Attending a show for the Denton band Maestro Maya sounds different from a traditional music experience — they do not write songs and use very few lyrics. Instead, the band improvises to make every set they play unique, feeling out what they are going to play rather than performing something rehearsed.
“Our songs are more of a feeling, because that’s what any good music does to you,” Denton resident and Maestro Maya bass player Jonas Downer said.
Maestro Maya was formed in 2017 when the band played its first house show. Along with Downer, the band is comprised of guitar player and vocalist Josh Cinquemani and drummer Andres Serrano. In 2012, Serrano and Cinquemani were a part of a different project called Goblins. After the bassist of Goblins moved to Seattle, Downer joined the band.
Cinquemani said before Downer joined the band, the role of the bassist was rock-heavy, but since 2017, the band’s sound has become largely improvised.
“After enough times of trying to write a song, we realized that the written stuff didn’t sound like us, so we kept it to the jams,” Cinquemani said.
The band released an album of their jams as an EP titled “Maestro Maya” earlier this year. During live performances, however, Downer said that there is no chorus for the crowd to sing along to because they use no lyrics.
“My voice is just an added instrument,” Cinquemani said. “But when it came to our album, I had to write a few lyrics in it. Because if we’re gonna make an album, we’re gonna make an album.”
Downer said the improvised space gaze genre comes from space rock and shoe gaze. He said that it came from a time in the 80s and 90s before grunge music took off.
“It’s a very specific feel of music style where there is so much happening, everything is happening at once and [there is] a wash of sound,” Cinquemani said.
Downer said it is hard for the band to decide what genre of music they play because it is something they do not think about — the band just likes to play music. He said that their music is a mesh of the three personalities of the group and the different types of genres they each play.
“Whenever we play together, we try to incorporate so much different stuff that we enjoy from hip-hop to R&B, Spanish music, and I don’t know if it’s specific to a genre but that’s why I like to play with these guys,” Serrano said. “There is no thinking involved, it’s what you feel.”
Serrano said that Maestro Maya’s undefined genre helps the band because they are able to play with different types of genres at shows.
“Sometimes [our music] is a hodgepodge of our shared interests,” Downer said. “Our own interests and what we bring to the table collages almost, like a collage of sound. You can sometimes feel the music swirl around you.”
Serrano said that there is no right way to play music. He said that someone in the crowd can hear one thing while another person can hear another thing, and their music is up for interpretation. Serrano also said that people get what they want out of their music.
Downer said he likes hearing people’s interpretation to their music because their interpretations are different from what they intended. Serrano said he wants the crowd to be open and have an open reception to their music.
“We want people to go into it open minded and we want people to get into it as it’s happening,” Cinquemani said.
Downer said that Denton has a prestigious jazz, music and art scene, and other artists seem to be interested in what the band is playing.
“That’s what’s cool about Denton, the crowds are filled up with musicians,” Cinquemani said.
What sets this band apart, Downer said, is that they improvise all of their music. Cinquemani said that they only practice to get into the mind space of playing together, and Serrano said it helps them get into the vibe of syncing together even though they are improvising.
Downer said for the people who come to their shows, their music is a journey listeners are encouraged to go on.
“We just invite people to come along for the ride,” Cinquemani said.
Featured Image: Local band Maestro Maya poses for a portrait at Denton Brewing Co. on Nov. 27, 2019. Image by Grant Beardslee