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NY psychedelic surf rock band Cortez rides wave of popularity in NEPA

NY psychedelic surf rock band Cortez rides wave of popularity in NEPA
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Over the past year, Goldstein’s Deli has ramped up their live music acts, hosting four to six each month and featuring various genres and lineups that bring in crowds of all kinds.

A perfect example came on Friday, June 21, when their Twilight Bistro showcased local acts Salem Moon, Pollen, and Cortez, drawing an eager and responsive group of fans.

NEPA Scene had a chance to enjoy the show and sit down for a short talk with Cortez, their first official interview since they became a band in September of 2021 at the NEPA Scene Open Mic at The V-Spot in Scranton, where they spent many Tuesday nights honing their psychedelic dream/surf rock sound and building a following that grows each time they step onto a stage.

NEPA SCENE: Who is Cortez?

VICTOR CORTEZ: I’m Victor Cortez. They call me Vitoz. I play guitar and I sing.

DANNY CORTEZ: I am Danny Cortez. I play drums, although I could play a bunch of other instruments. I am the one who keeps the beat in this band.

ANTONIO CORTEZ: I’m Antonio. I play the rhythm [guitar]. These guys taught me how to play the guitar, actually, so the only reason why I started playing was because of these guys, my family. I was inspired.

JOSH CORTEZ: I’m Josh Cortez. I’m their cousin. I started playing bass with them first and then I passed [bass] onto my girlfriend. I started playing guitar and keys but, more recently, lead guitar.

EMILY COLLERAN: I’m Emily. I’m the bassist.

NS: What is the origin story of Cortez?

DC: Our first show, it wasn’t even a show, it was the NEPA Scene Open Mic, and it was just me on drums; Vitoz, the lead singer and guitar; Josh, bass. So that’s when we first started. It was just us three, and then we did really good apparently. The Pennsylvania music scene here welcomed us with open arms. That’s how we felt anyway, you know? So we got my brother Antonio into this. And then Josh got Emily into this. And now…

VC: Yeah, it was September 2021 and we were at The V-Spot, and we had our gear with us, I forget why. We needed a band name on stage, and I was like all right, we’ll be Cortez because we’re brothers on stage.

NS: Where are you based out of?

DC: We’re originally from Newburgh, New York, and we are based out of there, but we moved here to Wilkes-Barre maybe around 2016/2017. I feel we’re somewhat of a Newburgh and Wilkes-Barre kind of band.

During this part of the interview, a listener taking a cigarette break stopped to compliment the band on their sound, calling it a “West Coast kind of surf rock.” The group paused to chat with them for a minute about music stylization and the way Cortez subverts expectations by sounding like a California band, even though they are East Coast through and through.

NS: Who are your musical influences?

VC: We all absolutely love The Growlers. We’ve seen them live multiple times. We’re heavily influenced by them. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard [too].

NS: During your set, you mentioned you guys are working on an album.

VC: That’s correct, we are working on an album. We kind of don’t have a name for it yet. We’ve been going with the flow.

JC: Everyone here kind of has their own project. Cortez is just kind of the most popular one right now. Vitoz’s got his own project called VelVic. Antonio is in another band, Decent Colors. Danny’s got his own project, Rolidas. Emily and I have a project, Monsterra Roots, and then we’re also trying to steer Emily to her own project, so Cortez is very much a collective of artists, and we have a strong network where we’re living right now. Victor’s got a studio. Victor is recording Monsterra Roots’s first album. The frontman of Decent Colors, who has got his own studio, is recording Cortez’s first album.

VC: Most of the songs are written by Josh. He comes to us and he’s like, “Hey, this song can fit with the album.” He’s really good with structuring the album. We don’t have a name for it yet, but it should be out late August/early September. When it’s out, we do plan on touring the album.

In the meantime, Cortez will be back in Northeastern Pennsylvania to perform at Spacement Arts underneath Utopia Glass Shop (82 S. Main St, Wilkes-Barre) on Wednesday, July 17 and Thursday, July 18, as well as Bananafanafofest at the Keyser Valley Community Center (103 N. Keyser Ave., Scranton) on Saturday, July 27. For more details, visit their Instagram.

Watch their full set from NEPA Horror Fest’s Spooky Summer IV event on June 22 at the Circle Drive-In in Dickson City below:

Watch a playlist of Cortez’s early NEPA Scene Open Mic performances here: