Editor’s note: This is the second part of a three-part series on full-time studetnts who are working to enter the music industry.
Three-year-old Justin Ybarra stood backstage, peeking between amps and curtains and sound equipment. Wires ran underneath his feet like snakes.
It was the early ’90s. Onstage was famous Tejano singer Selena, performing for a crowd. Ybarra’s father was her band’s original guitarist.
The idea of learning to play like his dad didn’t appeal to him then. He was more focused on the toys Selena would give him and his brother, or the rowdy circle of musicians hanging around backstage, the smell of their beer permeating the air.
Later, Ybarra, an interdisciplinary studies senior, would return to music, picking up the guitar in sixth grade. But unlike his father and Selena’s Tejano music, he pursued “metalcore” — a fusion of extreme metal and punk.
“It’s just always been implanted in my mind,” he said. “I need to do music.”
Although Ybarra had an experienced musician for a father, his older cousin is the one who finally drew him into the music scene.
“My cousin, anything he did I thought was cool. And so he started playing the base, and I was like, ‘Hey, that’s cool. I’m going to play guitar,’” Ybarra said.
He mostly resisted his father’s help, preferring instead to figure it out on his own. In this way, he learned guitar and sound mixing. Ybarra also taught himself how to scream.
His band, Foxcatcher, often features screamed lyrics on tracks. Ybarra shares the stage with his brother, Jason, who plays base in the band.
Ybarra has played in different bands throughout the years — The Shenanigans, Myths and Monsters, Imperfect Zero — some coming together and falling apart in a matter of months.
His brother, though, was a constant presence. If it wasn’t for him, Ybarra said he would’ve quit a while ago, discouraged by the band turnover and the difficulty of finding a singer.
“My brother was like, ‘Whatever you do, I got you,’” he said.
The bands didn’t work because the chemistry between performers wasn’t right, or it was just bad timing. And sometimes they just weren’t producing good music, Ybarra said.
With Foxcatcher, Ybarra is finally proud of the music he’s making. He has put down his guitar, instead writing music and screaming for the band.
Ybarra tried his hand at screaming three years ago because he was tired of waiting on his friends to get there so they could practice. One day, he recorded it and showed it to his brother.
“He was like, ‘Dude, holy macaroni, that’s really good,’” he said. “I just kept at it and now I feel like I’m ready (to perform).”
His mother, on the other hand, isn’t a big fan of his screaming.
“She says I sound like the Tasmanian devil,” Ybarra said.
Once he started screaming, Ybarra said he found the practice therapeutic. He was deep in an existential crisis, struggling with whether or not he believed God was real.
“I kind of had this battle with religion, an internal battle,” he said. “The first song I screamed was actually a song about me (and) the conflicts. … I was angry and it actually helped. It was almost like venting. … Ever since then I never had that problem (again).”
Part of what drew him to “metalcore” in the first place was the intensity of the performances.
“I think it’s really cool, because live — and that’s what I think about when I’m writing music is how is the crowd going to react?” he said. “I really want people to throw down.”
He first stumbled across the niche genre in middle school.
“At first I hated it,” he said. “It just grows on you.”
Foxcatcher is putting out their first album in May, titled “Parallels.” The whole extended play was recorded with minimal equipment in Ybarra’s room. He is doing all the mixing and mastering for the album. Right now, the band is waiting on a copyright for their music.
After just around six months with his band, Ybarra is ready to play in front of a crowd.
“I’m tired of just practicing,” he said. “We’re getting to the point where we need to play gigs.”
Although his dad played Tejano music and not “metalcore,” Ybarra said his dad is proud of both of his kids and their band. Ybarra said his dad loves to show off Foxcatcher’s music to his friends.
“(He’s) super happy. He thought we weren’t going to play because our instruments were just sitting there for so long while we were growing up. He got kind of sad,” he said. “And then we just picked it up.”