Drew Torres. Photo courtesy of Fernando Michael and Christopher Vasquez.

New music series takes off, despite pandemic constraints

The Fox & King, Inc premieres their second episode of “B-Sides”

If COVID-19 has taught Fernando Michael anything, it’s how to be resourceful. As the founder and co-owner of The Fox and King, Inc. (TFAK), an independent music agency centered on promoting local talent from across the Bronx, Michael knows how unpredictable the music industry can be.

In an effort to adapt to a new normal during the pandemic, he and co-owner Christopher Vasquez started a livestream series last April called “Nite Sessions,” inviting artists onto their Instagram to perform. At first the series showcased Bronx-based talent, before branching out to other cities across New York State and eventually, other states.

Hoping to capitalize on the series’ initial popularity, Vasquez, who is also in charge of the agency’s public relations, reached out to BronxNet for a potential feature. But the public access network instead persuaded him to turn “Nite Sessions” into a documentary series.

“We just thought it was so cool,” said Vasquez. “We didn’t think that it was something we could do, especially now with the pandemic.”

That inspired the duo, who went on to create the series, “B-Sides,” which they began filming over the summer. The name refers to unknown or secret tracks on an LP.

“We’re playing the B-side,” Vasquez explained. “Or rather, we’re playing the artists that didn’t get discovered.”

While the series focuses on Bronx artists and musicians, it also pays homage to local spots that inspired the artists in their work—-restaurants, cafes, or parks. Essentially, going to all the places that made an impact on the musician’s life, said Michael, “and also featuring that institution at the same time.”

So far, feedback from the community has been positive, especially from business owners who have collaborated with the duo.

“They’re enjoying the extra attention,” said Michael. “Especially during the pandemic.”

After their pilot episode premiered last month, Michael and Vasquez are eagerly waiting to show what else they have in store. The second episode will follow Drew Torres, the lead singer of The Drew Torres Trio, whose music incorporates elements of Reggae, R&B, and Hip hop. Torres’ journey through the borough’s music scene as a Bronx born-and-raised musician will be highlighted, as will the places that have influenced him the most, including trending hotspots such as the Bronx Brewery in Port Morris and the Miles Coffee Bar in Throggs Neck.

Many of the bands being featured are ones that Michael and Vasquez have worked with previously through the TFAK brand, mostly through booking and show production. But networking and building an artists’ community also helped them find more Bronx-based artists to feature in future episodes.

What originally started out as a “pandemic project” has evolved into something more. Neither Michael nor Vasquez has any background in film, so “B-Sides” has been a major experiment for both. Still, they’ve taken the challenge in stride, teaming up with indie film production company MAD Gothic Productions in the hope that they can turn “B-Sides” into a project that a post-pandemic world can embrace.

“Once we get back to ‘normal,’ whenever that day comes,” said Vasquez. “We’ll have something that’s tangible, for people to see what the Bronx is like.”

TFAK has five more episodes of B-Sides planned, to complete their first season. What happens after that remains to be seen but Michael and Vasquez hope to continue bridging the gap between locals artists and their audience.

The next episode of “B-Sides” is set to be released on Wednesday, February 24 on BronxNet.