Local Austin band ‘Diego Ate the Drummer’ performs, creates music together despite distance

Jessica Garcia, Life and Arts general reporter

Standing in front of a crowd of her high school peers, with a bass guitar strapped to her chest, Isabel Helal turned to bandmates, Diego Yañez-Laguna and Raúl Basualdo, and shared a smile. As they strummed and slapped a few final notes, her grin widened. Then and there, she said she realized she loved to perform.

Diego Ate the Drummer was formed when Helal, Yañez-Laguna and Basualdo were seniors in high school. With Helal on bass and Yañez-Laguna and Basualdo on guitar, the band first took center stage at a music festival created by their classmates as an elaborate senior prank. 

​​“(The experience) was fun enough that we realized we wanted to stay together and keep playing music,” said Helal, an English and linguistics junior.

Since their first experience on the stage, the band has grown immensely in size. New additions include vocalist Valeria Arguelles, drummer Kent Shinnick, synthesizer Gabriel Helal and guitarist Sruja Arya.

Though the band has seven members, not all of them attend UT or even live in Austin, including original members Yañez-Laguna and Basualdo. While Basualdo, a student at A&M, has performed with Diego Ate the Drummer off and on, Yañez-Laguna, a student at MIT and the band’s namesake, has not played with the band in-person since their first performance. Despite the distance, Helal said the band still finds ways to connect and produce music that reflects all of their creative abilities.

“We’re all so far apart in our lives, and yet, we’re still able to create these (songs),” Helal said. “You never know where the future could go, but it’s definitely more for fun than trying to be famous.”

Yañez-Laguna said not being in the same place as the rest of his bandmates poses difficulties on the band’s cohesion, camaraderie and creativity.

“Not being with them is so hard because we can’t really practice or jam together,” Yañez-Laguna said. “It has to all be separate.”

The band communicates primarily through group chats and a collaborative Google Drive where they work together to produce songs that combine each of their unique musical strengths. English senior Arguelles said, while they can’t all practice together, the members still feel an incredible group bond.  

“Combining the type of music that we love with the past experiences we’ve had, and incorporating that into our music has allowed us to develop a deeper relationship,” Arguelles said.

The band performed their first post-high school gig at Swan Dive last October where they played a mix of covers and original songs. 

Currently, Arguelles said the band looks to hone in on their recording skills and perfect their sound. She said the group hopes to continue pursuing their passions and immerse themselves in the Austin music scene. 

“I think we’ll always have it for ourselves,” Helal said. “It’ll always be something that we can work with because it’s not even about just writing or performing. We have this little group of people that just love music — it’s cool to have this connection to people.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect Diego Yañez-Laguna’s full name. The Daily Texan regrets this error.