SOM Review: LTrain

New York City can be a crazy place. It can make you laugh, cry, scream, and sigh all before you finish your first cup of coffee in the morning. Since 2011, NYC-based multi-cultural rock band LTrain has been creating music that reflects these realities, while simultaneously motivating listeners to break free from their stresses, and let loose.�

A perfect example of this is the band’s blistering, alt-rock radio ready, single “Viral Spiral,” which reflects on the life of the working New Yorker, and is the title track of their full length debut album, Viral Spiral.� Viral Spiral follows LTrain’s Can’t Pay Bills EP, which was released in 2014, and included the song “The Rent Is Still Too Damn High,” the video for which featured the much parodied 2010 gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan.�

Co-founded by guitarist Gabriel Castellar and vocalist Cystalla Gonzalez (the band has included Tris Green on drums since 2014), the majority of the themes in LTrain’s music transcend NYC, and are representative of life in any major city, which is why the band has been able to connect with listeners all over the world. LTrain’s videos have racked up nearly 200k views on YouTube, and the band has run two successful Indiegogo campaigns, one of which was supported by the queen of crowdfunding herself, Amanda Palmer.�

Before the videos, and the crowdfunding campaigns, however, and even before the band itself, there’s always been Gabriel and Crystalla. The two met in high school back in 2005, with Gabriel asking Crystalla out a day before a benefit concert at their school. “I made the first move with a 40 minute explanation of why we should be together,” he says with a laugh.� She said yes, and the two have been together ever since.� After various solo projects, the couple formed LTrain in 2011, and in true NYC fashion some of the first stages they rocked were actually subway stations, as they initially cut their teeth in the city’s legendary busking scene.�

While performing at some of their favorite busking hotspots, which include the stations at 14th Street – Union Square, and 59th Street – Lexington Avenue, Gabriel and Crystalla not only witnessed the kind of city life that became a staple of their music, they also ended up in a documentary, and a book.� The book, titled Noise Beneath The Apple, was all about busking in NYC, while the documentary, a German project titled New York – The Music, featured LTrain right alongside the artists that paved the way for them.� The honor was huge for LTrain, as Gabriel explains, “We’ve spent years doing research on all the different genres that began here, and put NYC on the map – from jazz, to punk rock, and even hip-hop – so we try our best to incorporate all of those styles in our music.”�

LTrain’s wide range influences is evident when looking at the bands they’ve chosen to cover, which include Blondie, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, and No Doubt. They also count ‘70s funk bands, and ‘90s R&B acts, as major influences, as Gabriel notes, “We love to balance out our rock n’ roll with dirty Funk.”� It was the band’s cover of No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” that caught the attention of a casting director with American Idol, who recruited Crystalla to audition for the show. Although the net result for Crystalla was a TV appearance, she decided she’d rather focus on the band.� Since then, LTrain has performed on every major stage in NYC, including the Knitting Factory, Irving Plaza, Webster Hall, and a Z100 hosted event at the iHeartRadio Theater. Between headlining at many of those venues, and their two successful Indiegogo campaigns, it’s safe to say Crystalla made the right move.�

The most recent move for LTrain was the release of Viral Spiral. It’s an album that was more than three years in the making, and was partially written during their time interning at Funkadelic Studios in the city.� When Gabriel thinks back to their initial writing sessions, which began in February of 2015, he says, “A lot of changes have happened with the band since then. However, this album has helped us not only find our sound, but reflect on how we could build on the narrative of our first EP, Can’t Pay Bills.”� One thing that hasn’t changed is that the rent is still too damned high, and that’s why LTrain continues to represent all the hard working people caught up in the everyday struggle, giving them something to rock out to, because in a city so stressful – no matter which city you’re in – sometimes letting loose can be the ultimate catharsis.


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