Retro Cowgirl, the San Antonio-based rock and roll group, is only getting started. Having just released their newest single, “Roots”, the band spoke with Melodic Mag about what’s next for the band and what inspires their sound. Consisting of Lucky Steele (vocals), Luis Fiallos (lead guitar), Salvatore Sissa (rhythm guitar), Gabe Jimenez (bass) and Jonluca Biagini (drums), Retro Cowgirl’s music combines bluesy and Latin influences with classic rock, creating something that is vibrant, powerful and electric.
Thank you guys for taking the time today! How did the band get started?
Luis: Lucky and I have known each other for five or six years. I moved from Nicaragua to California and I landed in the same town as her. She was in a band and I heard them perform a couple times. I was not a fan of the genre she was playing, but I knew she had a great voice. I wrote “Stronger” and it just needed some lyrics. I didn’t want to sing, so I reached out to her and that’s how it all started. We had a different name back then in California, but once we moved to San Antonio then that’s when we really kicked off the project of Retro Cowgirl.
In your Instagram bio, you guys describe yourself as “Texas’s most electric band.” What makes you the most electric band?
Luis: We have that classic rock inspiration in our sound that makes us pretty loud already. But also, ever since we started performing live, we decided it’s not only about the music, but also giving the people an experience. We get kind of rowdy on stage. We like to move, dance, make noises and keep the people engaged. So far we’ve got good feedback.
Lucky: It’s also a feeling. We’re spunky people; I think that’s the biggest thing. A good, solid band that sounds really great is a dime a dozen, but bands that can put on a good show – that is important to me. We like to incentivize each show by making a lot of them a little different than the last. We like people guessing what’s going to happen, so there’s electricity in the air.
Is there something you guys haven’t done in a live show that you want to do?
Lucky: Confetti cannon.
Luis: I wanna stage dive, but that’s kind of risky. I really have a lot of love for my guitar, and I know that that could be quite the risk. Also, people touching me is kind of weird.
You touched on this a little bit earlier, but you guys are definitely influenced by classic rock. Who are your favorite artists or biggest influences?
Lucky: Back in the day I was obsessed with St. Vincent. She is such a badass musician, but not enough people focus on other things she’s done. She has her own guitar that she came out with and it’s super fucking cool. It’s designed so that women’s breasts can fit with the guitar, because that can be an issue. I also like a lot of classic rock artists, like Heart and Led Zeppelin.
Luis: I grew up with classic rock. A lot of AC/DC. I always wanted to play like Angus Young. Also, if you’re Nicaraguan you have to listen to Carlos Santana for some reason. I’m a huge fan of blues music, so Buddy Guy is another guy that inspires me. I always say that I’m a late bird when it comes to actually appreciating things, and now that I’m older I listen to a lot of Latin music. Oh, and I’m a sucker for Jack White.
Is there anything you want to experiment with in terms of your sound?
Lucky: We’ve been talking about writing some songs in Spanish. I would have to give the reins to Luis and our new guitarist Salvatore, because I don’t know Spanish. I’m learning, but I would be down to sing it.
Luis: I think every time we write a new song, that’s where we’re experimenting. Whether it’s with chord progressions, a different mood, or different sounds. “Roots” is coming out and I think that’s quite the change in pace.
Speaking of “Roots”, your new single, what can listeners expect to hear?
Luis: I think that’s my favorite song so far that we’ve written. The melodies are great. I’m using the slide for the first time, which I think is quite the challenge. We recorded at Electric Deluxe, Adrian Quesada’s studio in Austin, where the Black Pumas recorded. That was another personal goal of mine to go there, because I was looking for that sound for Retro Cowgirl.
Lucky: They can definitely expect something that’s way different than anything else we’ve written. Softer, a little bit slower, and it has a lot of retro vintage vibes. When we were writing it, I wanted to write a sad song. We have “Stronger,” which is about overcoming a relationship, but “Roots” is about mourning a relationship. I wanted to put something in our discography that, if someone wanted to experience that feeling, then they can listen to “Roots” and then listen to “Stronger” right after to feel better.
In 2022, you had a sponsorship with Topo Chico and then opened for some viral TikTok artists. You’ve since released a steady stream of singles and consistently played shows. How does it feel to have this much success and recognition as a newer band?
Luis: We’re very proud of all the little things that we have accomplished. Some of them are big, some of them are small, but I think that what keeps us driven is that every single time we play a show, every single time we release a song, it’s a victory. We’re still working towards our goal of becoming full time musicians, touring and releasing an album. We try to take every opportunity because we’ve got nothing to lose.
Lucky: When I reflect on the things that we’ve done, especially in such a short amount of time, it makes me so proud of us and myself. But at the same time, whenever we do something really big, the next day I go back to bartending or working at a restaurant. It’s awesome, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time, I can’t wait for the time when it’s all about the music. Because that’s my passion and I know it’s Luis’s passion too. I feel like a lot of musicians have that experience of going right back to work and feeling like a nobody again.
What do you hope to accomplish through your music?
Luis: I think musically the goal is to be an established band with a solid sound. I’ve heard people say when they hear our music, they know it’s me playing the guitar, which is quite the compliment. We do have a couple of things that we tend to do, which is pretty cool and solidifies the sound. And also just to become a well-known band and be able to have fun and meet people around the world. I want to tour the world.
Lucky: I get really inspired by the great singers before me who I have endless praise for, like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Céline Dion. I aspire to be at least half of what they are. I want to be able to do a lot of runs with my voice and be an incredible singer, but at the same time be able to harness that and match whatever sound we’re going for without struggling. I definitely want to tour too.
Jia Chen from Texas Public Radio said that Retro Cowgirl is “firing up the Blues with a feminine twist.” What does this quote mean to the band and how important are themes of femininity in your music?
Lucky: I feel like Blues is a very dude genre. You’ve got the “Blues Brothers” – you don’t have the “Blues Sisters.” There’s a lot of female Blues singers – Janis Joplin had a lot of Blues elements and Susan Tedeschi fucking kills it – but at the same time, most music genres are very associated with men. I think that it is hard as a woman being in the rock genre or Blues genre. You’re paving the way in a way, and I definitely have a lot of inspirational artists before me that are women. I do write a lot of my lyrics based on the female experience. I’m a woman, so everything in my eyes is going to be based on the female experience. I focus a lot on feminism and values I have based on shit that I’ve experienced from being a woman and navigating the world and having to deal with men taking up more space than they need to.
Any final thoughts?
Luis: Brace yourself. We have some cool songs coming up. Follow us on Instagram and all that jazz. Thank you so much for having us, it was fun!