The cover of UNITYTX’s new EP, MADBOY, features a cartoon depiction of frontman Jay Webster shouldering a massive boulder, though from the illustration it’s hard to tell whether this represents the final step of a Herculean triumph or another entry in a Sisyphean sentence.
As it turns out, the Dallas-based hardcore/hip-hop band’s career has been both. Formed in 2014, the group has battled untold numbers of ups and downs, from numerous member changes to even more naysayers kicking back at their refusal to bow to genre norms — not to mention deep turmoil for Webster himself, including near homelessness and serious doubts about the viability of his musical dreams. Just when it seemed they were gaining traction, misfortune was always just around the corner looking to cut them down.
But now, with MADBOY set for release September 25 via Pure Noise Records, UNITYTX is living proof of the power of personal resilience and sheer will.
“Nothing ever made sense to me like music did,” Webster says. “The only shot I really had was to go for this. Coming from the mud, from nothing — the hard times motivate you to keep grinding.”
Mixing punishing hardcore breakdowns and razor-sharp riffs with the murky soul of grunge and hip-hop energy, UNITYTX — Webster, guitarists Alberto Vazquez and Ricky Cova, and drummer Jonathan Flores — bridge musical boundaries, spanning the gap between rap/rock’s forefathers and the new underground with a captivatingly rhythmic take on the heavy music genre. From the middle-finger salvo “Cross Me” (a shot at those who’ve doubted the band’s drive) to the resilient “Piece Of Mind,” the eight-song MADBOY is a battle-tested, unrelenting spin on a genre that’s stayed stagnant for far too long.
“A lot of people don’t understand you can listen to more than one genre,” the frontman says. “We sound like a thrash band? Cool. I’m still going to rap over it. I want fans to understand that there’s more out there than heavy breakdowns and screaming. This band does everything.”
As they break down barriers with not only their music but also their head-turning live show in massive settings like the So What?! Music Festival, Webster hopes he and his bandmates can someday become a guiding light for listeners with stories like his — just as artists like From First To Last’s Sonny Moore and countless others inspired him to chase his own dreams.
It’s certainly easier now, as modern-day playlist culture has broken down barriers that once seemed immovable — setting the stage for a new crop of artists who could care less about how things are supposed to be done. Because, at the end of the day, music isn’t about a specific sound; it’s not about where you came from or what you look like. It’s about the euphoria, the rage, the catharsis you feel when a song speaks to your soul like never before and opens your eyes to entirely new ways of thinking.
As far as UNITYTX have come over the past five years, both personally and as a band, they know there are still plenty of mountains ahead of them. With MADBOY and all it represents in tow, they’re finally ready to make the climb to continue transcending not just musical lines, but cultural, ethnic, and generational ones as well.
“I hope to create a culture for kids of all ethnicities,” Webster says. “I want kids in the black community who grew up like me — who want to get into punk or heavy music but don’t feel comfortable because they’re not being represented — to know it’s possible. I want every single person who comes to our shows to feel free. If we can do that, everything else will work itself out.”