Updated: Dec 1
Bay Area shoegazers Pure Hex offer the perfect music to listen to on a trip.
By Diego Munoz
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All photos courtesy of Samuel David Katz (Instagram: samueldavidkatz)
Coming out of the San Francisco Bay Area, Pure Hex has become one of my favorite shoegaze bands in the past few years. Currently composed of Marta Alvarez (vocals), Zach Dighans (guitar), Hussain Khan (guitar), Luke Clingerman (bass), and Jon Annuziato (drums), they have been creating otherworldly shoegaze and playing it all across the West Coast.
Originally a three-piece shoegaze project called “Stranger” consisting of Dighans and the band’s previous members, the band underwent changes over the course of the following years as Khan joined as a second guitarist and Alvarez joined as the band’s vocalist.
The band released two singles in the leadup to their debut EP, “Pure Hex” in 2019. Following the departure of their previous drummer, Annuziato joined on drums. The band later toured the West Coast in support of their EP with Orange County shoegazers, Ridgeway.
The band continued to play shows until the pandemic forced everything to a screeching halt. The band resumed playing shows in 2021 and released their debut LP “Still Dark” in June of the following year. With the release of their debut album came the addition of Clingerman on bass.
Hussain states that they take influence from bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Cocteau Twins, and The Cure. “We all come from different musical backgrounds but recently we’ve locked in on a sound that is heavily influenced by 90s alternative.” This era of music really shaped my adolescence and Pure Hex’s sound really invokes this feeling of nostalgia that I absolutely love.
I first discovered Pure Hex at The Void, a local DIY venue. Despite the sweltering heat inside the tiny living room, they still managed to put on an amazing show.
I asked fan Eduardo Rosales to describe his first experience seeing the band live and he stated, “It was my first time seeing them and honestly the music was crazy. It made me feel high and on another planet the way the lights went off and the roof started sparkling. The lead singer crowd surfing while singing was the first time I’ve ever seen something like that.”
I wasn’t really sure who they were before the show but I still impulsively bought “Still Dark” on cassette and it sat in my bag for months. I randomly stumbled across it while cleaning and decided to give it a listen.
I had no idea what to expect when I first loaded the tape into the dusty cassette player I dug up. The second the music started I felt like I was transported away from the dimly lit tech booth I practically live in to some other world.
Alvarez’s vocals are like a voice from another reality calling to me. The heavily altered guitars are almost like a second vocalist, bringing so much life to the tracks. They really make the music feel mystical. Best $5 I’ve spent at a show by far. “Pedestal,” “Joy and Paranoia,” and “Sleep” are some of my favorite songs on the album. It’s a must listen for fans of shoegaze and dream pop.
The band has toured all across the West Coast multiple times. Once in 2019 and again this past summer with Ridgeway. Annuziato states that one of their favorite memories on tour was “when we were in Ventura after a show and Zach was backing up Hussain in a parking lot. Long story short, Zach isn’t a professional backer and Hussain ran him down.”
“Touring has varying levels of insanity but it’s so fun–it’s especially cool to tour with a band of friends, because you face every new city together,” says Alvarez. They genuinely enjoy playing in new places and it really shows in the energy they bring to their live performances. Next time they’re in the area, I highly recommend seeing them.
“It’s funny, the music industry and the way people consume media is constantly changing, so you really can’t predict how anything will go. Being an independent musician is a constant learning process,” states Alvarez.
Although they don’t know where the band is headed, they do have exciting plans for their future. They have just finished recording their second LP and plan to release music for the majority of 2024. They also plan to tour, both in California and out of state.
Shoegaze bands come and go but Pure Hex is one that really stood out to me and is a band you need to check out. If you don’t, you might get hexed. Happy Halloween!
See a live performance: Live @ 924 Gilman