Puya is widely known as the most prominent Latin Metal band historically to come out of the Caribbean, and for over two decades, they have built a loyal fan base all over the world with their unique blend of metal which has earned them the respect and admiration from the music industry as well as their faithful followers world wide.
They began their journey back in 1990 in their mother land Puerto Rico as an instrumental power trio called “Whisker Biscuit”. The band was founded by guitarist Ramon Ortiz and bassist Harold Hopkins who were close friends since their elementary school days. Soon they recruited drummer Ed Paniagua, who joined the band soon after finishing his studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
With their fusion of heavy rock, funk, jazz and latin grooves they quickly started to gain attention and building a solid fan base in Puerto Rico. Still the band felt that they were missing the vocal element which would allow them to have a deeper connection with their audience.
Puya began their search for a lead singer, and after having played with various ones, they finally crossed paths with Sergio Curbelo. This evolution broadened the band’s musical spectrum and Curbelo’s versatility and wide vocal range took the band to another level.
In 1992 the band relocated to Ft.Lauderdale Florida, where they spent the next 5 years playing the local rock/metal scene as an independent band while defining their unique sound. This is when they decided to change their band name to one that better suited their plan, and Puya was born…
In Ft. Lauderdale they met musician/producer Jeff Renza who took a genuine interest in the band, he saw the raw potential and convinced the band to record their first demo at his own home studio. After the six song demo titled “Whisker Biscuit” was done the band played gigs state wide with every band in the South Florida music scene, and Puya began to expand their territory. They quickly landed an independent deal with Noiz Boiz Records who produced their first self-titled studio album engineered by Jeff Renza. This album changed everything, opening all the doors for Puya, and growing their fan base as they started to play bigger venues.
After their performance at the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami, and the CMJ Convention in NY in 1995 the band got undeniable attention from the music industry.
They met world renowned producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel), who took such an interest in Puya that in 1996 brought the band to Los Angeles in order to land a publishing deal with Rondor Music (Lance Freed).
Once under the Rondor umbrella the band started recording demos in Los Angeles while playing shows in the L.A. scene such as “La Banda Elastica Fest” at the Universal Amphitheater with bands like Jaguares and Molotov. They also played the “Latin Music Festival” at the Hollywood Bowl with mayor acts like Ruben Blades and Willie Colon, being the only rock band on that bill however, because of their great appeal and versatility they were welcomed in nearly every kind of show. They consistently performed at rock clubs in Hollywood such as The Whisky a Go Go, The Roxy, The Troubador and House of Blues among others. Puya was quickly spreading its unique brand of rock all over the west coast.
In May 1996 the band did their first show overseas in Bogota, Colombia at “Rock Al Parque Festival” Parque Simon Bolivar (soccer stadium) were they played in front of 60,000 people. Puya was the only independent band on the festival.
In 1997 the band landed their first mayor label deal with MCA Records and by 1998 released their first internationally distributed album titled “Fundamental” produced by Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolalla (Molotov, Juanes).
With songs like Oasis, Sal Pa’ Fuera, Montate and title track Fundamental, the record quickly became a staple in the spanish and american rock scene making Puya one of the most important bands of its genre and winning them a Billboard Award for Best Spanish Rock Album, and an ASCAP Award for the song “Oasis”.
The band toured relentlessly over the next 4 years in the U.S., Canada, South and Central America on mayor tours such as the Ozzfest 99, Red Hot Chilipeppers, Iron Maiden, Sepultura, Slipknot, System of a Down, Hatebreed, Incubus, Pantera among many others.
By the year 2000 Puya took part in rock compilations and sound tracks such as Heavy Metal 2000 (animated film) with the song “Tirale” produced by Gustavo Santaolalla, and the album “Outlandos D’ America” (a spanish rock tribute to The Police by Myles Copeland) with the song “Almas” produced by Bob Ezrin.
In 2001 Puya released their second album with MCA titled “Union”, produced by Garth Richardson (Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mudvaine) and Andrew Mudrock (Powerman 5000, Godsmack). Songs like Ride, Erizo and Pa Ti Pa Mi made this album a solid follow up to Fundamental.
Puya continued to tour until the end of 2001 when the events of 9/11 took place causing the band to cancel their entire touring schedule for the following year. Once they finished their contractual obligations with MCA, the band decided to take a long awaited rest.
In March 2002, Puya reunited for a headlining concert at the Tito Puente Amphitheater in Puerto Rico which was recorded and made into a Live DVD that was later released, produced by bassist Harold Hopkins.
For the next years Puya remained in hiatus while its members pursued their solo projects.
In 2010 Puya released their EP titled “Areyto” making its debut at #1 on iTunes Alternative & Rock Latino Top Albums chart upon release.
From 2012 to the present the band has reunited for special shows including one in 2014 which was recorded for the live album “Vital” and that same year the band headlined Cuba’s “Patria Grande Festival”, making this the band’s first visit to their sister Island, and being the first latin/metal band from Puerto Rico to be invited to perform and represent their culture at this historical event. This festival represents one the most important cultural exchange events in all of Latin America and is a huge honor for the band to step up and rock the house.
In 2018 singer Sergio Curbelo left the band and a new singer, Diego Romero took over. They headlined the “Viva La Rock Fest” and the band plans to keep writing new material.
(left to right): Jaime O. Cruz Jr. (backing vocals), Ramón Ortiz (guitar), Diego Romero (lead vocals), Anthony Carillo (congas), Oscar Santiago (percussion), Ed Paniagua (drums), Harold Hopkins (bass).