Originating from the countryside with a guitar and a dream, indie rock duo Mona Vera animate listeners’ lives through their music. Musicians Mauricio Rodriguez-Fuasto (a.k.a Coast, an Electric) & Joseph Dominguez (a.k.a. Joe) aim to become artists known for their selfless musical objectives — to inspire, alleviate, and gratify. The duo chatted with EnVi to discuss their beginnings, finding motivation through social influences, and challenging indie music through their sound.

Mona Vera Haunt Listeners With Their Sound

Mona Vera debuted with their first EP Strawberry Blonde in 2022. The EP contained tracks fluctuating in music styles for any type of listener to indulge themselves in. From their soft rock track “hand porn” to the rough accents of “I saw this in a movie once,” Strawberry Blonde holds fresh and attractive compositions.

In an attempt to find their own voice, the duo strayed away from their debut album for their second EP, Haunt Me — released in the fall of 2022. Joe explains the duo’s efforts in adopting a concept rather than a story to properly craft a narrative. Haunt Me is based on the idea of the things of our past sticking with us. Whether it be romance [or] loss, those things sort of haunt you. A lot of the songs are fun [and] easygoing and backed by the idea of things we’ve experienced in the past.”

Mauricio further explained the album’s dedication to creating and sticking to a concept by pointing out the track’s inner workings. “Lyrically, we tried to connect the songs. We use the word “haunt me” by using that phrase in the lyrics somehow in almost all the songs. The idea of the [album’s] songs relating to something that has haunted us in the past gives the interpretation that it could have been anything.”

The band composes pieces allowing for joy and self-discovery. The soft-rock single “Cinema Crushing” poses a reflection of a snippet on Joe’s personal life with his admiration for films.“Cinema Crushing” is a balance between fiction, which is based around the movie La La Land, and the reality of me going to watch [the film]. The single was all about finding a way to tell a story based on my life and off the movie because I think it’s cool to rant about movies,” Joe laughed to himself.

The Origin Of Musical Pursuit

From sharing self-written lyrics with their moms to attempting to recreate senior rock groups’ sounds, Mona Vera aspired to create music from a young age from the influence of an instrument. The guitar. With the new-found curiosity towards music and the youthful desire for stardom, Joe got his first guitar when he was eleven years old. “[Music] was always something I was interested in. I think when I was younger, it was more about getting famous, but now I just want to make art. It’s cathartic, and at this point, it’s just for the enjoyment of creating,” he says.

Similarly, Mauricio wished to become a musician from the moment he picked up a guitar when he was 13. The artist describes the endless practice put into perfecting his craft on the guitar, which led him to develop an interest in music and lyricism. Laughing at his young self’s attempt to recreate Pink Floyd’s sound, Mauricio cherishes his young self’s eagerness to learn since it was what guided him to train and kickstart his dreams into reality. “I started meeting different people and really practiced songwriting. It became a passion for me because it was just a childhood thing. And eventually that’s what led me to my first project, Sunset Cliffs, and came to meet Joe,” he explains.

Photo courtesy of Gilbert Soto

Alongside his activities with Mona Vera, Mauricio participates in the indie-pop rock band Sunset Cliffs. With singer Caleb Hurtado and bassist Matthew Reber, Mauricio collaborates with the two musicians to create a unique sound within the indie world. From audio engineering to being the band’s lead guitarist and music writer, Mauricio lays the groundwork for Sunset Cliffs sound direction. Birthed from high school boys’ love for music, Sunset Cliffs stands for their desire to become greater than where they stood. At the time of creating their name, the members resided in their hometown, Imperial Valley, California. They named the band after deciding to migrate to San Diego in order to make their presence known there. 

Sunset Cliffs adopts a unique sound playing field with Mauricio’s guitar structuring and incorporation of electric instruments and band sets. Released after three years of isolation and long distance from COVID-19, the group’s single “Pastel Blue” embodies the uncertainty and subconscious fear of separation within a strained relationship.

Mauricio describes his love for both of his creative outlets and the joy of practicing different forms of music through the bands. “It fulfills two different parts of me. With Sunset Cliffs, it’s a completely different style of music that I get to experiment [with]. It’s very fulfilling in the sense of getting to express through building a whole song up. When it comes to Mona Vera, I get a lot of joy from just writing with Joe. [Mona Vera’s] style of music, which is a heavier side, is a very different world and I have a lot of fun expressing myself more with this [style]. It’s very relieving.”

Photo courtesy of Gilbert Soto

Artistry Born From Sociocultural Limitations

Born in a rural town on the border between the United States and Mexico in Imperial County, Mona Vera were surrounded by agriculture and the heavy influence of Mexican culture. The Imperial Valley is notorious amongst the locals for the lack of recognition from outlanders and the absence of activities within their hometown. Despite this, Mona Vera saw their home’s lack of accessibility as a gateway to relationships and the lifeline of perseverance for success.

I’ll preface by saying, the cool thing about being from a small town is there isn’t anything to do. And honestly, it might be just because there isn’t much else to do that makes people create art,” Joe stated. Mauricio agreed, stating that the Valley’s lack of activities forces kids to find something to do, which results in the spawning of a big community full of small artists. With the shortcomings of carrying out their music projects and lack of personal expenses, Mauricio perceived the struggle of finding things to do as a source of encouragement to keep pushing. “In San Diego, there’s shows and studios everywhere. It’s almost a little overwhelming. In the Valley, that side of the art is nonexistent, so I really took initiative to learn all of it at home and teach myself how to record music because there was no other way.”

Speaking of their personal lives, Joe considers himself fortunate due to his parents’ positive attitude concerning his pursuit of music. Having a grandmother who was always caught singing and making appearances on Mexican television, Joe had an additional support system to continue something he enjoyed. “The Valley creates good artists and I’m very lucky to have what I have,” he said. 

In comparison to his bandmate’s supporting foundation inside the family, Mauricio dealt with strong opposition towards his sought-out career. “In a way it made me try harder,” Mauricio said “I would practice a lot more out of spite. I love the art, but I will admit, my parents not supporting me kind of pushed me harder and made me want to be the best I can be.”

Mixing in the yearning to become a musician with unfavorable mindsets back home, hopelessness can cloud many creatives’ wills. Perceiving his hometown as an inescapable bubble, Mauricio admitted to succumbing to the convictions and fears the Valley brings to some youth. “Living or being raised in the Valley, you kind of get this sense of getting stuck there. So, there’s always that negativity stemming from the Valley mentality.” The artist confessed to moments of complete shutdown that have led him to question all effort put into his projects.

“It gets frustrating. Sometimes when you’re working on music, things are not going your way and all that doubt hits you up to the point where it makes you feel horrible. And in all honesty, I have my crying moments [because of it].” Nevertheless, the artist continues to persevere as he witnesses the attention and love given towards the duo’s creative voice. “The fact that I maybe moved one person [with my music] helps me. I always remind myself that someone actually listens to us, and who cares if it’s only a few people? I’m sure they enjoy it and they probably want more right? So I always come back to the thought.”

Photo courtesy of Gilbert Soto

Joe finished, sharing, “It’s always a little anxiety-inducing when you’re writing new stuff or when you’re about to put something out. I write these songs because I have self doubt. I’m experiencing pain, and other emotional aspects in my life. Music is an outlet where I’m able to release my problems. If I’m not successful with the music, then oh, well. I just enjoy making the art at this point and it helps me feel better!” 

Serving the Indie Scene

Mauricio claims he doesn’t wish to deviate too far from their Jazz Bass sound but aims to maybe produce an all-Spanish track, despite the band’s skillfulness and familiarity with numerous music forms

On a comedic note, Mona Vera takes advantage of their genre’s notorious standing amongst producers and consumers to create satirical content revolving around the “indie” aesthetic. They’ve accrued over 3,000 followers and 236,000 likes on TikTok, adopting a less serious image. They concede the definition and identity of indie with the simple intention of making themselves and others laugh.

Bringing up their amusing parodies, the two laughed at their antics and shared how much fun they have creating said acts. Joe reassures Mona Vera will become more active on social media, but this time around they’ll be straying away from the skits for a while to focus on other forms of content. Show-wise, Mona Vera is currently building a resume seeking to do a very small tour and looking for open opportunities as openers for tours in the summer or fall. “If the album does well and we continue to grow, alongside a lot of other factors, I think we might be able to do a little tour soon!” Mauricio exclaimed.

In the band’s last EPs and other single releases such as “Palomas Bajo el Sol,” Mona Vera exercised a heavy garage rock sound. Lyrically, the artists relished in creating arrangements for listeners to dance and cry to with no other intention but to satisfy their desire for fun. However, with their latest single “One Bit,” released ahead of their new album, the duo excitedly announced the band has finally displayed the voice they’ve been striving for with Mona Vera. The once indie-rock-influenced scores have now transformed into an acoustic experimental design as they dive into musically technical elements and more mature lyricism. The new release has both members thrilled for listeners to hear and look forward to the public’s feedback on their new-found sound.

Mona Vera’s Timeless Groove

The expressiveness of indie is infinite, with its endless pool of sounds, trends, and tones. Since uncovering the world of indie at a young age, Mona Vera have always wanted to contribute to the scene and enable themselves to communicate through their music. 

Mauricio laughed at himself as he recalled his high school self only wearing old band tees and always exclaiming how no new music was good. Once he began to discover various independent and underground bands, his love for indie was planted and sparked his excitement to insert himself and begin writing as soon as possible. “[Indie] really sparked the realization that this is still a big active community. Playing the guitar is something really special to me, so seeing it gave me the motivation that I can make a living out [of] playing and make something out of this because people pay to see this. Indie changed the trajectory of my life,” Muaricio ruminated.

As a band amongst many other aspiring indie stars, Mona Vera solely wish to be respected and recognized as artists who hold similar objectives as other visionaries—having fun while creating. “It’s all about just wanting to do it. So as long as I’m having fun writing and I’m able to feel something, that’s all that really matters,” Joe proudly stated “I just want to be known for having fun and showing people a good time. I want people to notice ‘This dude is making music’ and I don’t need to be known for anything more.”

Listen to Mona Vera’s recent single release “One Bit” on Spotify and Apple Music!

Interested in this indie duo? Catch up with Mona Vera and follow their social media accounts on Instagram and TikTok.

In search of more rising indie groups to add to your rotation? Check out our recent Artist Spotlight on rising Korean-German singer-songwriter Sion Jung here!