Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Nostalgically garage and bursting with laid-back west coast and jazz tunes, Side Montero is on a mission to bring Albuquerque’s alt/indie sound to the forefront of the city’s music scene.

Made up of Aaron Lee (vocals), Jaren Robledo (guitar), Levi Maes (drums) and Ben Work (bass), Side Montero has been a regular act around town for years. The band was created as all great bands should be: a couple of neighborhood kids with a love for rock with space to jam out.

After trying out a couple of different names for their band in their early days, Lee, Robledo, Maes and Work finally conceived their current name, Side Montero, after one fateful night of off-roading and flipping their Mitsubishi Montero. Luckily, no one was injured, but the experience was enough to leave a lasting impression on the band members.

Since then, Side Montero has been delivering tracks ranging from classic garage rock, to slower jazzier tracks that are easy on the ears. Their most recent album In The Loop, is smooth — almost classic rock album with garage rock and jazz influences.

“Yeah, I’d say we’re all pretty different in terms of what we’d listened to, and what we’re inspired by. So that definitely helps a lot in terms of making a unique sound like what we described as a lot of different things in the surf rock genre alt-rock,” Lee said in an interview.

Side Montero’s recent work will immediately draw comparisons to their west coast counterparts in garage/surf rock acts such as Dead Coasts and King Tuff. Bursting with energy with the angst of the alt/indie genre, Side Montero has created a sound that’s entirely their own and one that Albuquerque has been missing for years. 

In an interview with The Paper., Side Montero spoke about how they approach ideas to produce a track and how their diverse musical background adds to that process. 

“Almost every single song will have an idea. Like, someone will bring an idea, and from that first demo, the final product turns out completely different,” Robledo said. He used one of their tracks from their recent album, Tracers, as a reference. “Tracers was like this happy indie simple surf-like rock kind of song. And then you got this like, feature ballad with a huge hit at the end. I think that’s kind of how most of our songs evolve. And our sound has evolved from that, like flamenco hip hop, more soulful, and honestly we did some experimental stuff on this last album. But I think right now we’re slowly homing in on our sound,” he added.

The band members also said that Albuquerque’s indie/alt-rock scene is still underdeveloped compared to other cities. But they see huge potential for Albuquerque to become a center for the genre and music in general.

“The greatest accomplishment that we could have is building that up from the ground. An indie scene here would be awesome because a lot of people form bands here and then they leave to go be somewhere else where it’s already popping, so to form a band here and stay here, it’s gonna be hard, but I want to be the one to start it,” Robledo added.

Even after a couple of albums and a few tours later, Side Montero still maintains their humility and embraces their time coming up through Albuquerque. Despite some of the band members attending college out of state, Side Montero still finds time to play in town and jam out in their old spaces. “My mom is the first to hear,” Maes noted; they often rehearse at Maes’ parents’ house when they’re all in town.   

Side Montero will be playing at Inside Out with Slums of Harvard and St. Levi & The Family Tree on Thurs., March 24 from 6:30pm-9:15pm.