Born in the Barrio
If the United States still prides itself on being a melting pot, then Los Mocosos just might be the ultimate American band. Born in San Francisco’s Mission District, the group shares its DNA with Santana, Malo, and War - classic bands agile in their crossing of both musical and cultural borders. Their subversive, conscious, party music - laced with Latin horns, funky bass riffs and hip-hop scratching uplifts the listener while delivering pointed social commentary disguised as a rockin’ good time.
If you ever wondered what it would have sounded like if Steely Dan had recorded “Oye Como Va” instead of Santana, check out their song “Volvieron” on their album, American Us. As lead singer Manny Martinez puts it, “Yes, we are Latinos. And yes, we were born in the United States. We have extremely strong Hispanic and American cultural upbringings and as artists, it doesn’t get any better than this because we are able to incorporate everything we love musically and transcend being labeled.”
They’ve toured with Santana and Los Lobos, played Washington’s Kennedy Center and New York’s Central Park. They received a San Francisco Wammy Award (for Best International Band apparently they don’t have a Best American Band category), a California Music Award (for Outstanding Latin Album), and were part of the groundbreaking compilation Escena Alterlatina: The Future Sound In Español, the only Latin rock compilation to ever crack the Billboard Latin charts.
After a several year hiatus, the good times are back for Los Mocosos. They return to the world stage with a new album, All Grown Up - slated for release in late summer of 2020. To inspire their fans until then, the group is dropping the single, “United We Stand,” which addresses the blatant authoritarianism plaguing the streets and pushes back against police brutality, immigrant persecution, deportation, racism, and protest turbulence.
Los Mocosos are messengers at a time of tremendous change and social upheaval for Latinos and all peoples around the globe. But they don't take themselves so seriously that they don't have fun. Audience members have been known to throw Kleenex at the stage -- for their snotty noses but now they’re “All Grown Up” and using the Kleenex to wipe the noses of their grandkids. "It's inspiring and fulfilling because it shows we're doing something right," trombone player Victor Castro says about the band's fame. "Our music has no boundaries or colors, and we enjoy people enjoying what we do. In the end, everyone walks away with a smile."
Latin | Rock | World Music/Contemporary
LOS MOCOSOS is ALL GROWN UP: Legendary Bay Area band to release first album in 15 years
SOMOS LOS MOCOSOS
"Los Mocosos is a gumbo of everything we grew up listening to, like salsa, hip-hop, soul, jazz and the Monkees," is how trombonist and co-bandleader Victor Castro described the sound of the band whose name translates loosely to snotty-nose-brats in a San Francisco Chronicle article in 2004. “We all love what we do, and I think it shows when we perform that we're having a good time."
After a several year hiatuses, the good times are back for Los Mocosos as they return to the world stage with a new album to be released on September 18, 2020 titled, “All Grown Up.” But to inspire their fans until then the group is busting out with the single, “United We Stand,” that speaks to the blatant authoritarianism plaguing the streets of police brutality, immigrant persecution, deportation, racism, and protest turbulence.
BROWN AND PROUD
Los Mocosos grew out of a series of 1996 garage jams in the Mission District. Formed by bassist Happy Sanchez and Victor Castro, the band got its recording legs hanging around the halls of now-defunct Aztlan Records, the first Spanish-language rock label in the country. Their first album, “Mocos Locos” was an underground barrio classic with themes like “Brown and Proud,” and remakes of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’, “The Lonely Bull,” and cantina classics, “La Boa” and “Volver Volver.”
Out the box people saw Los Mocosos as a continuance of the 1970s Bay Area Latin rock movement, a scene that never really went away. Santana, Malo, Azteca, Sapo, Dakila and others, served as inspirations but the group added a twist that introduced audiences to new sounds in Latin pop like reggaeton, ska and rap.
“We made sure we didn’t leave out any of the sauce of the Mission District, all that Soul and Latin Funk,” says Shorty Ramos, saxophonist with Los Mocosos. “People would ask if we played Salsa and we’d say No, yeah we put a Latin beat in there, but we twist it around. We had a band member that would say we take the clave and turn it in knots.”
On the strength of “Mocos Locos” (Crazy Boogers), it landed them on the first WATCHA Tour, the pioneer Latin alternative cavalcade. Los Mocosos got rave review performing alongside Café Tacuba, Molotov, and others as the world was becoming aware of the neophyte Rock-en-Español movement. But the group fell apart when it played the San Jose stopover at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds and the lead vocalist refused to go onstage. But in a matter of months Los Mocosos were back on the scene with a new singer and a new attitude.
SHADES OF BROWN
Their follow-up album,“Shades of Brown,” unveiled the dynamic voice and charisma of Manny Martinez, who helped Los Mocosos continue to ascend alongside a new crop of California Latin fusion bands like Ozomatli, B-Side Players, Yeska and others. Tunes like “Spill the Wine,” “Soy Callejero,” “Caliente,” and their tribute to El Rey, “Tito Puente”, were street anthems fusing funk, salsa, rock, rap, and ska. Proud of their Mission District roots Los Mocosos took a hard look at the gentrification of their ‘hood on “Mi Barrio Loco,” one of the first bands to address the issue.
“American Us,” came next and was produced by Greg Landau, the acclaimed award-winning producer, and featured a new band minus Happy Sanchez, who left the group in 2002 to pursue other endeavors. It was a much slicker commercialized production that include studio mixes by Garry Hughes and Donal Hodgson (Sting, Vitamin C, Tina Turner). But the synthesis was the same with Lowrider classics like “I’m Your Puppet,” socio-political songs like “Señor Presidente”, “The Beast,” and “Bacalao,” a Latino hip hop ode fusing mambo that featured Martinez spitting out politically charged verses.
“American Us” was embraced by a wider public and led to tours with Los Lobos and Santana as well as playing prestigious venues like Washington’s Kennedy Center and New York’s Central Park. They were awarded a San Francisco Wammy Award for Best International Band and a California Music Award for Outstanding Latin Album, and were part of the groundbreaking compilation, “Escena AlterLatina: The Future Sound in Español,” one of the first Latin Rock compilations to crack the Billboard Latin Charts.
Overall, the first of wave of Los Mocosos created a fan base and a library of songs that were the soundtrack for the emerging LatinX generation and a non-Latino audience willing to jump in the mosh pit with them. How they ascended into the pop limelight and achieved admirable success is perhaps the culmination of dreams fulfilled that were first culled as young snotty nosed brats running the streets of the SF Mission.
“It’s just amazing to be making music with your friends. I started with Happy when we were 15 (years old) and we would dress up and pretend we were playing on tour in my garage,” recalled Castro. “We would have these little concerts with the coffee can lights till his mom came down and told us to knock it off,” adds Sanchez.
“But it’s been a trip to play places like Des Moines, Iowa or Little Rock, Arkansas, and they never heard anything like it, a band from The Mission with horns, the funk, the montunos, with people of all ages dancing,” says Sanchez. “It was amazing to be in Europe and to see a whole room of people in Berlin that knew our lyrics,” adds Castro.
Los Mocosos are messengers at a time of tremendous change and social upheaval for Latinos and all peoples around the globe. But they don't take themselves so seriously that they don't have fun. Audience members have been known to throw Kleenex at the stage -- for their snotty noses but now they’re “All Grown Up” and using the Kleenex to wipe the noses of their grand kids.
"It's inspiring and fulfilling because it shows we're doing something right," Castro says about the band's fame. "Our music has no boundaries or colors, and we enjoy people enjoying what we do. In the end, everyone walks away with a smile."
(Jesse ‘Chuy’ Varela)
Los Mocosos never really broke up but faded away as key members pursued new projects. Happy Sanchez, owner of Secret Studios in San Francisco, co-founded the Latin Soul Syndicate with Santana percussionist, Karl Perazzo. The group scored over a 100 music placements in films and television shows like McFarland USA, The Sopranos, Devil Wears Prada, The Ugly Truth, Desperate Housewives, Beverley Hills Chihuahua, Dexter, Nurse Jackie, Malcolm in the Middle, and Criminal Minds. But a few years ago the nucleus of Los Mocosos re-emerged as The Hip Spanic Allstars and produced three albums that perked ears around town. It was this reunification that led to Happy Sanchez suggesting that Los Mocosos consider a comeback. What follows is an interview with Sanchez explaining why Los Mocosos are getting back together and reflections on “All Grown Up.”
Q: Los Mocosos are back with a new album, “All Grown Up.” What led to the revival of the band and can you explain the title of the album?
HS: A few years ago (2017) the band Hip Spanic Allstars performed at the Fillmore Jazz Festival – since that act was really just a recording project that I put together back in 2010, and since some of the fellas that performed on that recording were on tour with their main bands (Santana, Primus), I ended up putting a local group of good friends together (including Victor and Shorty) and we played the festival. We had such a good time, and the response was so positive, other gig offers soon followed. So we decided to write new material to have more songs that featured the current members and this also gave me the opportunity to perform some songs that I had co-written with Karl Perazzo as the Latin Soul Syndicate that were never played live. We ended up recording this material and releasing “Old School Revolution” in 2018. While I was doing interviews promoting the new album, I’d inevitably spend half the interview talking about Los Mocosos! A month later we were having a meal together and I pitched Shorty and Vic on the idea of putting out one last Los Mocosos album, Shorty jokingly said that since it was 20 years since the band was formed, and since we started off as the snotty nosed brats – by now we were “All Grown Up”
Q: The band has always been known for its lead singers, who is the latest lead singer and what does he bring to the band?
HS: Back in 2014, Karl and I were working on a new Latin Soul Syndicate album. Over the past 3 albums we would invite other singers to record on some of our material including Tony Lindsay, Armando Cordova, Orlando Torriente and most recently a young Mexican American singer from Richmond CA, who had been playing piano in Karl’s salsa group Avance, Juan Luis Perez. What makes Juan Ele (he has decided to call himself that from now on) such a special singer is his ability to sing convincingly in various styles (salsa, soul, rock). Having grown up in a Spanish speaking family listening to Mexican music and his mother’s involvement in the local Baptist church, which led him from a young age to play in the church’s gospel band, Juan Ele can sing in a soulful Spanish style that is totally unique. Also, by being in his mid thirties, Juan Ele has been able to give Los Mocosos an injection of youthfulness – like a shot of musical Viagra!
Q: Tell us about the process to create the songs on All Grown Up?
HS: From the very beginning of Los Mocosos, there was always a core group of members. This core group would always include myself, Victor and Shorty up until 2002 when I left the band. Typically the core group would also include the singer – in this new formation, Juan Ele and Dave Shul are also part of the core, so we all collaborated in the creative process 5 ways. Each one of us would bring a few demos to the table and then we all decided as a group which songs would be worked on. Because of the current state of affairs for Latinos within this country and at the border, a few of our songs have variations on these themes. Los Mocosos has always been very conscious of the affairs regarding Hispanic’s lives, pride and immigration, releasing songs like Brown & Proud, Wetback, Shades of Brown, The Border, Mi Barrio Loco and Señor Presidente.
Q: What about the musicians?
HS: As a producer, I’ve been lucky enough to have my own wrecking crew over the past 20 years! When we were making the first Mocosos album “Mocos Locos” the actual creative core was comprised only of singer Piero Ornelas and myself, so we reached out to friends that we grew up with to help us out with the tracking of the music, this included my pals Karl Perazzo on all the percussion, Jay Lane on drums, Norbert Stachel on sax and Marty Wehner on trombone. Piero invited Steve Carter on piano and Danny Eisenberg on organ. From that point forward, Karl, Jay and Norbert have been involved with almost every recording I’ve done since - Including All Grown Up! Since then, I rounded off the crew with my good friend Dave “the cholo with the solo” Shul on guitar, Bob Crawford on keys, Dave K Mathews and lately Tony Stead on the Hammond organ and finally up until his passing, the master - Mic Gillette on all of the brass! These guys make / made everything sound so greasy and tight. On this album, Shorty Ramos played all of the sax parts and the talented newcomer Ruben Sandoval was on trombone.
Q: You’ve also got Karl Perazzo from Santana and the acclaimed Chuck Prophet on this date. That’s heavy company. What’s their relationship to the band?
HS: After I left Los Mocosos in 2002, I had the opportunity to start creating music for Movies and Television. I reached out to Karl and invited him to be my partner and the Latin Soul Syndicate was born. We put out 3 albums of music from 2003 thru 2010 and had a good amount of success. In 2006, a director who was a fan of our material reached out to us to write and record some exclusive songs for a movie he was working on, so I invited Chuck Prophet to collaborate on a couple of the tunes – he’s a really talented songwriter! One of the tunes on All Grown Up was a song us three did together “Brother and Sisters” I’m grateful the fellas in Mocosos were cool with it being on the album, it’s finally seeing the light of day!
Q: Some people see Los Mocosos as a continuance of the 1970s Latin Rock scene that rose from the Mission? How do you see it and how important is The Mission to the personality of the band?
The musical history of the mission is a thread that is woven into the fabric of Los Mocosos, culturally and musically. 4 out of the 5 core members grew up in San Francisco (even though Juan Ele grew up in Richmond - he likes to remind us that his parents were from the mission) and based on the fact that I’m 58, Vic is 60, Shorty 62 and Dave Shul is 55, we all experienced a lot of the same music and cultural events in our youth – KSOL, KDIA, Santana on New Years Eve at Winterland, El Gran Combo at the Saint Francis Hotel, Earth Wind and Fire at the Oakland Coliseum, Joe Cuba at the California Hall, the 24th Street fair, Carnival, Aquatic Park, and the list goes on. Ultimately, cruising up and down Mission street with oldies, Santana and War blasting from car stereos became the soundtrack to our past and the roadmap to our future!
Q: At this stage of the game, what do hope to accomplish with this new release?
HS: Well, hoping not to sound bitter or anything… The fact that I started this band back in 1998 and that Shorty, Victor and myself worked our butts off and sacrificed a lot to get the band up and running, it was and has been one of the most gratifying chapters of our lives. We mustn’t forget all of the artistic contributions of our past singers – Piero Ornelas, Manny Martinez and Carlos Soto. We all actually created something that was able to travel all over the USA multiple times, Canada, Europe and Australia, spreading little bits and pieces of the sounds that we grew up with mixed in with other influences and creating music that was heartfelt and inspired by all of our musical forefathers – Tito Puente, Sly Stone, Carlos Santana, James Brown. Now it’s 20 years later and we’ve all come full circle, we’re all older and a little greyer, all of us Mocosos that were there from the beginning now have the honor to be there at the end. I’m hoping that “All Grown Up” will be appreciated for it’s classic sounds and it’s political influences… Mostly it’s an album that’s fueled by friendship and a desire to prove to ourselves that we could still access our inner mocoso!
|Release Title:||All Grown Up|