To watch Xonzy Gaddis’s full video interview with Blossom Aloe, visit this link.
Blossom Aloe is a Texas band from the Houston area that has been making a name for itself on the indie music scene. Associate Editor Xonzy Gaddis conducted an extended interview with the group this spring to find out about its history and inspirations. The following transcript was edited for readability.
I grew up swimming and going to school with Jafet Lujan, Aaron Ruiz and Henry Huelskamp–all members of the musical group Blossom Aloe. I knew Henry played guitar, but when I saw he was in a band with Jafet and Aaron, and that they had been featured on NPR’s World Cafe playlist, I dug around on Spotify and found one of their top songs, titled “Holding On,” and found myself listening to the rest of their discography. Their music features tranquil synths and a sound that rivals that of Tame Impala. For me, it’s a perfect soundtrack for a soothing drive through the rolling hills of central Texas.
Blossom Aloe is an indie band comprising five members, including Jafet Lujan (lead singer), Josh Vargas (producer), Ian Morales (drummer), Aaron Ruiz (bassist), and Henry Huelskamp (lead guitarist). The band members all hail from Houston, Texas, but have continued to expand their range, building a following in central Texas and beyond.
The band started out nearly a year ago when lead singer Jafet pulled in Josh’s production talent and Aaron’s bass skills, and Ian and Henry joined along the way. Now the group is celebrating the completion of their first album called A Place We Used to Be. The rising fame the album brought them in Texas won them a spot in the lineup at the annual Float Fest in Gonzales, Texas, right next to big names such as Chance the Rapper and Cage the Elephant.
I conducted a video interview with the group to learn more about their growth in the world of music. This is Blossom Aloe.
Rootstalk: Tell me a bit about yourselves and your roles in the band.
Josh Vargas: I’m Josh and I play guitar, sing, and I also play keys in Blossom Aloe. And I’m also the producer for the band.
Ian Morales: I’m Ian, and I play drums for the band. And yeah, I do all sorts of things in my free time, but I never thought I’d be a drummer. So here we are.
Henry Huelskamp: I play lead guitar in Blossom Aloe, but I also do like drums and bass at home, and I play with a lot of pedals in my alone time. That’s kind of what I do. And I try to bring the pedals and the songs to life in the live setting.
Aaron Alejandro Ruiz Davila: My favorite place to play is in the comfort of my room, just feeling whatever music I’m trying to play or am listening to. I’m the bass player. The reason I play is because I love playing alongside my best friend, Jafet, and I also love playing the bass.
Jafet David Lujan (aka Bluff): My favorite place to perform so far would have to be The Concert Pub north of Houston. I have many positions in the band, for example, I play the guitar, I play the congas, but then I also write the lyrics and song structure to most of the songs I sing in, but I also let the band help as well. Then last but not least, I perform because I love seeing people actually enjoy the music we play/created and also it’s just so freaking fun.
Rootstalk: How did Blossom Aloe start out? What are the band’s roots?
Vargas: Actually, on the album, there’s a little Easter egg at the end of “Lost in My Dreams”, where it was a sample. And that’s the first song that we made together because [Jafet] brought in the song and [Jafet] only had a verse and a chorus, there wasn’t really like a bridge or [anything]. And he said that he had the song complete, but when he came through, he only had a few chords. So, he wanted me to help him out to finish a song. And we finished the song that day; we took five or six hours and completed [it] right then and there. And [Jafet] was like, “Dude, this song’s so good. I never thought it would sound like this. We should work together again.”
You know, sometimes there’s, like, a [hindrance] on creative freedom, at least [with] the bands that I’ve been in. So that’s why I was put off [about] being in a band. So whenever [Jafet] asked me that, I was like, “Yeah, I don’t know. We’ll see, whatever.” So [Jafet says] “Dude, I know this drummer,” or “I know a bassist. He’s my buddy, Aaron. He could play bass for us.” And that’s when Aaron came in the picture. And [Jafet] also says that Aaron knows this guy that could play drums for us, and that’s how we ended up getting Ian. And it was going well. The chemistry was just working, and we ended up completing that song in about a day or two, and [Jafet] puts out that song and, once we completed the recording process, he said “Dude, you got to be in a band with me. It’s going to be great. You’re so good at what you do, and you [really] know how to play guitar and I really like your style and….” And at the time I really appreciated that. And I also liked working with Jafet and Aaron.
It felt like something. It had [something] that I never really felt before when working with other musicians. And then at that point, I was, like, “You know what? Yeah, like, I’ll be in a band with you guys. Let’s do it.”
[At first] we were going to be called “Pocket Animals” or something. I don’t know, like “Eucalyptus Daydreams” or something like that. [O]ne of [the names that we thought of] was Blossom Aloe. And that was just kind of a random name. But it just rolled off the tongue just a little better than the other ones. And [the other band members] voted on it. Like, “Yeah, we love this name. Let’s do it.” So that’s how Blossom Aloe became Blossom Aloe.
Rootstalk: What does the rehearsal set-up look and feel like, especially during COVID-19?
Morales: It’s just very interesting to finally get together with other people and do something. I think a lot of us [just thought] “Oh, I just do this for myself and I’m just in my room.” So it was fun to just interact, feeding off somebody else’s energy. It [was] a stress reliever, just playing, and sweating, and everybody having a good time.
Then Henry [joined the band] with all his pedals. And that blew my mind, the noises that he was making, I was like, “How did you do that with that?” And then we started playing at Aaron’s house, outside, which was a whole different vibe… There’s a little pond and it was mostly super-nice [to be outside until] it got cold. And [even] then we were still out there. Looking back, that’s respectable, because I don’t like to hang out in the cold just for no reason. [But] we were [still] all out there just doing it, and it was just really fun.
[So we have] fun though sometimes it can be very serious, and we usually just go through the set a few times. I think it sounds better in practice. [But] then we get out there and we play a show and I’m like, damn.”
Rootstalk: How have you seen the band’s reach grow and change demographically? How do you see yourselves inspiring others?
Huelskamp: I’m noticing that now we’re getting more shows in the inner city, whereas before we were playing North Houston. And I’m noticing a huge demographic change. The audiences are more diverse. And to me, that’s way better than what we were doing before, where [we were playing] in some of these hard rock bars, where it was just white people. I want to play to all kinds of people: young, old, people of color and just everybody. And I feel like Houston is the perfect place to do that.
Personally, I don’t really get stage anxiety just two minutes before the show. I get pumped. But I’ll feel it a week before, or the day before. When I wake up on the morning of the show, something inside of me is, like, “Let’s go. You’re ready.”
Morales: Actually, just recently, after they announced the Float Fest lineup, one of my friends from [when I went] to Texas State [got in touch and he] was like, “Yo, we’re proud of you. It’s awesome that you’re really trying to do what you love.” [Back then] I just had Garage Band [software] and a guitar. And I would make something, and I would show the guys there and they’d be like, “Oh, that’s so cool. Like, that’s really cool.” They were very supportive. And then I came back [to Houston] and we still talked, but not as much as…when I lived there.
[But when my friend contacted me he said]: “Ever since you showed us your first stuff…like, your very first demo thing, it inspired me, someone who doesn’t really like to put themselves out there. [It showed me that you can] influence people without even knowing them.
I believe that anybody can do what we do. And it’s not about getting this awesome line up or having to do extravagant shows. I think it’s more [about] people getting together and just making stuff and just hanging out. And that’s what I found to love.
When we first started, it was just like ”Okay, I had a shitty week. [But then we’d] get together and just hang out. And that would be the highlight of my week. So, I think to anybody who is looking to us for inspiration, I [would say] “Just do it. You can do anything, and it’s not about getting famous or getting streams. It’s about playing and just doing what you like to do.
Rootstalk: What has inspired each of you to be musicians?
Huelskamp: [For a while] I tried to market myself and join other bands and there were some obstacles. [For instance] one dude didn’t show up to a Craigslist meeting. We were supposed to meet one day and he straight up didn’t show. So, there were some challenges at first. If you’re posting videos of yourself online playing music, just keep doing it. Especially if you’re doing it because you love it. You’ll catch someone’s attention, and you could join a band like Blossom Aloe.
Vargas: I was really into this solo artist named Dayglow, and this guy puts out this song “Can I Call You Tonight?” in 2018 before we even had a full-length album. And he instantly blows up. He is also from Austin, Texas, and he just mixes and produces all these songs by himself. Now, a year later, he’s already playing festivals and headlining. He did what he loved, and he blew up from it so quick. Considering that he’s from Texas, you know, just like all of us, I feel like I can be like that guy or I feel like we can make something and, you know, get some kind of traction like he did. Because he had a bunch of supporters from his family and friends that pretty much helped him make music videos and his music, and look where he’s at now.
Morales: Back when I was in kindergarten, I [forgot] my baseball cards for show and tell, and everyone said, well, sing a song. So I did a Beatles song. That’s the first time I ever thought, “Okay, this is cool,” because people were clapping and I thought, “Okay, nice.” But yeah, I just always wanted to make music. And I did. I made a little solo project, just me, and I did all kinds of [stuff] to it. It was just experimenting. And I love bands like Modest Mouse and I like Mac Miller a lot and indie bands, [I could] just list a bunch. But…these guys [in Blossom Aloe] inspired me as well. Josh is a good producer. Henry is, like, f***ing amazing at guitar. Aaron is just a god at bass, and Jafet has this energy that, you know, Jafet, he’s just very outgoing and it’s like, okay, I can be that as well. Josh challenges me [and I ask myself], okay, can I play this beat? Can I keep up? So it’s things like that. I’m just very grateful to be part of it.
Huelskamp: [In my] first musical memory I was riding in the car with my dad, listening to Incubus, which is like some band from the nineties. I owe a lot to that, just listening to music with my dad and going to shows with him when I was a kid. Just growing up around music. I’m grateful that my parents got me lessons when I was eight years old and got me an electric guitar when I was ten. So, things like that contributed to [what I’m doing today].
Rootstalk: What are you looking forward to as the band’s roots continue to spread?
Huelskamp: Float Fest. I’m definitely looking forward to that. It’s already such a milestone, just even being on the artist list. I wasn’t in the group when [Blossom Aloe] made the album, so I haven’t had that experience yet and I’m super excited to do that. I guess a long-term goal would be to go on tour and play in a bunch of cities around the United States. That’s a lifelong dream of mine, for sure. And I’m sure it’s also a dream of everyone else in this group. And yeah, maybe score a record deal along the way. You never know. I’m definitely remaining optimistic about everything but, you know, enjoying it day by day, remaining conscious that you need to enjoy the journey and not the end result. So I’ve got to enjoy where we are right now. I can’t just always focus on what’s next.
Rootstalk: Leave us with a final message to your fans!
Vargas: Do what you think is right. Follow your heart. Follow your dreams. If you think it can’t be done, it can be done. Nothing is impossible.
Morales: Do what you want to do, but make sure that there’s some good that comes out of it and come hang out with us sometime and everybody just be safe out there. Thank you.
Huelskamp: I’d say no matter what skill level you are, always make time for your creative outlet. Whether it’s music, art, theatre, put some time away to do those things because you never know where it’s going to go.
Be sure to check Blossom Aloe out on Spotify, Apple Music, and all other music streaming platforms. Click here to link to Blossom Aloe’s setlist, featured at Axelrad in Houston.
e time away to do those things because you never know where it’s going to go.
Make sure to check Blossom Aloe out on Spotify, Apple Music, and all other music streaming platforms. Linked here is Blossom Aloe’s setlist featured at Axelrad in Houston.
Catch them at Float Fest in July and keep up with them on Instagram, Twitter and all other platforms through their Linktree. Also, make sure to check out the full video linked above on YouTube.