16 the Olympus formed after multiple jam sessions between five San Antonio musicians: alto saxophonist Nikkei Elliot, keyboardist Obed Rodriguez, guitarist Paul Byers, bassist Ryan Limberg and drummer Michael Segura. The three-year-old quintet has played a range of shows in San Antonio, from accompanying other indie bands to performing at the annual jazz festival downtown.
Michael Segura talked to KRTU about how the band formed, how they’ve grown and what’s in the future for the quintet. 16 the Olympus will join 8 other artists on the lineup for KRTU’s Spring Showcase on March 7 at Paper Tiger.
How did 16 the Olympus first start off?
Most of us kind of met through college. Me and the guitar player and the saxophone player went to San Antonio College, and we kind of just met each other on campus. Our sax player, actually, we had gone to the same music school. That’s how we met each other, and our keyboard player had met our guitar player, Paul, through another class outside of college. And he kind of mutually knew our bass player, Ryan. We got together in my old garage and just started jamming, and it kind of all came together after that.
Was the goal initially to start a band or just to jam?
I think it’s more the latter. You know, I’ve played in a few bands prior to this one, so I was always looking for new people to try new things out and jam out with. It was kind of one of those things where it started off as just messing around, and it snowball into this thing it is now.
You touched on this a bit but it seems like you all have strong musical backgrounds. How has that affected the way y’all work as a band?
I think all of us are big music lovers before anything else. Me and the saxophone player, Nik, we’re actually graduates of music programs, so for us, it’s also our career paths as well. Obed, our keyboard player, he grew up in church and played a lot. Everyone’s kind of grown up playing. It’s informed us in a way. I think we have a lot of different tastes. We listen to music from all different styles, eastern to hip-hop. If anything, it’s given us variety.
Does being in a band of five people ever lead to disagreement in terms of influence or style?
We talk about this a lot. It’s a lot of work, and since all of us have different tastes, it can be tough, especially initially, finding common ground. We like a lot of the same things, but we have a lot of other things going on. I think it’s kind of a two-way door in a lot of ways. It’s a lot of influences and stuff to pull from, but it’s been part of what this band is.
How does 16 the Olympus fit into the San Antonio scene even though your sound doesn’t match up with what most local bands are playing right now?
It’s interesting. Often when we play shows, it’s been somewhat of a challenge to find the right people to play with, but the thing I like about that is that it’s kind of given us the freedom to play all sorts of bills. Our very first show was at Zombies, which was a more metal-oriented scene, but we’ve also played the jazz festival here in San Antonio. It’s hard to place where we fit, but it’s something we all relish. We can’t quite put our finger on it. It makes us stand out a little more, for no other reason then that’s just how we are, not by design or anything.
How have y’all changed as a band since you played your first show in 2016?
I think whenever you work with people, you get to know them and their intricacies. Certainly, we met first as musicians, then we kind of became friends in that time. I’ve been in bands before, like in high school, where I was friends with people, and we were like, ‘Let’s play some covers.’ This is different because it happened through music first. We’ve learned things from each other. From a musical perspective, we’ve learned to trust one another. We trust each other to know what to do.
Since your music is semi-improvisational, how has that changed as you guys have started to know each other better?
I think we’re always learning things from one another. Going back to what I said about trusting one another: We’re pretty improvisational, but it’s based within a framework. The idea is that if I hear someone going off or about to solo, it’s my job to respond to that and listen to see where they’re going. We’ve learned to know when someone is putting something down. We’ve learned to listen better and to present more opportunities as a band instead of just as individuals.
So what’s in the future for the band? Have y’all thought about adding another member?
We’ve talked about that a couple times, like wouldn’t it be cool if we had a percussionist or a trumpet player, but we always go back to like, ‘Oh, we already have a hard time getting five guys on the same schedule.’ We’re looking at doing some cool stuff, of course the KRTU show, as well as a couple other things coming up. Also to release another EP over the summer, something new for people to check out, and hopefully more shows, just getting out there.
What’s your set going to look like at the showcase this Thursday?
It’s kind of hard to put into words. Whenever we’re putting music together, the idea is that we’re just going to present us. It’s not this grand idea of trying to put out a message. It’s more of just presenting ourselves in that moment and hoping that people vibe with that. For us, it’s being honest with ourselves and putting out something interesting. It’s interesting to us. We just hope other people find it interesting, too.