Our Friend The Mountain fuses genres for a unique style

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Patrick-David Walker / Special to The Prospector

Our Friend The Mountain creates music that transcends from rock to indie while mixing folk and alternative as well.

Julia Hettiger, Staff Reporter

Brought together while attending UTEP, one local band has impacted the El Paso music scene, blossoming into a prominent band in the city. Their music transcends from rock to indie while mixing folk and alternative as well.

Omar Cuellar, lead vocalist and guitarist of Our Friend The Mountain, said he started the band after a random spark of inspiration struck him.

“I thought it’d be cool to have a band, so I asked some friends and my brother, who plays drums, to join me,” Omar said.

The band is comprised of Cuellar’s brothers, Adrian and Irving Cuellar, who play guitar and drums respectively, pianist and violinist Jazmin Gonzalez, Jaganath G. Raspopovich, who plays bass, Albert Moreno on lead guitar and Salvador Maltby who plays trombone.

The members of the band came together while enrolled at UTEP.

“We all met at UTEP and once when I walked out of the library, I saw Jaganath playing guitar and asked if he could play bass,” Omar said. “My brother is a music major and plays percussion. It’s just where we all met.”

The band’s inspiration is derived from songs by Townes Van Zandt, a singer-songwriter prominent in the music scene during the ‘70s and ‘80s.

“Townes Van Zandt is a really big influence for my brother and me, it’s who we named the band after,” Omar said. “His song ‘Our Mother the Mountain’ is a sad song, but it’s a big one for us.”

Each member of the band has a different influence in music, ranging from pop, punk and indie bands. This drives Our Friend The Mountain to try new styles.

“We’re influenced by bands like Band of Horses and Of Monsters and Men, and our pianist, Jazmin, really likes Damien Rice and our guitarist likes a little bit everything,” Omar said. “We’re all really big fans of Arcade Fire and Tony Blair and we even cover some of their songs.”

Our Friend the Mountain celebrated their four-year anniversary this July. The band has worked hard to help carve a name for themselves in the local music industry.

“We’ve been through so much in the music scene, and we’ve been doing a lot,” Omar said. “There are not many bands like us.”

According to Omar, the music scene has improved drastically over the years.

“Back then was bad, we never got paid, bookers were shady, but now our bookers are young guys who play music as well,” Omar said. “I don’t want to say I’m playing to get paid, but you need it. When you first start playing, you do it because you like it, but eventually you need it.”

The band has toured throughout cities in the Southwest including Austin, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Phoenix and cities in Mexico. Omar said touring and performing with his band is the job he wants to continue doing.

“The best part is playing music and performing it,” Omar said. “Do the job you love because it’s not really going to be a job.”

Our Friend the Mountain was chosen for the “El Paso’s Choice” award for the Cool Canyon Nights concert series in June. Omar said winning the award was a great experience.

“It was awesome,” Omar said. “It goes to my brothers and Jazmin playing super hard for that.”

Jazmin Gonzalez, pianist for Our Friend the Mountain, said playing in the band is a lot of fun.

“What I appreciate about it is we all come together to create music, and there’s not one person dominating. We all contribute and I have full control over my instruments,” Gonzalez said. “It’s reflected in our music and it gives us a unique sound.”

The band is currently working on their second album and new ways to market it in the local music scene.

“With the new album, we really want to get that out there and really start marketing ourselves outside of El Paso,” Gonzalez said. “We have a decent following, but we hope we can tour somewhere new.”

Our Friend the Mountain will be playing Cool Canyon Nights on July 30. The concert begins at 6 p.m. For more information, visit the Our Friend the Mountain’s official Facebook page.

Julia Hettiger may be reached at [email protected]