Texas Indie Shoegaze Rockers EEP Talk Latest Album ‘Winter Skin’, El Paso Culture & Cuisine, & More

EEP’s 2020 debut, Death of a Very Good Machine, came together by mere happenstance.

It all began when guitarist and vocalist Rosie Varela decided to record a single, and eventually it snowballed into an 8-track collaboration with other artists.

Varela, now joined by Ross Ingram (guitar, vocals, production), Sebastian Estrada (bass), Serge Carrasco (guitar, vocals), and Lawrence Brown (drums, vocals), maintain their momentum with their second studio release, Winter Skin.  

Winter Skin is a 9-song collection of expansive, experimental Texan shoegaze. The success of this exploratory sound is due to the fact that there are no fixed roles within the band. All members have their respective instruments, yet are all willing and capable to provide lyrics or a synth if need be. This lack of rigidity, says Ingram, “is part of what makes it exciting and fun and a part of why we ended up with a record that’s got a lot of depth and variety to it, while still having a cohesive sound.”

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The record’s exploration of musical territories began with all of the members working on music remotely throughout the pandemic. Once they were able to get back in the studio, boundaries were crossed and creative freedom took over to create the fresh, lush sounds of Winter Skin.

We sat down with the El Paso band and discussed their songwriting process, their favorite Texas bars, and the influence behind Winter Skin.

So what’s the origin story on how EEP got together and started making music?

Rosie: EEP got its start when I approached Ross Ingram, who owns Brainville Studios in Sunland Park, New Mexico. I asked him if he would help me record a song I’d written called “Hogar.” As time went on, I invited some other local musician friends to join in and what started out as one song eventually evolved into an eight-song album called “Death of a Very Good Machine.”

I see y’all are based out of El Paso. What’s the music scene like there, and are you content in keeping the band there?

Serge: The El Paso scene is very supportive. There are no real big acts here, and there is no big music industry here, so it feels like everyone is just doing it because they have to, because they have something impelling them to, which is for the best, I think. There are a good number of bands and artists here that I connect with on a regular basis because my friend and I run a DIY venue in town. 

Rosie: El Paso is an interesting town because so many more well-known bands pass through it on their way to other places. Unfortunately, they’ll stop for the night, but it’s rare when they play a show here. So, during the week, locals depend on local musicians for live music. On any given night, you can find jazz, blues, rock, metal, indie, and other genres at our local venues. In that way, we’re a very robust music community.

El Paso’s our home and we have no plans to leave. This year me, Ross Ingram (our producer and EEP band member), and my husband Justin created a record label, Hogar Records, to build a sustainable model where we can produce and record great music.

As a 5-piece, one could assume that the band is very collaborative. What does the songwriting process look like?

Rosie: EEP has two kinds of songs in our songwriting process. The first is when one of us comes to the band with a fully fleshed-out demo. Basically, everyone then replaces parts in the demo with their own original ideas. It’s either done in-studio or band members do them at home. 

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The other way that we write is when we’re all able to be in the studio and it honestly is like kids playing in a toy store. We might start with one riff and we then record every idea that everyone has. In both cases, it is a very iterative process where the finished song may sound very different from the original demo or riff. We generally don’t leave out anyone’s parts. So far, everything we write together blends beautifully.

Let’s talk about your new record, Winter Skin. What’s the inspiration and influence behind it, and are there any overarching themes or motifs behind it?

Rosie: Every song on the album reflects either an emotional motif that speaks directly to the listener or creates abstract, impressionistic audio imagery. For example, “No Inbetween” is basically an observation of how we can compare ourselves to everyone and everything else to the point of distraction. “Ángeles” is a lush meditation sung in Spanish reflecting on gratitude for the angels on Earth that help us in life. “Stargazer” is a lyrical exploration into the death of Vincent van Gogh. “Slow Down” is the closing track that sums up the shared experience we’ve had in the past couple of years with the lyric “Shed your anxious shaking winter skin/and be something new again.” And to a certain extent, every EEP album that we do feels like a sort of rebirth for us.

What messages or feelings do you hope listeners take away from it?

Rosie: I think in both the creation of this record and the feedback we’re receiving from fans, there is an overriding sense of optimism and wonder.

Where was it recorded and who helped produce it?

The album was recorded at Brainville Studio in Sunland Park, New Mexico – the studio is co-owned by band members Ross Ingram, Sebastian Estrada, and Rosie Varela. Ross produced the album.

What tracks from the album might you be most excited to perform live?

Rosie: “Time Crunch” and “A Message To You.”

Sebastian: “Hanging On A Wire”  has such an incredible frenetic feeling – it will be so much fun to play live. “Stargazer” seems like it would be the most challenging to arrange for a live setting so I’m excited to see what that will sound like.

To follow up…if you could open for any present-day artist, who would it be and why?

Rosie: Ringo Deathstarr – I think their energy and vibe is a good fit for us. 

Where are the best places to eat in El Paso?

Rosie: We have a Mexican Restaurant that’s been around for ages called The Lunchbox that is great and inexpensive to boot. And an amazing vegan taqueria downtown called ELEMI. 

Sebastian: I love going to Eloise, which is owned by Jim Ward of Sparta and ATDI. The food is delicious and leans on vegan-friendly dishes. They have a full bar and are always doing unique infusions for their cocktails.

How about the best music venues/bars? 

Rosie: Love Buzz, Aceitunas, Nature House, Three Missions Brewery.

Quick! In one word, sum up your 2021.

Rosie: Gratitude.

Photo by Pantaleón Mena

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