Unsound: The Sword X Subrosa
When BMX and Music Collide
29 Sep 2015
Words by Wes McGrath Live Photos by Sandy Carson
In a city like Austin, Texas you don't have to look too hard to find BMX and music harmonizing as one... sometimes even on a daily basis. As an almost inevitable result local stoner/doom merchants The Sword joined forces with Subrosa to create a complete bike inspired by a relationship formed over almost 15 years, through BMX, music and the passion to make an idea a reality. Stretching right back to the early roots of Ronnie Bonner and UGP, and all the way up to a modern day connection with Ryan Sher and Subrosa, this brainchild of The Sword's BMXer drummer Santiago "Jimmy" Vela III came to fruition in late fall of 2014. As the first bike designed by both a band and a bike company it's a unique collaboration that has definitely made it's mark on the BMX community. For the re-introduction of our UNSOUND music feature here on DIG we connected with Jimmy and Ryan to tell us more how this project came to life.
Santiago "Jimmy" Vela III
What first sparked the idea to collaborate with Subrosa and create the Stormwitch bike?
My friendship with Sparky's and the Subrosa family actually goes way back, close to 15 years ago... While I was apart of my past band, Recover, we were on one of our first tours and through a strike of coincidence, Underground Products was a co-sponsor on a tour through Florida. Through that, I met Ronnie Bonner, who at the time was running UGP. Ron and I clicked over the subject of BMX, he offered constant support to us as a band. He'd give us free shirts, backpacks and even socks to get us by while on tour, anything he could do to help out a struggling band on the road. We kept in touch over the years, both of us moving onto new projects. In 2012, we reconnected when The Sword was asked by Mark Mulville to officially license the song, "Apocryphon" for Subrosa's "Get Used To It" DVD. After Subrosa licensed "Apocryphon" for "G.U.T.I", it spawned a larger discussion between Ron and I, we toy'd around with an idea about doing a collaboration. I wanted to do something that would represent my love for BMX, honor the love and support the BMX community has shown The Sword, and be remembered as one-of-a-kind. The idea of a complete bike came into fruition at Texas Toast 2013 and debuted to the public one year later at Toast 2014.
When was the band originally put together, were you on since the very beginning?
The Sword was originally established in 2004, in Austin Texas. I took over as drummer in 2011...
Since you were raised in Austin, BMX has had an impact on you whether you agree with it or not. Do you find a correlation between your love for music found later in life and BMX which you've known your whole life?
I grew up in Austin Texas, so obviously BMX and freestyle make up a big part of my upbringing, it was quite a treat getting to grow up in Austin! The riding scene is massive and the music scene is world renowned, my teenage years were spent going to shows, hanging out at the 9th St. trails and at Trend Bike Source (now Empire). Riding along side guys who are now some of the world's top pros, freestyle obviously has influenced my creativity. All riders can agree that we just look at our world a little differently than most. BMX freestyle forces you to seek new creative ways, to constantly search for something new, unique and innovative, to bond with fellow like minded individuals, and most importantly gives you a tool to form and craft a style all your own. Free to create your own style. These are some of the most important values I've carried over into drumming and creating music. As a drummer, I've always sought out other things, outside of music, that can be used to inspire and influence my way of playing. I found that unity with bike riding.
Did you have any personal input in the overall design of the bike in any way?
About the bike itself, I had input the entire way of making it. It was my desire to have a 21" top tube, the size I've always preferred, giving a little more knee room too for the larger riders out there that still pedal a kid's bike. It was very important to me that the bike was actually rideable, durable and NOT just a display bike that never gets tossed around. We decked it out with pedals, stem, grips, tires, clamp and Interlock chain from The Shadow Conspiracy. Wheel, crank, and brake sets by Rant BMX. My long time friend and riding buddy, Byron Anderson, helped come up with the custom "Sword" brake-bridge, welded in the frame design. The custom Sword/Subrosa tri-pod seat was a feature I insisted on.
The decals and artwork designed for the The Stormwitch are a combination of your album cover and a touch of the Subrosa shield, how did that all come about?
The artwork of "The Stormwitch" was all originally created by comic book artist J.H. Williams III, who also designed our album layout for "Apocryphon". Imagery from the album was placed all over the bike. Subrosa's art team helped by altering the colors and sizes, and came up with the main logo, combining our "eye" with the Subrosa shield, found on the head tube and the custom Sword/Subrosa tri-pod seat. The mysterious sigils created by J.H. that were placed on the fork and handlebars esoterically represent the personal mantras of each band member. I wanted to carry over some of the hidden messages and themes that the "Apocryphon" album contains into the bike project. "Apocryphon" was my first album with the band, and felt it would be a great way of celebrating and immortalizing everyone involved with it. Subrosa knocked it out of the park with the overall design, and the entire band had input.
" It was much more than just putting their logo on one of our bikes." - Ryan Sher
So Ryan, how did you first meet Jimmy and The Sword?
I met Jimmy formally at a Sword show in Orlando a few years ago. Ronnie B. has know Jimmy for over 10 years. I initially got introduced by him. We worked with The Sword to use a song in “Get Used To It” but that was mainly over emails.
We've obviously seen music collaborations in BMX before, such as the 'Props Road Fools Rock & Roll Tours'. Even though that tour spanned multiple bands and cities, I feel this collaboration is more long lasting in the form of an actual bicycle. What impact do you hope to see this bike make on the music and BMX scenes worldwide?
I mean BMX and music has always gone hand in hand, whether its background music in a contest run, or the soundtrack to your favorite video. I think projects like this are great because of the new fan base that can be shown BMX. The Sword has fans that don’t necessarily know about BMX or Subrosa, so this is a great way to introduce them. The same goes for the band. We can show our fans, Hey, these dudes rip, and if you’re into us, you’ll probably be into the Sword, so it benefits both sides.
Did the bike as a final project, come out the way you would have hoped?
Oh definitely! This collaboration was really awesome for me, since Jimmy actually rides, he was pretty specific about the overall performance of the bike. It was cool that he was also into the specifications and construction of the bike from a functionality standpoint as well as the final look visual appearance of the bike. He really wanted a bike that was built to shred at any level of riding, right out of the box. It was much more than just putting their logo on one of our bikes.
"All riders can agree that we just look at our world a little differently than most." - Santiago "Jimmy" Vela III
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