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Artist Spotlight: late night drive home

Updated: Apr 24, 2022

photos by @jayddogg_

late night drive home is an indie rock band from El Paso, Texas consisting of lead singer Andre Portillo, guitarist Juan "Ockz" Vargas, bassist Freddy Baca, and drummer Brian Dolan. Their music captures everything from the complexity of teenage angst to the beauty of youthful joy. With heartfelt lyrics and a gritty sound, late night drive home brings a refreshing presence into the indie rock scene.

The band began in 2019 as a fun project between Ockz and Andre. The pair made music as a hobby and released a few songs until 2021 when they started to take their creative endeavors seriously. In June of last year, late night drive home was born. Since then, they have released their first EP, gained over 100,000 listeners on Spotify, and earned a song with over 1.5 million streams. I got the chance to chat with the band about their career progress, past accomplishments, and future plans:


I discovered your music through a Tiktok promoting your song “Star Love” in which Ockz introduces himself as a “first generation Mexican-American making indie rock music.” Having this Latino representation in the indie rock scene promotes more valuable diversity. Being Latina myself, I loved seeing you guys pursuing your passion in music. Why do you think this representation is important, and what struggles have you encountered in your music journey?

Andre: I feel like it’s very important just because in the indie scene you have artists like…

Ockz: Cuco, Los Retros, The Red Pears...They’re representing Latinos and Hispanics just in general. The thing is, compared to other artists they’re not as big as Wallows, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys. I love those bands, I do. But, I’m glad that Hispanics have been getting more recognition in the indie rock scene and that makes me happy. I’m glad that we’re part of that so that’s also why I made that Tik Tok because I know that the representation is there, but it’s slowly growing. It’s new because Cuco only got popular in 2018, The Red Pears got popular in 2019, Los Retros got popular recently. This is all recent. All this I notice is recent where Hispanics barely started getting recognition in the indie scene.

How would you describe the sound of late night drive home?

Freddy: When we started, it was very lo-fi bedroom pop.

Ockz: 2019 was bedroom pop for sure.

Andre: I think now it’s more like we’re getting into…

Isaiah: Indie alt rock.

Andre: With a hint of emo in there!

Freddy: Yeah, you’re the emo.

Isaiah: Palace meets Car Seat Headrest.

Ockz: The EP that we released is very indie. That’s extremely indie. But “Perfect Strangers,” the song we released a week ago, is very alternative emo rock. It has hints of indie. We're for sure indie.

Freddy: We for sure have different sounds because from “Stress Relief” to “Under Supervision” it’s like day and night.

Andre: We try to incorporate all of our favorite bands.

Am I Sinking or Am I Swimming is your first official EP featuring five songs. One song in particular called “Stress Relief” has garnered over 1.5 million streams on Spotify. Why do you think this song is really resonating with listeners? What was the creative process behind the creation of “Stress Relief?”

Andre: I know a big part of it was the lyrics, especially the Spanish part.

Ockz: People really enjoyed that part!

Andre: But, I feel like with a lot of other popular songs that it can resonate with almost everybody honestly.

Ockz: I feel like it’s the best written song we have so far. I think that the lyrics are something everybody can relate to. You can make it. You can paint your own picture of it. You can paint it as a picture of a good break up or a bad break up. You’re able to make your own story when listening to the song.

Freddy: It’s very easy to sing along to.

Ockz: The creative process actually started off as a cover for Doja Cat, “Kiss Me More.” If you scroll all the way down on the band’s Tik Tok, Andre was covering “Kiss Me More” by Doja Cat because they were the same chords and I remember saying, “This sounds very indie. What can we do with this?

Freddy: Yeah, we put a capo on the first fret.

Andre: We have an actual recording of the very first time we did anything with those chords. I still have it.

Ockz: So we got those chords and just started playing and started making something on the spot. That was in the summer of 2021 and after that we didn't do anything for it. Then, I remember I sent the band the bass that I put together thinking like, “Hey, I remember that whole cover that we did. What if we turned it into a song and made it our own? Do the lyrics and add bass, drums.” I sent it to them and it just started.

Freddy: You should say how you titled the song and how it was an accident. You know how you said you were writing the instrumentals because you were stressed?

Ockz: Oh yeah! I forgot about that. Normally my way of journaling when making instrumentals; I’m not good at paper or journal. So, what I do is I make random instrumentals on my computer. So I named the song, “Stress Relief” because it was literally what I was doing. We kept the title and Andre wrote the lyrics with the title and it fit perfectly.

What is your favorite song that you have created or played, and why?

Andre: Mine for sure is “Kill Me Sweet.” It’s not a very popular song, but I just love the way that song in particular turned out.

Ockz: Mine is either “Kill Me Sweet” or “Perfect Strangers.” I really like “Perfect Strangers.”

Freddy: I think mine would be “Talk To Me Before the Night” ends. It’s the first official song we made when we all came together.

Isaiah: I like playing “Perfect Strangers” just because of the drums. It was the first song I was a part of. That one or “Star Love.”

All: Star Love!

Isaiah: That one is really groovy.

Ockz: “Star Love” is my favorite to perform live, but to listen to, is “Perfect Strangers.” But, “Star Love” for sure goes hard.

Andre: For me, live would probably be “Euphoria,” “Best Friend,” or “Perfect Strangers.” During the end of Best Friend we just improvise.

Ockz: We go full Nirvana! We just start going crazy.

You have talked about performing and fortunately you’ve been able to do a couple live shows. Do you have any particular significant memory?

Andre: I think for me a big one was our Late Night Prom event. We finished playing for the night with our previous drummer who had been with us forever. It was his last show so it was kind of bittersweet and we all just gave each other a big hug on stage.

Ockz: One of the memories I have was when we came back from California and we did this show called Dog Day. With that show, we were welcomed to El Paso with open arms. People were going crazy and after that that’s when I started realizing we were creating something and that we’re gaining a following. We played for 600 people.

Andre: People were screaming our songs on the top of their lungs! I almost cried.

Ockz: That show was when I realized that this is becoming something. I knew, but I guess that show slapped me and I was like, “It’s happening.

On Spotify, you have mentioned that some of inspirations include: Wallows, The Strokes, Nirvana, Arctic Monkeys, and Car Seat Headrest. Additionally, you have over 100,000 listeners so far. How have they influenced your music and what was the process like of discovering your own sound?

Andre: Originally, I would make covers in high school. My biggest inspiration at the time was Cavetown. The way I sing now is completely different from back then because I would try to mimic the way he sang. So, I think somewhere around my senior year of high school is when I started getting more into heavier music like Interpol, Arctic Monkeys, Nirvana, and I think from there it was just a process of transferring from this lo-fi bedroom sound.

Ockz: I see the influences that we have as a mixture. The vocals and the melodies are very catchy. It’s pop melodies with grunge emo indie inspiration. My music taste is everywhere. I went through phases of music. It’s crazy. I was really into dubstep in middle school, like extremely. Even that has some influence into how I make my music now because a lot of the synths or EDM parts I try to make something similar to my guitar leads. I always get compliments on my guitar leads. They’re very melodic and catchy. And so, I feel like the reason they’re right is because a lot of EDM music is what’s catchy. That’s the melody of the song, There’s no vocals. That’s what I bring to the table with my guitar playing.

Freddy: I don’t know to be honest. I just play. I picked up the bass in June. I just play what sounds good. Ockz says I sound like Car Seat Headrest or The Strokes. I’m getting there. I think I get a lot from indie pop. I listen to Frankie Cosmos and Faye Webster.

Isaiah: I don’t know, do you guys think I sound like anyone else? I guess I could say Dave Grol is pretty cool. Chad Smith, he’s cool. It also just has to do with midwest emo. Mom Jeans! Ooh, they’re drumming is God tier. I try to take a lot. It’s mostly stuff I listen to that I occasionally come across and I’m like, “I’ll try that next time.” A lot of it is midwest emo.

late night drive home is continuing to grow as a band and has an upcoming album on the way. What direction would you like the band to go in, and what goals would you like to achieve in the near future?

Andre: We want to do this full time because we’re college students. We really--really--want to do music full time. I feel like maybe it is a possibility.

Ockz: I feel like with this album it’s gonna do really good, just the same as the EP. I’m just confident, especially since we have a good following and we’re grateful for that following.

Andre: Another thing is when we play local shows here we make it big when we're hosting to help other local bands. We just kind of want to show people that it doesn’t matter where you're from. We’re from El Paso but Ockz grew up in Chaparral which is some small town and nobody knows about it. We just wanted to tell people, “Hey, you can do it.

Ockz: And, for the album, I just feel like something people are really gonna enjoy. We’re really working hard on it. Some of these ideas are ideas that me and Andre had when it was just me and him. We’re finally putting a lot of stuff together and we’re forming beautifully.

If you only had three adjectives to describe late night drive home, which ones would you use?

"Melodic, loud, sexy." - Ockz

Listen to late night drive home’s newest single, “Perfect Strangers” out now:

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