“Punk is being yourself without worrying about the consequences of being yourself, and being true, and that’s what we’re doing, that’s what we do in this music.”
Tony Martin, Yanga
An LA Weekly article led me to the psychedelic punk/cumbia sound of Thee Commons. David Pechaco, the lead singer and one of the guitar players, invited me out to see a few local cumbia musicians at a bar called La Cita in downtown LA. In true punk style, we got there and we couldn’t all get in because of a weird ID issue. So we chatted on the concrete benches in the open night air instead. David then introduced me to John D’Alessandro, Eduardo Valencia and Tony Martin – together they are 3/5ths of the band Yanga, who were playing that night (there was also this kickass electro duo called Sin Color you just HAVE to listen to – those vocals are to die for).
It was such a warm and welcoming conversation, and all of the musicians were so honest about the experience of combining traditions from their family’s music influences, (particularly around rhythm) and making both tradition and punk their own. I definitely connected to the conversation around tradition, identity and rhythm- sometimes, in this life of an artist, it feels like the drumbeat is all that’s keeping me grounded.
In the conversation, I learned that like me, many of them first picked up punk in the city that they live in, but slowly over time through their growing love of music, turned to face the sounds that were active in their homes from their parent’s generation. Like my music, Thee Commons and Yanga sometimes get comments that their sound is not ‘true’ to it’s influences – but David clarifies that the sounds are always mixing and right now we just happen to be the musicians who are trying out how all these influences fit together. I came to realize, that’s kinda a really special thing.
David on guitars and identity:
John and David in conversation about relating to influences:
Eduardo on rhythm:
Eduardo and Tony on what is punk:
I forgot my digital SLR on my way to the show, and had to make due with my phone for photos and video!!!
Photos B. Singh