It’s been almost five years since Danica Salazar and Eric Martinez moved to the Rio Grande Valley from Dallas. During that time they have both grown to love living in deep South Texas and all it has to offer. They have also formed one of the most popular bands in the area.
“For me, I just feel closer to home,” Salazar said. “I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a place where there was so many people passionate about what they believe in, and then do something about it, act on it.”
Salazar, 27, grew up in Dallas from parents who moved to the U.S. from Mexico. Like Salazar, Martinez, 27, was also raised in Dallas. Both shared a love of music during their youth.
“I always wanted to sing. Music was always a really big part of what I liked to do when I was younger,” Salazar said. “I would act out songs. My parents would listen to Pesado, and stuff like that. So then I would listen with them but act out what was happening. I would always get really into it. I loved listening to all different types of music. Selena was a big part of growing up for me.”Martinez was into rap, rock, and metal growing up, and he was involved with several metal bands in Dallas. He points to his brother and uncle as being major influences to him when it comes to music. Salazar did some singing for choir in high school but had stopped singing by the time she was in college. It wasn’t until she moved to the Rio Grande Valley with Martinez that he encouraged her to start up again and create songs.
The first show that Salazar and Martinez played together in the Valley was at Infusions in McAllen in 2013, and it was just one song. In their second show they played four songs― two covers and two originals ― for Music After Hours at the Art Walk in McAllen. A few months later they were playing at the Sound Factory, and that’s when they met Trey Puga, who was performing in Yours Truly, Gloria with Gloria Valentina Reyes that night.
“People told us, ‘Trey is a good drummer,’” Martinez remembers. Shortly after that, Puga joined the band.
Puga, 27, is from San Benito and has experience in a variety of musical styles. He credits his dad for getting him into drums due to a beat he played with his hands. While in high school, he participated in marching band, jazz, conjunto, mariachi, and choir.
“I was like, ‘All this is free?’” Puga said with a slight laugh. “I’m learning all of it. I’m taking it all.”
He adds that his conjunto instructor at San Benito High School, Marcos Pecina, had a major influence on him.
“My instructor for conjunto was very inspiring,” Puga said. “He taught me a lot and I would see the way he would work. He would push me to work a certain way when I was working with him in high school, and I always think back to him very often of how he runs things.”Known as Zorah at the time, they were soon booked by promoter Patrick Garcia for Galax Z Fair III in 2014. They opened the festival at Cine El Rey on March 10 of that year.
“I saw them live as a two-piece, and I remember being struck with how focused Eric was on the guitar and how fluid and poised Danica’s theatrics were,” Garcia said. “I felt like it was a different energy and saw its potential.”
A couple of weeks later, they changed their name to Dezorah.
“It comes from the Legend of Zelda, so it’s Zorah. They are like the water people,” Salazar said. “So we were going with Zorah at first, but then we decided to put ‘de’ in front of it, like ‘of Zorah’ but in Spanish ― Dezorah. So it’s a little unique.”
While working at Guitar Center, Martinez started to get familiarized with the musicians in the Valley.
“One of the first things I noticed after moving here, especially after I started working at Guitar Center, is how many talented musicians there are here,” Martinez said. “There are people that are just jamming on their own, who just picked up a guitar.”
That’s how Martinez met Daven Martinez and Johnny Garza. Daven, 26, was born in McAllen and raised here, although he briefly lived in Houston. When he returned to the Valley, he met this circle of musicians. Daven learned how to play the guitar from his dad and would play the upright bass in orchestra at school. In high school, he started to branch out more.
“Growing up, I played in cover bands, in lots of weddings, quinceaneras,” Daven said.
Garza, 27, was born and raised in Austin and moved to the Valley in 2013. Garza was part of the guitar ensemble and marching band in high school, and then started his own band, which would play at pep rallies and other events in the area. He became known in the Valley for being a member of the band Sick/Sea.“I remember being comfortable. Danica and Eric trusted me to write what I felt,” Garza said when asked about what he remembered when he first started performing with Dezorah. “Performing, we’d have this connection and communicate. We didn’t have to say much. Just riff and improvise. It felt new to me and different than any previous band I had played with. I’m sure it felt new to all of us but we didn’t care because we were so comfortable with each other. That’s what I remember at first, jumping in.”
Garza joined Dezorah. While he went on tour with another band, Daven jumped in. Finally, all five members played as an ensemble for the first time when Garza returned. Their first gig together was at the Tierra Eterna EP release show at Yerberia Cultura on Sep. 9, 2016.
As the band grew, so did their style.
“I think when it was us two, it was like pop,” Salazar said. “We had programmed drums, so it adds a certain feel to the songs. It was a little more poppy. Once we added actual drums it started getting a little heavier. With Johnny’s bass at first, we got darker. We come from metal backgrounds, so once we all got together and we all discovered that within ourselves, the music gradually started to get heavier, with some of our beginnings in there as well.”
“It’s just been a natural evolution,” Martinez added. “We just try to let it happen, without letting things change too much. We always want it to be music that we want to hear.”
Dezorah is now on the verge of releasing their new EP Creando Azul on May 25 on a show at Yerberia Cultura in McAllen that will also include Jesika and Cat-Ion.
“Post-progressive experimental, whatever that means,” Salazar said with a laugh when describing their new EP.
“There is a heaviness to it,” Martinez added. “It’s hard for us to describe. For lack of a better term we use post-progressive experimental, since it is kind of an open genre.”
After this show, they will embark on a two month tour that includes stops in San Antonio, Austin, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, and New York. This upcoming show at Yerberia Cultura will be their last show in the Valley until they return in August.
“They’re really maturing and growing, stylistically,” Garcia, co-owner and promoter at Yerberia Cultura, said. “They’ve become a tremendous live force, and their latest singles and recordings show major depth in change. I love it.”
The band credits part of their growth, both personally and stylistically, to living in the Valley.
“I found myself here, and that directly influences the music,” Salazar said. “I sing in Spanish, partially, because I want to keep that part of myself alive. I definitely feel like [being here in the Valley] really has inspired me and the music.”