Creative spotlight: Altamar

by | Mar 5, 2024 | In The Mag!, People | 0 comments

Meet the Latin jazz-pop fusion band from MacEwan’s music program

Payge Owen first formed the idea of a band during a junior recital — the band would later be known as Altamar. 

“She handpicked all of us because I think she thought we were good musicians,” says guitarist Cameron Herron. “We really worked well together as a group.” Herron and Owen co-write Altamar’s songs with Owen. He also mixes and produces much of the band’s music. “We wrote a few songs, and those were really solid,” he says. “We wrote faster than any other project that I’ve been a part of.”

The name Altamar is Spanish for “going to the high seas.” The name was on a list of 19 other names that the band chose from. According to Herron, “[Altamar] was the obvious choice.” Drummer David Bravo is Peruvian and attributes the hint of Latin influence on the band’s music to his culture.

Bravo says that the idea of forming a band was a collective decision that felt right. “I felt like this was more of a passion project for all of us. It’s something that we all wanted to do together.”

The MacEwan Music program helped these students foster a love for music and drove them to form a group. “I feel like going to school, you get to talk to all these teachers, and they give you a completely different perspective of what a real musician’s life looks like,” says Bravo. “I always felt like it was the right time to start a band.”

The band formed in 2022 when the members worked to find a collective sound before stepping into their own as a group. Altamar played their first official show in 2023 when they headlined at the Yardbird Suite for the venue’s emerging artists series. Before that, they played a couple of other shows and opened for other artists. Their first show was at Rocky Mountain Icehouse, where they played three original songs and covers. “We thought we had enough material for our first set,” Herron recounts. “We 100 per cent did not, so right before we went on stage, we decided to extend several sections, and it kind of worked.”

Synergy and raw talent are just one way to describe this band’s creative process. “This is the easiest band that I’ve been a part of to write in,” says Herron. “People [in Altamar] actually have the ability to play the idea that others [in the band] come up with.” 

According to Bravo and Herron, Owen is typically in charge of writing lyrics and creating the melodies. “There is no ego when someone writes something, and it has to go that way,” says Bravo. “It’s more like, someone brings an idea, and then we all collectively build on the idea.” 

The band members balance each other’s strengths and fit together in one musically talented puzzle.

Altamar initially identified as an R&B band but took on the contemporary and jazz influence of MacEwan’s music program and Latin influence from Bravo and Gutierrez, ultimately leading to the band’s very own unique blend of genres. “It reminds me of how music was done in the 70s and 80s, where most of the songs have a guitar solo or a piano solo,” says Bravo. “I feel like you don’t really get to hear that much nowadays.  

The band released their debut EP, Altamar, in 2023. Their hit song “Drive Faster” has just over 8,000 streams on Spotify. The track starts smooth and crescendos into a catchy tune with a powerful drumbeat and a euphoric piano solo. Their song “As Close As It Gets” is another highlight on the EP, with its soothing guitar picking, silky vocals, and a smooth neo-soul R&B vibe.

While the band is currently independent, they hope to collaborate with MacEwan’s music production studio, Bent River Records, in the future. “I think it’s the smart choice to make,” says Bravo. “We’re already students, we already use the studios, teachers know us, it’s part of the community, so it makes sense to go that way.”

Altamar has already begun working on their next project. “I suspect this year, there’ll be a lot more shows,” says Herron.


Photos supplied

Aajah Sauter

The Griff

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