From emo-punk to Arkansas space rock, unassuming music impresario Jonathan Lee Gonzales, an entrepreneurial Texas A&M visualization major with his own record label, is orchestrating a three-city Texas tour this June to showcase more than half of the 17 unique bands represented by his label, Sunday Drive Records.
In addition to promoting his clients’ music, scheduling concerts and distributing their recordings, the tireless 20-year-old senior from San Antonio, melds his passion for music with his love for graphic design, by designing the bands’ album covers and other marketing collateral.
“I love everything about graphic design — I have since I was a junior in high school,” he said. “I would make the album art and flyers for the band I was in, and as we played with more local bands, I would start making the flyers for those shows. I noticed that many bands weren't conveying their band accurately and a lot of artists didn't know how to accurately ‘brand’ their music, and I wanted to fix that.”
A one-time drummer for the band, Evident, Gonzales said he understands how hard it is for an emerging artist to gain recognition. During his freshman year in college, he stopped performing to pursue the business side of the music industry, establishing Sunday Drive Records initially to promote his friends’ bands.
Using skills enhanced by his graphic design education at Texas A&M, Gonzales creates a visual identity for his clients, mostly Texas-based punk and rock artists, and an eclectic mix of bands from nearby states and, more recently, from Canada and South Wales.
As a student saddled with a full course load in a very demanding degree program, Gonzales said he has become a master of time management, using nights, weekends and breaks from school to keep his label afloat. Yet despite the long hours, he wholeheartedly recommends that students not wait until graduation to pursue their passions.
“Just do it,” he said. “Especially when you’re young and have the energy and the time.”
His clients fall within a wide spectrum of modern alternative musical styles ranging from punk to electronica, plus a few cultivating their own unique genre. Mundy’s Bay, for example, is a Quebec-based post-punk/new wave band, and Lovelettertypewriter and Donna Hayward are emo bands from Texas. South Wales-based Forrest is an alternative band, and I was Afraid has a unique “Arkansas space rock” sound. Other bands are described as ambient electronica, indie and post-hardcore.
Gonzales runs his label from his off-campus College Station apartment and gets cost-saving assistance from friends and former bandmates who help distribute the label’s music and often staff concert events.
Blessed with friends and client musicians who value philanthropy, Sunday Drive Records supports charities such as KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), which helps immigrant children find places to live in the United States.
Though school pressure will wane when Gonzales graduates next spring, his demanding schedule will not. He plans to grow the label, expanding services and tour schedules, and of course, to get a day job — at least, for a while.
“My priority is to have a graphic design job and do this as well,” he said. “My dream is to eventually do the label full time.”