Photo courtesy of Zane Daniel.

I don’t know what the best metaphor for Ozone’s 2020 genesis is. A forest fire clearing away the old growth so new trees can rise? A catastrophic flood providing a break from decades of drought? Whatever it is, it’s another way of saying there were silver linings in the cloud of the pandemic, and, also, the silver lining is a hardcore band.

This was a thought I had on my way home from talking to the members of Ozone, a local hardcore five-piece that are kind of a big deal, despite having played only six months of shows. The band formed at the end of 2019, when vocalist Joe Kelly introduced guitarist Mikey Razo, a new buddy with whom he’d bonded over music, to Ty Yarborough, an old buddy and a guitarist with whom Kelly had been in a band called Sold Short. The three of them jammed with two of Kelly and Yarborough’s other friends, bassist Clayton Newman and drummer Josaph, all of whom had developed their prodigious skills playing in metalcore bands at all-ages places like The Door in the Stockyards, then later at 1919 Hemphill.

Because of lockdown orders, Ozone gestated until last July, when they blasted, seemingly out of nowhere, fully formed and ready to attack like a swarm of yellowjackets boiling out of a hole in a vacant lot. But the lockdown was to their benefit. With venues shuttered, they had ample time to write and record music, tracking their songs at Cloudland Recording Studios with their friend Rubio and putting them on social media. Their first two releases — a self-titled four-song EP and a four-song follow-up EP entitled Ozone 2 — caught on and spread like a lit cigarette tossed into a field of dead grass.

Ozone: “We’re a true-blue hardcore band, and I think people want that kind of hardcore punk attitude.”
Photo courtesy of Zane Daniel.
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Ten months and a dozen or so shows across Texas and three other states later (their first three shows were in Denton, Chicago, and St. Louis), Ozone is at the forefront of Texas’ hardcore scene. While their releases — to which they added a pair of digitally released songs in December that are coming out in the spring as a vinyl flexi-disc from San Antonio-based Coreuption Records — did fire up interest in the band, Ozone also knows the pandemic has driven people to the shows, a response to a year and a half of being cooped up at home.

“It was kind of a perfect storm of things,” Yarborough said. “People were eager to see bands again.”

But he also thinks being a hardcore band has a lot of appeal.

“We’re a true-blue hardcore band,” he said, “and I think people want that kind of hardcore punk attitude. Not that it’s nonexistent around here, but I think most of the hardcore, most of the punk bands around here are always metal-tinged. Power Trip … a lot of bands bear [Power Trip’s] influence.”

The impact of Power Trip, the massively popular Dallas-based thrash band that folded in the wake of singer Riley Gale’s sudden death in August 2020, cannot be understated. Certainly, Yarborough prefers to highlight his band’s hardcore foundation, but he reveres Power Trip the same as everyone else. “Power Trip is in the DNA we’re born of. … We want to be a hardcore band, but we’re not trying to limit what we’re willing to sound like.”

Ozone’s amenity to letting the other genres seep into their sound is clearly resonating with their fans, and the fans keep coming back, along with more and more new ones. They are also happy to play mixed bills. Razo cites a recent show at Tulips FTW that was “us, a death metal band, and a regular rock band, and everybody there seemed to be into all three.”

Kelly said the scene appears to be “popping off — all these local bands that are coming out right now, whether they’re metal, hardcore, D-beat, whatever, everyone has been excited about the scene. People have just been going off for bands lately. Every show we’ve been a part of, people show up really excited to see bands.”

Ozone’s goal is to keep their fans’ enthusiasm stoked.

“Honestly, we want to keep building the scene here,” Yarborough said. “We see the same people consistently at the shows, but we also see new people every time. … And right now, it’s like everyone has a clean slate to come out with new projects and gain steam and get rolling, because of how everything fell off [in 2020 and 2021]. I think it’s a great time for new bands.”