Family. Respect. Self-Reflection. Re-birth. These are the themes pumping through the heart of Despierta, the new EP from San Jose hardcore act Maya (originally Maya Over Eyes). Released by Shark City Recordings on July 15, it’s the band’s first new music in nine years, shocking fans—and themselves—after their break-up in 2013.
“After I thought Maya was done I sold almost all my equipment and got into the tech industry,” says bassist Ozzy Medina. “But there was always a tight friendship, especially with this pandemic.”
Now armed with new music and a whole new outlook on life, Maya is back with their tightest recordings yet, full of blood, sweat and tears.
And after all, why not?
During their hiatus the San Jose hardcore scene grew to national recognition with the rise of bands like Gulch, Drain, Hands of God and others. Last month, Maya played their first show since 2013. The event was the now infamous RBS (“Real Bay Shit”) underground show, a 2000+ attendee renegade parking lot concert covered in the media by everyone from Brooklyn Vegan, KQED to this very publication.
“It was a surreal moment for me,” explains lead singer Paco Medina. “We’ve always had great support from San Jose, but to see that many people come out to a location they learned about three hours prior? I’m still processing it at the moment because I can’t believe it.”
On Despierta (which means “to awaken”) Maya centers their Latin-American heritage and its importance in everyday life, starting with an opening sample of “To live is to sleep, to die is to awaken” from 1987 Ritchie Valens biopic La Bamba (written by San Jose’s own Luis Valdez). Songs like “Sangrando,” “Prayer” and the thrashy “Demonios” were written with the intention of turning the band’s early anger into meaningful passion.
All of this makes Despierta Maya’s most true-to-self album to date: six brutal songs trimmed raw from their hiatus and the lockdowns of 2020. Even the cover art is a powerful message: the spirit of Quetzalcoatl superimposed over a Mayan warrior standing astride defeated conquistadors, two xoloitzcuintles—the Mexican hairless dogs recognized as spirit guides by ancient Central American cultures—standing on either side.
“This is probably the best representation of who we are,” drummer Martin Espinoza says. “Both as a band and as people.”
Singer Paco credits the EP at least in part to the pandemic.
“I think this time around we had a neutral environment to write,” he says. “We had a full year to finally focus on the music.”
The road to Despierta has been long and often interrupted. Maya originally formed in 2004, after Paco and Espinoza became friends at Oak Grove High. As their music evolved, they added influences of hardcore and metalcore—a punk/metal fusion subgenre—along with Paco’s brother, Ozzy, on bass.
Over the years, they performed often, and toured the US and Mexico, earning them an underground following despite only releasing two albums in nine years: 2009 EP Things Get Worse Before They Get Better, and 2012 full-length Rebel Alliance.
After their 2013 disbandment, the members remained close, attending each other’s weddings and stepping up into roles as godparents for each other’s kids. When the pandemic hit and uncertainties surrounded, their bonds drew even closer, giving them a moment to pause and reflect on what mattered most.
“I don’t think we really planned anything,” Paco says. “We were just getting together. It was a fucking weird time.”
Now facing a new decade and a new audience, Maya is rejoined by their previous guitar player, Justin Thompson, for a full comeback, reclaiming their place in the San Jose hardcore scene—along with a healthy dose of respect for all the new bands.
“We’re seeing some of the people in the scene taking what we did and even doing it better,” Paco says. “Because there’s always bands out there who can do it bigger, who have bigger outlets.”
Espinoza enthusiastically agrees.
“With all the collective work that’s been done, the momentum that’s been built has been rightfully earned, because it came from a real place.”
Shark City Recordings