Miami has its Latin, hip-hop and dance music. It’s home to Gloria Estefan, the Bee Gees, Madonna, Ricky Martin and Jon Secada.
It’s trendy South Beach, Coconut Grove and Key Biscayne. It’s rollerblading down Ocean Drive in thong bikinis and muscle shirts. It’s jai-alai, greyhound racing, the Miami Dolphins and Bayside Marketplace.
Where does rock ‘n’ roll fit in?
Well, it doesn’t, really. But one group, Endo, hopes to put Miami on the rock map, right up there with Seattle and Orlando.
With the March 20 release of its debut DV8/Columbia, “Evolve,” the nu-metal quartet is poised to get the job done, punctuated with angry vocals and piercing social commentary.
Just how did they make it to the big leagues?
“That’s the question of the ages, isn’t it?” bassist Zelick said recently with a hearty laugh. “Man, it just sort of sparked within the local scene itself, among the hard-core bands, like Nonpoint and ourselves. We’ve been playing shows for so long and the kids started coming out; there’s nothing else for them to do in Miami. If you’re not 21 and don’t do drugs, what are you going to do down there? It’s a hot scene for dance music and Latin music; it’s not really a rock town. It used to be, back in the ’80s.
“But when you create something and you start building it up, sparks fly. One day someone will notice. We started bringing down industry people; slowly but surely they trickled in through connections we had through the independent label we were on. People started realizing within the industry that there’s a lot of good music down here. It’s one of those untapped reservoirs.”
Zelick and singer Gil Bitton formed Endo three years ago, sharing an affinity for high-energy rock with a melodic twist. They recruited drummer Joel Suarez, born in Cuba and raised in South Miami, and guitarist Eli Parker, a veteran of the local garage band scene.
They quickly dominated Miami’s rock underground, and by 1999, were signed to Concrete Management, which also manages Pantera and Nothingface.
“The kids in Miami were looking for something to do and a way to express themselves and they found a way by going to see bands and, fortunately for them, there’s a lot of good bands down here to provide them the entertainment they need without going out and robbing people,” Zelick said.
“It’s very rare to see someone get into something right away. There’s always going to be a handful of people who follow you after you start opening for a big local band, then the next time you play more people show up. Before you know it, you have 300 or 400 people at a show. By doing that, that’s how you gain integrity as a band as well.
“When you’re going out and traveling the country and playing places you’ve never been before and no one’s ever heard of you, that integrity sticks with you for having stuck it out back home and learning how fans work. Fans can see through bullshit, first of all. On a local level, you can’t fool anybody and you can’t go out and portray somebody you’re not. We’re always totally upfront and real the way we play. We take our emotions inside out and feed off the crowd and we work together to make a good show. That’s what attracts people to our live shows.”
The combination of Bitton’s biting voice, Parker’s harsh riffs, Zelick’s soulful bass lines and Suarez’s thunderous drumming will make listeners want to eat a bag of nails.
“Let’s say you ate that bag of nails and you shit them out and ate them again,” Zelick said, laughing at the analogy. “No, this is better: You ate the bag of nails, you shit them out, put them in hot coals and then ate them again. I think the record is, I wouldn’t say a totally different animal, but it’s a different animal than we are live. The record is Endo perfection, so to speak … polished Endo. Live is the raw intensity of Endo. You can get the gist; the songs are the same, but it’s a different vibe live.
“It’s also Gil expressing about times he’s had in his own life, to show everyone that we all go through the same shit. You have a crisis, one person has a mental breakdown, another person loses their job, etc., etc. Everyone goes through it. That’s a big part of our message.”
The personal anthems of pain and alienation, vivid in such tracks as “Suffer,” “Leave Us Alone” and “Malice,” are just what disenfranchised youth are looking for. But Zelick blisters at the thought that teen-agers may be hanging on their every word.
“I would like to think that they would take something home with them from Endo that would help them increase their perception or awareness on life but not to guide them in any certain way,” he said. “Everyone needs to express their own individuality. We can help center people into their focal points where they want to be. Our music talks a lot about, you know, ‘Look, be yourself. Don’t give a fuck. Fuck what these other people say. Who’s going to decide your own destiny? You. You’re the one who’s in control of your life.’
“Those are kids who are truly lost and I don’t know if it’s necessarily the music that has had an affect on them. That’s a way of channeling their feelings, an acceptance kind of thing, but I don’t see it as a means to an end for them. Ultimately, it’s their parents, who either A) don’t give a fuck or B) don’t give enough attention or C) instill the wrong values in their kids and try to control them.”
Zelick knows from experience, having had what he calls “an abnormal childhood.”
“It was the typical divorced family – the mom was this and that, and the dad was this and that,” he said. “I wouldn’t publicize anything about it, because I don’t want to get sued (laughing). But I went through some shit as a kid, up until about the age 14 or 15, then I found drugs and then I got better and got off drugs. You know how it goes. Most of us have been through it.”
If anything, Zelick hopes fans gain something from Endo.
“It would be great if someone would listen to our music and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to change my life for the better.’ But there’s more to it than that; we’re just part of the catalyst,” he said. “We’re just delivering our message to them the way that we know how to and you take from it what you take from it.
“In the industry, we’re cool. we’re hip. But in everyday social life of the average middle-class American, we’re freaks that have no futures. The kids can relate to that because at the point they’re at, they’re freaks too. They’re abandoned by society also, but that’s what we’re here for: to make them feel better.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ when I was about 12. It didn’t change my life, Metallica did. I heard ‘(Anesthesia)-Pulling Teeth’ and I said, ‘What the fuck is that? I need to play that instrument.’ Something inside me was born, and I’ve been playing bass ever since.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “You’re going to laugh. Bon Jovi and Skid Row in Montreal in ’85. There was hair everywhere. Actually, Skid Row was cool as shit back then.”
BWF (before we forget): Get inside Endo on the Web @ www.endomusic.com.