Interview with MakeWar guitarist/vocalist Jose Prieto | By Damian Burford

When asked if he believes in destiny, Jose Prieto, frontman for the Brooklyn-based band, MakeWar—formerly known as Sad And French—is put on the spot. He’s been telling the story of how a chance encounter with Brendan Kelly of The Lawrence Arms put their band in the sights of Red Scare Industries. After a long pause, Prieto answers, “I believe I do,” before adding, “It was a ‘right time, right kind of place’ thing.”

Born in Florida and raised in Venezuela, Prieto learned English from his favorite punk bands. In high school, he played in a local punk band that he thought would go all the way. “Of course, it didn’t happen,” he says. “That band disappeared.” Prieto eventually returned to the U.S. to attend college for graphic design and push his band. He says he soon began his adult American life: “I finished college. I started working full-time in advertising. I always kept playing guitar.”

MakeWar - credit Kaitlyn Laurel McGann
Photo by Kaitlyn Laurel McGann

“I thought I was going to get married to this girl, have kids, and live in Florida forever,” he recalls. “Sad And French was a way for me to try to get over that one ex who destroyed my world when I was younger. I was really young and stupid. I didn’t want to keep being ‘Sad And French.’ It was kind of perfect for what I was doing. Then, when I found the band [members], I found a new inspiration to keep writing music. It’s not just about the breakup anymore.”

It was moving on from that breakup that helped the band find their new moniker, MakeWar. “I’ve been dealing with lots of anxiety and panic attacks,” Prieto begins. “MakeWar is not about killing people. MakeWar is more about the wars that happen in your brain, internally. MakeWar is about dealing with things so you can hang out with your friends. We’re all about having a good time, and I feel like, hopefully, with this next record, I hope that people get that.”

Developing a Theory of Integrity is that new record, coming out Oct. 7 through Red Scare Industries, the onetime home of bands such as Teenage Bottlerocket and Direct Hit! It was destiny that brought the band to Red Scare’s attention. A freak blizzard descended upon the East Coast in January of 2016. Brendan Kelly found himself trapped in Brooklyn and fate intervened. MakeWar were scheduled to play that same evening with I Am The Avalanche, a show that was postponed thanks to the same blizzard.

“Brendan was stuck here,” Prieto explains. “We have a mutual friend, Seth, who owns The Starliner. Seth asks me, ‘Do you want to play with Brendan at my bar?’ I was itching to play. We were all so bummed when the shows got canceled. I just wanted to play. I walked to the bar in my snow boots. We’ll play, even if it’s for just one person. I don’t care. So, I went there, and [Brendan and I] had never met before.”

“We go inside, we have a couple of beers,” he continues. “We really didn’t talk about the band or anything. He didn’t really seem to care. I went up and played all my songs. When I was done, I went back to the bar, [and] Brendan says to me, ‘Holy shit, dude! You’re, like, really good! Now I’m playing after you? You mean I actually have to be good? Goddamn it.’ He played his set, and afterwards, we started talking even more.”

“I knew about Red Scare, but I didn’t know Brendan was a part of it,” Prieto notes. “Brendan let [label head] Toby [Jeg] know he found a band, and Toby checked us out online and thought we sounded OK. We kept on talking, and we recorded the new record. When I sent it to both of them, they said, ‘Holy shit, this is amazing! Let’s do it.’”

It was a ‘right time, right kind of place’ thing. “Destiny is definitely out there,” Prieto confirms. “If you want good things for you and you keep on doing the right things, that’s going to happen. That’s the way I see it.”

When asked if he has thanked the ex for the breakup that pushed his life to the place it is now, Prieto says, “I don’t want to be thankful for that. No, I haven’t thanked her. I don’t know if she’s actually listened to any of the songs. She’s married now. When I see myself and where I am right now—not just music-wise , but where I live now, the relationship that I have now, the friends and all that, I’m definitely thankful for those things.”

Purchase Developing A Theory Of Integrity here.

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