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El Toro de la Muerte had already racked up more than half a decade of history by the time our readers awarded the band first place in the rock category of this year's inaugural Indy Music Awards.

Ironically enough, it was less than a year ago that the group lost its original drummer and was considering changing its name, or disbanding entirely. After flirting with math rock, Americana, indie rock and most everything in between, El Toro appeared to have reached a kind of crossroads.

They've since committed to a tighter, more danceable and surprisingly accessible sound. You can hear it on their long-awaited debut EP, whose release they'll celebrate with four other bands this Friday at Zodiac.

All of which is nearly as gratifying as the time that "Mama," the beloved bartendress at the Tam O'Shanter pub near where the group used to practice, spent an evening trying to concoct a special drink in the band's honor.

The "El Toro de la Muerte" went through nearly a dozen incarnations in one night, beginning with an off-putting mixture of Red Bull, grenadine and whiskey. The drink never took off, but the band might yet.

The musicians have acquired a lot of perspective, not only on their own music but also the local scene from which it emerged. They share that in this week's cover story, which begins here.

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