Gino DePinto, AOL Sweaty, bruised and with half a beer poured directly in my…
- Posted on Aug 4th 2011 4:00PM by Theo Bark
Although the band first experimented with the musical form as an attempt to side-step requests to play acoustic versions of its songs, Mariachi El Bronx quickly became much bigger than a bunch of punk guys throwing on black suits and cranking out tongue-in-cheek boleros. The band, which includes Los Lobos singer David Hidalgo's son Vincent, and Ray Suen, a former touring member of the Killers, is about to embark on a two-month trek opening for Rise Against and the Foo Fighters.
We sat down with singer Matt Caughthran to talk about Morrissey, the band's plans to tour Mexico and South America and his new life as a white mariachi.
How is the band different this time around?
The main difference is confidence. On the first one we still really didn't know what we were doing. This record has all the roots and originality of the first one, it's just evolved more skill-wise. We're doing Norteño music for the first time, the real, kinda circus-y stuff most people would probably describe as "Mexican music." The whole first record we were playing it a little safe, but we really jumped into it on this one.
What's the difference between doing shows as the Bronx and El Bronx?
It's a lot easier when we just do El Bronx shows. We don't gotta f---in' lug gear up and down club stairs, you just gotta put your suit on. It's all kinda the same gig. We're all friends and we do the same s---: Before a Bronx gig we hang out and drink beer, before an El Bronx gig we hang out and drink beer.
What does Vince's dad think of the band?
He digs it, man. When he came in and played on the first record it was a really special moment, 'cause I've known Vince since he was 13. I'm really good friends with his older brother David and him. We grew up together, we went to shows, we kind of discovered punk at the same time, so his dad's seen us go through all the crappy high school bands, and now we're actually doing something. David is drumming in Social Distortion now, and Vince is playing in El Bronx. It's just cool how we could all grow up and we're all doing stuff. I know he's proud -- he's definitely proud of Vince and Dave. I'm sure he probably laughs at my ass sometimes, but you know, it's cool man. Mr. H, he's the greatest.
One of the first releases you did was a cover of Prince's 'I Would Die 4 U.' How did that happen?
Spin called and was like 'Hey do you guys wanna do this Prince cover?' I think they originally wanted it to be the Bronx. It would've been ... that would've sucked.
Something like Alien Ant Farm doing Michael Jackson?
Yeah! That right there, that bad taste in your mouth? That's how the band started, 'cause when you're a rock band or a punk band, you always get that, like "Cover this, or do this acoustic" and it all leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Like, "Can you put a rapper on this song?"
Yeah. So we told Spin we're gonna do it El Bronx, and they were just like, "F---, cool, whatever."
Did you have a guy to quality check the initial recordings, to make sure it was real mariachi?
We have Vincent. We would go to Vince like, "Is this the right rhythm?" I mean, Joby was taking Mariachi lessons on YouTube. It's not like punk rock to where it's like, an explosion of art or whatever the f--- you want it to be, sonically, where anything goes. It's not like that. There are rules. It's not 'Nam. If you disrespect the rules, you disrespect the culture, you disrespect the whole thing. That's not gonna go anywhere. We've always been extremely careful about making sure we're respectful, to pay tribute to the music. It's such a beautiful style of music.
In interviews you've said writing for El Bronx has been the most inspired you've ever been. Why do you think that is?
I think it was just something that was completely unexpected. When I discovered punk music, I knew it was just a matter of time before I was in a punk band. And when that happened, it was amazing, it was great. The years of torment and hell that led to the Bronx getting together, that was an inspired time, but it was kind of an uneducated inspiration. It was awesome for what it was, an explosion of my entire youth going out onto one record, but when we started getting into the El Bronx stuff, it was literally like being lead by a ghost, or a spirit or something. Stuff just kept happening: Joby's writing the guitar parts and lyrics or melodies are spillin' outta me and it was like so outta left field. You never knew that you had this inside you. With every word and every melody came more confidence, like "Look what we're doing! Look what's going on here!" It just kept getting bigger and bigger and more inspired, and it's still going. It's a trip man, it really is. I can't really believe it. We're going on a two-month tour with the Foo Fighters playing Mariachi music!
You said before the Bronx there was all this turmoil. From an outside perspective, it was like you guys formed, you got signed and things just started falling into place.
From the time I was 16 to when the Bronx got signed, when I was 24 or something like that, it was hell, man. I quit a bunch a jobs and OD'd and ... it was just bad. I got kicked outta my apartment, all that stuff. I've always been one of those all-or-nothing types of people, you know? I don't operate with a "Plan B." It's just not me, and that was hell when I was young because I knew that the only thing I wanted to do was sing in a band. I knew it was more than just a f---in' Junior High thought. I knew this was it, it was all I wanted and I just couldn't make it happen. I couldn't get connected with the right people. Same story for all the other guys in the band.
Now we're coming on 10 years in the band and there's not really anything we haven't done. The music industry now is so rad, man. It's just totally f---ed. It's like a total renaissance of ... something.
That's the first time we've heard it described as "rad."
It's just rad, because there's really good music coming out right now, and people are stoked and excited. There's not, like, that giant sigh you used to hear, where it's just the same s--- and labels are pushing crappy bands down radio's throat. All that's dead.It's awesome.
Have you guys got that Mexican Morrissey fan base yet?
Not yet, not yet. We're working on it.
That's when you've made it.
We're trying to take over the world, to be honest with you. I think we gotta get El Bronx into South America. Do all of Mexico, tour Mexico and really go for it. It would be awesome. Did you hear that s--- Morrissey said about Norway. He said, "The shooting in Norway was tragic, but it's nothing compared to the slaughter that goes on in McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken every day."
Meat is murder.
That's amazing. His Hispanic following, he's got it on lock down. If we can get in there somehow, some way ... For the most part, it's been pretty positive feedback form the Hispanic community. As long as you come at it from an honest place and from a respectful place, I think you're gonna be alright. We're writing original songs and it's something that we really love doing, and I think that translates.
As long as you don't suck, that helps too.
Yeah, you're right. It all stops if you suck.