¡Viva Los Guapos!

May 8, 2014 |
Justin Valdez y Los Guapos

Justin Valdez y Los Guapos

Justin Valdez y Los Guapos is ready to rock your world with its CD release this month. Gonna Have a Party! is a sprawling multi-genre, Latin-heavy hip-shakin’ good time. The album begins with the band theme song “Aye Vienen Los Guapos,” full of fantastic energy and tremendous guitar.

Various influences are converging on the super catchy tracks, and singer/songwriter Valdez said via email that he thinks that is what makes the band’s sound. “I am channeling my guitar influences like Link Wray and Jimi Hendrix, while the rest of the band is channeling their influences like Santana and WAR. Vocally, I channel Hasil Adkins and Lux Interior, again that makes the sound ’cause the other guys have no clue who those guys even are! Two worlds collide to make one sound. I think if there was one act that we would compare to it would be Eric Burdon era WAR.”

In the rockin’ title cut, the listener is invited to “lose your mind for a time.” Valdez trades tasty guitar riffs with great keyboard work from Richard Verdugo. Valdez’s lead guitar work is strong throughout the whole 15-track offering.

Several tracks are instrumental. “Tortilla Maker Twist,” “The Flyin’ Mayan” and “Plethora of Piñatas” particularly stand out. Western swing guitar meets Sonoran meets Tex-Mex.

Song 10, “In the Van” is silly fun with almost a surfer rock feel prevailing, featuring more hot licks from Valdez and the band cooking away. Keys and smoking percussion stand out. On “You Got to Try, Girl,” a person of the female persuasion is urged to “try really hard if you want me to be your man.” Some sweet saxophone and a bit of a horn section make a fevered appearance. The album concludes with “El Cucuy,” a bit of a devilish scary number with organ, sound effects, Valdez’s evil laughter and killer guitar.

The different styles come together seamlessly, which Valdez attributes to setting out to make a concept album, “the kind you put on and listen to from start to finish,” he wrote via email. “I think people have gone astray from that. I don’t want someone to buy one MP3 for 99 cents, I want them to buy 15 songs for $10. It’s not just about one song, it’s about an album, it’s about an experience, it’s about a musical journey through many genres and feelings. The songs were arranged on this album to take you on a magic carpet ride, without the hangover and crash the next morning. The album is exactly one full hour, which with all the other ‘seamless’ planning, was coincidence.”

Other musicians in the band and on the album include: Adam Block, bass; Joe Cruz, congas; Philbert Mackowiak, timbales; Manny Moralez, drums; The Deacon David Clark, backup vocals; Joel Dunst, additional percussion; Marty Muerto and Eric Eulogy, additional backup vocals. Gonna Have a Party! was recorded, mixed and mastered locally by Petie Ronstadt at LandMark Sound Recorders.

Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. 4th Ave., hosts Justin Valdez Y Los Guapos on Friday, May 30 at 10 p.m., with special guests San Crudelio. $5 gets you in. For more info, visit Facebook.com/JustinValdezyLosGuapos.

Over email, Valdez chats with editor Jamie Manser about the past, the present, the album, and future plans. (The following Q&A was edited for length and clarity).

Z: What have you been up to over the last couple of years? The last time I saw you was in 2008!

V: Time sure flies when you are having fun! Since then… I got married (thanks eHarmony!) and have a mijo on the way. I can see us having a few more too, and maybe finally forming the Valdez 5. It’s always hard to answer the question, “what have you been up to,” mainly because I have always done the same thing. I have been playing in bands since the tender age of 15 (I’m now 37). I don’t watch TV, can’t even tell you the last movie I saw and do not play video games. My life has always been about playing music and writing songs.  My wife is very creative as well and supports my ventures and habits.

Z: Going back, how long were you in the Last Call Brawlers? Is that project still alive?

V: I formed Last Call Brawlers in 1999, shortly after I met Marty Muerto and Eric Eulogy and we have been together ever since. LCB is still together, we play out about three times a year. These guys are my best and longest friends. However, I have way too much music inside me to only play on a stage a few times a year. LCB released an album in 2012, and will be recording and releasing a new full length album this year.

Z: How long has Justin Valdez y Los Guapos been around? How did the band start?

Justin Valdez, left.

Justin Valdez, left.

V: I’ve had a 4 track recorder full of songs that were just sitting there. One day I just decided to go for it and put out a solo album. In 2012 I released “Duce-Seven-Off-Suit.” I had Eric, Joel and Marty from LCB back me up in the studio for this. It got some praise here and there and some spins on Al Perry’s World Famous Clam Bake. But I needed to start playing these songs out live to do them justice. So I played a few solo shows, just me and my acoustic, and also some shows with some hired guns backing me up. People seemed to dig, so I decided to find a full time backup band. I put these songs up on craigslist and ran an ad. A few days later, Joe Cruz (congas) responded. He came over, we jammed a time or two then he said “I know a keyboard player, can I bring him over”? I said yes, and then the next jam, the keyboard player (Richard Verdugo) said, “I know a drummer and Timbales player.”

We still needed a bass player though, so I put it out on Facebook. Jamie Laboz (Modeens) sent me a message and referred me to Adam Block. Quickly, the old songs from my solo album were obsolete and I was writing these Latin sounding songs. David Clark (Chango Malo) and I have played in other bands as well, and he quickly joined as the “hype man” and backup vocals. Joe, Richard, Manny and Philbert all had been in Tejano and Tez-Mex cover bands previously. This is their first original project; they had always just been in cover bands, except Adam and Dave. Los Guapos will have been around for a full year in June and have played out about seven times only. But those shows have included The Low Brow Shakedown, HOCO Fest Latin night, opening for Reverend Horton Heat, Dick Dale and also a small AZ weekend tour; Prescott, Phoenix and Tucson back to back to back.  This is all new. “Bean Dip for Two” and “In the Van” got re-vamped, originally on Deuce Seven, but all the other (songs) are brand new.

Z: How long have you been playing guitar?

V: My first guitar teacher was Robbie Lochner, Roc-Lochner, Great White, etc. I learned enough to play power chords in a punk band in high school but that was about it. However, the experience from that band, Social Outcast, left a lasting impression. We played the DPC (Downtown Performance Center) about once a month and recorded an album in Nogales. There will never be another DPC. Later, I started taking lessons from Tommy Tucker. His methods and theory have made me the player I am today. Growing up there was always a guitar around. My dad played in a band as well.

Z: How long has this album been in the works?

V: In December of 2013, I told the guys I wanted to get us in the recording studio. Coming from the cover band scene, except Adam and Dave, this was all new to them. So, I wrote out a schedule and stepped up as band leader. At that time, we were only going to record a five song EP. But, since inspiration is everywhere – many times in the shower I get an idea, and end up on the bed in a towel with my guitar and note pad – I was able to write the full length album. I write all the lyrics, and most the time will have a song about 90% complete before showing it the band for their input. At that time it’s a group effort, but just to polish it up. I always strive to do something different and something I have not done before. We recorded at LandMark Sound Recorders here in Tucson. Petie Ronstadt (Ronstadt Generations Band) recorded, mixed and mastered the album. He went above and beyond as a sound engineer. He really got into the recording and put his two cents in which was much appreciated, him being such an accomplished musician an all. Example of him getting into it: One night he had a gig and came home late and had a burst of inspiration to try something different in the mixing process. He started playing with “Flyin Mayan” and the result is it sounding like an old field recorder capturing a Zulu tribe getting abducted by aliens….

We set up in his studio on a Friday night and got dialed in. We went back Saturday morning at 8 a.m. and had all 15 songs recorded by noon. Almost all the songs on the album were nailed on the first take live, except vocals were another session. Mixing took a few sessions, but only ’cause it’s a seven piece band.

Z: Are the musicians on the album going to also be at the CD release party?

V: Yes. This is a seven piece band. With this many people, it’s on the ridiculous side and every sound man’s nightmare.

Z: Are there any other plans in the works for the band this summer?

V: After the CD comes out I intend to keep the ball rolling. I would love to continue to open up for my long time influences at places like Rialto and Congress. At the same time, I want expose this band to the scene I came from, punk and rockabilly, which is one reason we are having the album release party at Surly Wench. And also, I would love to continue to play on a regular basis in Phoenix and Prescott. I feel this band has a real good shot a going somewhere and representing Tucson and Arizona as “its sound.”

Category: DOWNTOWN / UNIVERSITY / 4TH AVE, Entertainment, Events, MUSIC