While holding a spot on the UPC Live Music Committee in 2017, Jason “Ariel” Bobadilla agreed to perform at an upcoming event showcasing local music for the organization. The event was only two weeks away, giving him 14 days to gather a band. He pulled together five other musicians and formed what came to be the jazz-inspired hip-hop collective called Ariel & The Culture.
The band started with founding members and vocalists Bobadilla and Nat Marie in November 2017. Covers ranging from Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” to “September” by Earth, Wind, & Fire comprised the setlist for the make-shift arrangement. An original piece written by Bobadilla titled, “Something,” was played by the group at the first show together that night, and eventually garnered a studio release almost two years later on their first official EP, “Nostalgia.” While Bobadilla and Marie are the only original members still remaining in the band, this initial formation established the large collective group style that came to be the present six-piece band.
The group solidified in spring 2018, adding keyboard, bass, trumpet and drums. The band has worked to find the right direction for their sound — their “Nostalgia” EP has nuances of jazz and R&B, with horn lines and percussion through drums and intermittent tambourine. While the musical vision can sometimes be divided, Ariel & The Culture have a congruent dynamic that makes the creative process go smoothly, Bobadilla said.
“With writing the new album, we’re trying to find a more solid direction,” Bobadilla said. “It will sound more like our newest single, ‘Infatuation.’ Usually, I’ll make and produce a song, then I will bring it to the group, and they will tear it apart.”
Though the band members are influenced by artists ranging from Tyler, The Creator to Paul McCartney & Wings, Bobadilla said they share similar conceptual visions. Trumpet player Brandon Conley said the size of the group is not an issue when it comes to songwriting, but it requires collaboration on each member’s part.
“When you have a lot of people, you have to listen and compromise,” Conley said.
Ariel & The Culture’s breakout single “Walk Out” was featured by Spotify on their weekly updated playlists “LatinX Indie” and “New Music Friday Latin.” These lists garner about 300,000 followers and the track held its place on the list for almost a year after its release. The band has also been recognized by Dallas publication Central Track and was nominated for Best Rap Group/Collective and Best EP for “Nostalgia” as part of their annual Music Honors event. The growth that followed this national exposure became apparent during their tour of Texas in the summer of last year, which consisted of 52 shows spanning the course of 2018 and 2019.
“Here in Denton we can get a good number of people, but then we drive 200 miles and sell out,” Bobadilla said, referring to a show eight hours away in McAllen, Texas.
Vocalist Nat Marie said the show that made “everything click” for the group happened in July 2019 at Sofar Sounds in Austin. The event is known as an immersive experience curated specifically to surprise audiences with three diverse acts set in a secret, mundane location-turned music venue for the night.
“After you buy a ticket, you have no idea what you’re walking into,” Marie said. “Hopefully you’re just open-minded to listen to some music.”
The audience’s reaction held a pleasant surprise, Marie said, and a few guests in attendance recognized their music.
“To have people that don’t know you show up, people from all different backgrounds who are just a fan of R&B — for them to just vibe with us felt really good,” Marie said.
Ariel & The Culture kicked off the decade with their new single “Infatuation,” gravitating toward hip-hop based groove music.
“After ‘Downtown’ was released, we decided we want to move more — we want to groove,” keys player Kyle Hassien said.
As the band ventures into new opportunities to expand their music, their sound remains rooted in Latin R&B. With songs like “Downtown” that covers the Mexico City Earthquakes of 1985 to the incorporation of Spanish lyrics in “No Manches,” the band is far from straying from their Latin connection. The band members are passionate about their origin and have played benefit concerts for the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
With a residency at Louie Louie’s Dueling Piano Bar in Deep Ellum, and countless sets at Denton’s BackYard on Bell, Ariel & The Culture found their footing in the DFW music scene. This hometown feel was important to their formation and is considered to be the “common denominator” amongst them, drummer Blake Lindstrom said. Denton Arts & Jazz Fest is where they realized their potential, and playing for a sold-out crowd at Deep Ellum Art Company’s Dallas Ain’t Dead festival has opened many doors for them, Lindstorm said. While Ariel & The Culture owe their development to the space they found in the Denton music scene, they look forward to expanding their audience.
Ariel & The Culture will be featured at the Central Track Music Honors at the Granada Theater on Feb. 19 and at Rubber Gloves in Denton on Feb. 14.
Courtesy KVRX Austin