Posted | Comments Off
Life keeps Los Lonely Boys open-minded
EDITOR’S NOTE: Three Los Lonely Boys concerts scheduled this weekend were postponed Thursday, Feb. 28, due to an injury sustained by guitarist/singer Henry Garza. Click here for more details.
BY STEVEN MARK / email@example.com
“Out of the mouth of babes,” goes the proverb that suggests the wisdom of children. And it was out of the mouth of a child that Los Lonely Boys got its name — a name that, even as the years go by and the boys became men, becomes more and more fitting.
“Our dad had written a song for us when we were younger called, ‘I’m Just a Lonely Boy,’” said bassist-singer JoJo Garza, who with brothers Henry (lead guitar and vocals) and Ringo Jr. (percussion and vocals) comprise the Grammy-winning power rock trio. “We were coming up with names, and Ringo popped out ‘Los Lonely Boys’ and it stuck. He was probably 7 or 8 years old.”
The band has been one of the top touring bands for nearly a decade after several years of climbing the ladder. Despite their longevity in the rough-and-tumble music industry, they maintain a good-time, youthful attitude about life, with Garza joking and jiving throughout our phone interview.
“Basically, I’m the leader of the band,” he said at one point, discussing how the trio works together. “No, not really.”
For the record, he said the band works collaboratively, with all three members writing lyrics and tunes and developing the arrangements together. “We’re all grown men and we’re brothers. And we all have the same frame of mind and mentality about what we want to do with our music.”
Told they would be performing here a week after Carlos Santana, Garza said, “Who’s that? — That’s a joke, dude. Carlos is awesome. What a great human being, aside from being a great musician.”
Asked about their penchant for injecting Spanish-language phrases into their songs, Garza said, “If we could speak Chinese or Japanese really well, we’d be doing the same thing in that language. It’s just that we know a little bit of Spanish, so we use it whenever we think it’s OK.”
THEIR JOCULARITY doesn’t mean they don’t have some thoughtful insights into what they do and the success they’ve had. The band’s popularity crosses many boundaries, with their bluesy, Latin-inflected melodies pleasing classic rock fans, and songs like “Forgiven” and their 2004 breakout hit “Heaven” gaining a following among religious rock fans.
Garza doesn’t deny the connection, but says there’s more to it than that.
“‘Faith-based’ is a better word for it,” he said of the spirituality of their music. “‘Religious’ is a pretty strong word, but it’s definitely faith-based. It’s really cool when people can make that connection, and the connection is, it’s about love. It’s about love for people, it’s about love for yourself, it’s about having good times, it’s about realizing that you have bad times and getting through it. We’re human just like everyone else, but somehow we were blessed with an ability to talk about it in a very large scale.”
The Garzas’ lives, while always immersed in music, have involved enough pain to make their songs real. They started making music together as kids with their father, Ringo Sr., who was in a Latin band with his brothers but formed the group when one of them died.
The “family country music band” had grandiose plans, going to Nashville several times in the 1990s to try to break into the big time, but it wasn’t easy. The group was the only Latino act in the country-music capital and wasn’t readily accepted. Garza said the experience toughened them.
“When you’re lucky enough to be a youngster and experience real life and real-life situations, all because of something like music, it really changes you,” Garza said. “I can remember looking at people who were talking down to us while we were on stage. I can remember thinking to myself, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t be in here.’ And then by the end of the song, they were buying us cherry Cokes and beers for my dad and were like, ‘You guys are just like us!’ It really opens up your eyes and your heart.”
Striking out as a trio in the late ’90s, the brothers came out with “Heaven” in 2004, which went gold on several charts. Subsequent albums (“Sacred” in 2006 and “Forgiven” in 2008) did not reach that lofty plateau, but their virtuoso instrumenal work — Henry and JoJo also do some neat tricks while playing guitar — closely balanced vocal harmonies and lively stage presence, in addition to lyrics that tug at the heartstrings of the romantic and economically downtrodden, have kept them at marquee status.
Their latest album, “Rockpango,” also shows their capacity for growth, featuring unusual arrangements such as a string quartet for the tunes “Road to Nowhere” and “Smile.” Garza expressed pride in the album and said the band’s attitude is to always keep evolving.
“Don’t ever think that you have ever heard what Los Lonely Boys are capable of doing,” Garza said, “because we will flip you on top of your head. We’re not solidified into any one corner; we’re not solidified into a statue thing. We’re fluid, like Bruce Lee said.”
The group has stayed true to its roots. The brothers all still live in San Angelo, the midsize, ethnically mixed West Central Texas town where they grew up.
“People ask us, which one lives in L.A., which lives in New York, and we say, ‘None of us.’ Austin, or Dallas? No, we’re still here in San Angelo,” Garza said. “It’s a small community. I really love being in the big city, but when we get to a really tiny town, that’s when I say, ‘This is just like home.’”
That connection makes their visits to Hawaii, with its midsize towns, multicultural population and natural beauty, especially sweet.
“Hawaii is kismet,” Garza said. “The people are just so embracing and warm, going there is like going home. … I know it’s weird because we’re not Hawaiian, but we are people, and when we get there we feel the love from the people of the islands.
“We didn’t buy our first eggs from the grocery store. We used to get them from the chickens. And what I’m getting at is when you’re that close to nature and that close to where it all begins, when you’ve done farm work and all that, you can really appreciate what we have.”