Battle of the Bands winners’ path to Bullstock

USF-based bands, including Hybris and MOKA the Band, worked their way from small audiences to one of thousands at USF Week’s Bullstock. INSTAGRAM/@hybris_band

Continuing the week of USF fun and pride, Bullstock will feature five bands from the Tampa Bay Area and beyond. Battle of the Bands winners, Hybris and MOKA the Band, will open the show for DREAMERS, Olivia O’Brien and Neon Trees.

Lot 35 will be filled with Tampa Bay food trucks, carnival games and the highly anticipated concert. The Campus Activities Board (CAB) is expecting 5,000 attendees, according to CAB Coordinator Alexis Fuentes Roman.

Happening in-person for the first time since 2019, Bullstock will not vary from the traditional style it previously followed.

“We are following a very similar type of talent, such as alternative music, as we have done in 2018 with acts that we brought, such as Time Flies and other bands that students fit within the alternative/indie genre,” Fuentes Roman said.

The first band — Hybris — was the Fan Favorite at Battle of the Bands, and will open the concert at 6 p.m. with its upbeat rock music.

Hybris debuted in Tampa with its Battle of the Bands performance. The band originated as a passion project for junior industrial engineering major Jose Manuel Lujan-Suarez, the lead singer, in his home city Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

“Last semester, I pretty much spent the whole semester trying to look for the right people for this project to become successful,” Lujan-Suarez said.

He met Hybris’ guitarist, freshman computer science major Kay Riddle, when they pledged to their fraternity last semester. Riddle appealed to Lujan-Suarez due to his music work in the library after his study time.

“We were both in the library and we started working on music,” Riddle said. “He saw me working on beats in the library all the time.”

Lujan-Suarez met the band’s drummer, junior mechanical engineering major Dimitri Tsolakakis, through a class they shared and by seeing one of his bands, Primo, perform. 

After seeing Tsolakakis perform, Lujan-Suarez was determined to have him as a part of his developing project. Tsolakakis is very close friends with the band’s bass player, Xander Mars, who is also a part of Primo.

Pianist and sophomore chemistry major Mikayla Stokes found the band through her close friend who is in the same fraternity as Lujan-Suarez and Riddle. Her friend was the original pianist, but due to a busy schedule, he handed off the position to her.

“He knew that I could play just as well,” Stokes said. “I was helping him with the songs, so I knew all of them.”

Following Hybris at 6:40 p.m., MOKA the Band, Judges’ Choice winner of Battle of the Bands, will perform. MOKA started with two members, recent alum and guitarist Morgan Matlaga and senior marketing major and vocalist Karina Jose. The name of the band is derived from a combination of their first names.

Matlaga and Jose met through an organization on-campus that they were both a member of. When they realized they both had musical talent, they decided to start a band.

“We just joined forces,” Jose said. “We would always go and play at the garage and do a couple of covers.”

Through their performances, drummer and junior engineering major Tzuriel Garcia, who they call TZ, was inspired to link up with the band.

“When they asked me to jam with them and see if we could play together, I was down for it,” Garcia said. “It’s very interesting to play a different genre and to expand your horizons.”

MOKA doesn’t have a defined genre, but Matlaga explained that the band rotates between some alternative, indie and rock performances.

At Battle of the Bands, all members of MOKA felt the energy of the audience, having a different experience than their typical top-of-the-garage performance.

“We’ve never performed in front of a crowd that large,” Jose said. “It was really intense to have a whole room looking at you.”

The members of MOKA look forward to performing at Bullstock and experiencing the other bands and headliners playing as audience members as well.

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to perform at Bullstock,” Matlaga said. “We’re excited to thank the USF community, and we want everyone to come out.”