming? If so, did you find the experience satisfying?
JUAN: Not seriously. I taught a few friends some basic 4/4 grooves a couple of times in the past, but never as a serious gig. With the lockdown I was thinking of both taking and giving drum lessons remotely, and there is a local Facebook group where you can barter your skills for products and services, so I was thinking of offering drum lessons in exchange of other services.
4 TNFTV: Can you describe a person(s) who's influenced and shaped your musical growth?
JUAN: Lots of people! From a very early age, my dad made me and my siblings listen to the music he likes, so I grew up listening to a lot of 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s music, both in Spanish and in other languages (mainly English, but he also liked Italian and French music). He has a very eclectic music taste, and he used to make his own mixtapes with music sorted by decade, language or genre, and that experience of growing up listening to a broad range of music definitely shaped my music taste and music making. He also plays guitar and sings, and encouraged me to take piano lessons when I was a kid, but then as a teenager I picked up the drums and learned on my own. Another person who influenced my music taste is my dear friend Carlos, who I grow up with. He was my neighbor and we are the same age, and when we were young kids, we used to build a stage bringing all the chairs and stools that we could find in his house, put cardboard as stage floor and sing to an empty backyard. Sometimes we would make my siblings and my cousin to be the crowd. By that time, he would play drums made of his mom’s pots and I would play a little keyboard. Then he picked the guitar and I switched to drums as we started to listen to punk rock. That would be the second highlight of my musical growth.
Besides them, many people have influenced my musical taste. My sister is a big fan of The Beatles, and has several friends who are musicians, and I became also friends with them. She and her (and my) friends have also introduced me to a lot of music. Other friends in high school, in college, at work, and my romantic relationships have also introduced me to new music, and thankfully I have been able to get to know a lot of music in that way. Moving to Belgium for grad school was also a defining episode of my music formation. I had a chance to listen to a lot of Belgian and European bands and got to meet people with very different musical backgrounds. One of my dear Belgian friends is a guitar player and coincidentally moved to DC last year, so we got to make music briefly before I moved out of DC (in a project called Dajuma!), but even before that, we used to hang out and talk a lot about music.
5 TNFTV: Please share a memorable gig experience from any point in your life?
JUAN: Hmm.... The gigs I had with Lovejet were very memorable, all of them. We played very small gigs at house shows, but also played at Union Stage, Black Cat, and sold-out shows at Songbyrd and DC9, and even once at the National Mall. Every one of them was an incredible experience. Overcoming my stage fright and introversion, closing my eyes and just hitting the drums and feeling the music have been some of the most intense and fulfilling moments in my life. But probably our final show at The Pocket is the most memorable. It was a very bittersweet gig, but one that I will remember all my life.
6 TNFTV: How do you discover new music and what music are you listening to now?
JUAN: As I mentioned in a previous question, friends introduce me to new music very often, and that’s a blessing. I also subscribed to newsletters like NBHAP (Nothing But Hope and Passion, a German-based music blog), follow music media like Remezcla, Consequence of Sound and Pitchfork, and a couple of podcasts (like Plan Arteria’s Cursor Podcast for Latin American music) that showcase new music. Platforms’ algorithms have improved a lot lately, too, and recently discovered a band called Feng Suave through YouTube’s suggestions. I also discovered Human Tetris via that way. I am currently digging Nate Smith, Yussef Dayes and Tom Misch’s album What Kinda Music, but also have on rotation BADBADNOTGOOD, Alfa Mist, Jojo Mayer’s Nerve, Fearless Flyers, Snarky Puppy, Ghost-Note, The Holy Knives, Plastilina Mosh, Los Espíritus, Portishead, and Los Amigos Invisibles often on my playlists.
7 TNFTV: Who is a popular musical artist in Ecuador that America doesn't know about?
JUAN: A lot! There are very few, if any Ecuadorian artists that are known in the US. To name a few must-know in very different genres: Can Can (pop rock), Mamá Vudú (indie rock), El Retorno de Exxon Valdez (ska punk), Tanque (punk rock), Sal y Mileto (prog rock), Wañukta Tonic (fusion), Descomunal (metal), Mafiandina (rap), Pulpo 3 (prog rock), Rude Monkey Bones (ska), Mateo Kingman (electro-pop), Nicola Cruz (electronic), Sexores (shoegaze, dream pop), La Malamaña (salsa), Munn (trip hop, fusion), Rarefacción (jazz), Mariela Condo… The list goes on and on. All of them are on YouTube, most on Spotify.
8 TNFTV: Who would you like to collaborate with musically?
JUAN: It would be great to have Lovejet or Dajuma! come back sometime. I’d love to play drums or percussion again for my former band Bite Marks, too, and any band or artist that would need a drummer. I’d love to do anything that fusions styles and genres, and if I get to go to Rome, make music there. Let’s hope this corona madness is over soon.
8.5 TNFTV: What's in store for your future?
JUAN: For now, stay alive, ha. It’s hard to figure out now what future will bring, but for now the aim is to stay healthy physically, mentally and emotionally. One day at a time.