Deaf Poets Interview

Deaf Poets, the Brooklyn band by way of Miami, brings an incredible mix of heavy old school rock (à la Black Sabbath) with a contemporary edge (à la Nirvana) that you can’t help but want to jam along with. It’s loud, it’s sweaty, and with two guys they somehow create a wall of sound that completely engulfs the listener. I still can’t understand how they make this much noise as a duo.

I got a chance to speak with Nico Espinosa and Sean Wouters. But first, check out the single below. Once you do that, grab the new EP, and find them on their Change & Bloom EP release tour!

First off, can you describe the sound of the duo that is Deaf Poets?

Nico Espinosa: Our sound is often described as distortion-drenched guitar with heavy, hard-hitting drums.

Sean and I grew up listening to a lot of rock music from the ’70s and ’90s. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, and Nirvana, a lot of Nirvana. Their sound and style is definitely a backbone to what we do. As much as we love the classics, our taste is ever changing and we are constantly drawing new inspiration from all genres and decades.

Sean Wouters: Nico nailed it, we pretty much share the same taste in music. Anything that rocks hard and makes you shake your head. We’re inspired by classics with a mix of what’s being conceived today. Bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Black Angels, and King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard are always on repeat.

So you’re a duo? What made you keep it so pared down, and how do you get that much sound out of two dudes?

Nico: Sean and I have known each other since elementary school and we’ve always shared the same aspiration and taste in music. We’ve played together in many projects and it was sometimes difficult to get everyone on the same page. So we decided to play together and not have to rely on other people.

It was a constantly changing process to solidify our sound. Our previous band, before Deaf Poets, was a five-piece, so we really needed to discover our tone and, most importantly, our songwriting. We had to learn how to sound full without relying on having to crank up the volume. We used to play so loud that our name actually makes some sense [laughs].

It took a bit of time, but we’ve learned how to manipulate our gear and shift our songwriting to really create a wall of sound when you see us play. People sometimes don’t realize that it’s just the two of us on stage making all that noise [laughs].

Sean: It’s always a work in progress, always pushing the limit of what we can do to fill in the empty space. Live, I’m all over the place engaging different effects on my board, singing, and trying to keep an authentic connection with Nico on stage. We’re always out of breath after a set since we really get into it.

Aside from the actual volume, we’re pushing out, we rely on stacking parts in unison along with dynamics. The idea is to really feel the songs and the moments while you sing along. We try to stay catchy while still rocking hard; all with you not missing the bass of course.

It sounds like you were killing it in Miami with “Best Band of Miami” in 2014 and “20 Most Influential People of Miami” in 2015. What sparked the move to Brooklyn?

Nico: For some reason, during the first stages of this band, we spoke about one day living in New York. We shared that cliché fascination with the city but never truly pulled the trigger on the idea.

Sean was born and raised in Miami and I moved there at the age of ten from Argentina. Miami is and will forever be who we are as a band and primarily as people.

The move to Brooklyn was sparked by the desire to expand and grow. Miami has an incredible music scene that not that many people know about. As amazing as it is, the reality is that it’s a small scene, and, as fun as it is to play at the same venues,with the same bands and the same crowd, you do find yourself in a vicious circle with lack of opportunities to progress.

Another key factor in deciding to make the move is the ease for touring. The location of this city is so much friendlier to touring than Miami. We got a bit tired of driving eight hours out of Florida in order to play different markets.

Sean: We’ve always shared the same passion and desire to progress. While Miami has only given us great memories, we definitely needed a change. The Big Apple always drew me in as a kid and I knew I’d be a New Yorker one day. Nico said randomly one day “Hey man I’m going to make the move to New York. I love you and I won’t force you to follow me.” Before he could say anything else, I stopped him, reassuring him I was down for the move, and ready to give it all we got.

Deaf Poets Nico Espinosa and Sean WoutersWhat should people expect out of a Deaf Poets show? What do you want them to leave with (other than merch)?

Nico: Expect us to be completely out of breath and drenched in sweat after the set. I don’t really know what I do live, but I end up feeling like I ran a marathon [laughs].

We truly hope people leave our shows satisfied and feeling like they have had a unique experience. Hopefully, we are something they’ve never seen before, and they tell their friends about it, and then those people tell their friends about it, and so on.

Sean: Having fun! Rock isn’t supposed to be complicated. Just a way to express what you are feeling and crank up the volume. Expect to shake some ass and don’t to be afraid to get sweaty! We love hugs, so party and chill with us after the set.

What’s your proudest moment you two have as a band?

Nico: As I am reading this question I am remembering some of the cool moments we’ve had and I still don’t understand how those things happened. We’ve been very fortunate to have been able to do some amazing stuff with our art.

Growing up playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater and then one day having your song be part of the soundtrack is definitely something I only dreamt as a kid.

I felt extremely proud but nothing truly compares to being recognized as two of the 20 most influential people in Miami. I am very proud to represent our city, and to be recognized as a positive influence in the community is truly humbling.

Sean: Nico stole my lines again [laughs]. Aside from what he mentioned it has to be when we opened up for DIIV back in 2016 at III Points. We played the biggest fucking stage at the festival meant to accommodate LCD Soundsystem’s giant crew.

Right before the set, I was pretty nervous, and finally, when we got on the stage, I remember strumming a chord and feeling the entire floor rattle and shake… I’m pretty sure every person at that festival heard us, it was so sick!

Your new EP, Change & Bloom, comes out on June 15th, what are you most excited about it and what’s your favorite jam off of it?

Nico: I am super eager to have it out already! We were really able to package our live performances in these six tracks, which could sometimes be difficult.

I’m mostly excited to hear people’s reactions to the new material. We usually write and perform the songs live to work them out, and, this time around, we wrote it all behind doors with little live previews. We really wanted everyone to hear something brand new. One of my favorite tracks off the EP is “Cigarette.” We started writing that song late at night, inside our hotel’s stairway in Toronto, while on our last tour. It’s technically our slow jam off the EP but with a dark and heavy twist.

Sean: Excited to get the new jams out and playing on your speakers. Hearing what people think inspires me to write more and keep digging into the creative spontaneity of what we do. I really believe and adore these tracks. They are a perfect representation of what we sound like live. That means our fans who haven’t seen us yet will experience the same energy in our new EP. Only thing is, you got to play it loud!

… And my favorite jam is “Bad Way.”

Deaf Poets tour posterDream tour. Where are you going and who are you playing with?

Nico: Dream tour would be touring Europe with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Also any tour with a proper meal each day and a comfy bed haha. I’ve never been overseas and I love BRMC.

Sean: That’s a hard one, but off the top of my head, I would love to tour with Arctic Monkeys, Black Angels, or Cage the Elephant. Euro tour would be freaking awesome, but Australia and New Zealand are just as crazy!

What’s your go-to equipment, guitars, drums, etc. and why?

Nico: I wanted that John Bonham/Mitch Mitchell drum sound without having to tour with a vintage kit. Therefore, I built my own custom set from SJC Drums. Their drum sound is so massive and full that it’s perfect for a two-piece.

I have 24” bass drum that really helps fill out the low ends. I also use big and heavy Zildjian cymbals in order to really fill out the sound (15” hi-hats, 20” crash, and 24” ride).

Sean: I’m always switching up my pedalboard and rig, but I definitely prefer Fender amps. They’ve got that dirt and fat tones we all love. I try to keep it vintage pre-CBS, since for my taste, they sound the best.

If I’m on the go or using a backline, a standard Twin or Deville does the job. For speakers, I prefer Celestion. In my experience, they take a beating more and handle those swampy, low-fuzz tones. For guitar, I ride with a Gretsch Black Penguin that I’ve heavily modified over the years. We first started dating in 2011 and have been inseparable ever since.

What are your favorite venues to play and see a show?  

Nico: In Miami, I used to love going to Churchill’s Pub. A true landmark in the scene. It’s been around since the ’70s, and they host all kinds of shows, so it’s always good if you want to catch something new. I played my first show there when I was 15 and have gone back and played ever since.

In New York, I really enjoy playing at Baby’s All Right. One of my first shows as a local was at Baby’s and they have a great stage and sound. Elsewhere is a sick venue as well to catch great music and Rockaway Brewing Co. out by the beach.

Sean: For Miami, it’s definitely between Las Rosas and Gramps. I’ve seen jam-packed steamy shows at both venues and always left with a buzz and smile on my face.

For New York, I’m still a newbie but definitely in love with the Bowery Electric in the city and Alphaville in Brooklyn.

How do you find new music? Playing out? Going to shows? Streaming? Friends? All of the above?

Nico: All of the above honestly. We are constantly playing and seeing local shows which is great. I would much rather discover a band live than through recordings. You’ll always get the most honest performance that way. When we are booking the tours, we are constantly doing local research and discovering sick bands.

Sean: As a kid, it would be through MTV and my older sister, but now it’s all the above. I spend hours every week exploring Spotify. Suggestions at record stores are always fun, but my main go-to will always be asking my circle of friends and checking out my Facebook news feed for newly shared music.

Thank you guys, can’t wait to see you live!

Find them on the Change & Bloom Tour

6/15 | INFO | GET ON THE LIST | New York, NY | Berlin-Under A (EP release show)
6/16 | INFO | New Haven, CT | Cafe Nine
6/17 | INFO | Providence, RI | The Parlour
6/18 | INFO | Boston, MA | Maggy’s
6/19 | INFO | Lowell, MA | Unchartered Gallery
6/20 | INFO | Burlington, VT | Radio Bean
6/21 | INFO | Montreal, QB | Katacombe
6/22 | INFO | Ottawa, ON | Cafe Dekcuf
6/23 | INFO | GET ON THE LIST | Toronto, ON | Dakota Tavern
6/24 | INFO | Detroit, MI | PJ’s Lager House
6/25 | INFO | Chicago, IL | Bric-a-Brac Records
6/27 | INFO | Chicago, IL | Emporium
6/28 | INFO | St. Louis, MO | FireBird
6/29 | INFO | Indianapolis, IN | Pioneer
6/30 | INFO | Pittsburgh, PA | The Bushnell