2:32pm

Mon April 4, 2011
Music Interviews

Los Lonely Boys: Band Of Brothers

The three brothers who make up Los Lonely Boys each bring their own personality to their Tejano-inflected rock and country songs. In conversation, however, they speak almost as if with one voice — constantly finishing each each other's sentences, letting one story flow seamlessly into another.

As they tell Weekend Edition guest host David Greene, fraternal harmony runs deep in their family: Their father, Ringo Garza Sr., was in a band with his own brothers called The Falcones, and made a point of bringing up his sons in a musical house.

"Our father was our biggest influence," says bassist Jojo Garza. "He showed us all kinds of music — of his music, as well as the music of a lot of the greats."

Those greats included the likes of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Three Dog Night, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Nelson is also a family friend — the brothers have even golfed with him.

"He's just a person you want to be around at all times," says guitarist Henry Garza. "He's much like our dad in the way we feel around him. Our dad has always been the missing outlaw to Willie, Waylon, Kris Kristofferson and those guys."

On the new album Rockpango, the trio, which also includes drummer Ringo Garza Jr., seems to wear its influences on its sleeve: "16 Monkeys" has clear echoes of the Beatles' "Taxman," and the guitar on "Love In My Veins" is Santana all over. Henry Garza says it's not an accident.

"When we're recording, I think we all try to channel our heroes and teachers," he says. "I definitely am trying to tap into Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Stevie Ray [Vaughan]."

The group has been through tough times together, on stage and off. Most recently, Jojo Garza sustained a vocal cord injury that made him constantly raspy and threatened to grow worse the more he used his voice. He and his brothers feared that he might never talk again, let alone sing.

Thankfully, he pulled through the ordeal. Henry Garza says Jojo's vocals on the Rockpango track "Smile" will always remind him of those difficult days and the joy he felt when they came to an end.

"When we tracked that song, I just cried my eyes out," he says. "I could cry right now." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

Mr. HENRY GARZA (Los Lonely Boys): And we're here, ladies and gentlemen, NPR Radio with Los Lonely Boys. I am Henry. You're hanging with Henry in the hour.

Mr. RINGO GARZA (Los Lonely Boys): You're rocking with Ringo G.

Mr. JOJO GARZA (Los Lonely Boys): And you're jamming with Jojo.

Mr. H. GARZA: And we are Los Lonely Boys. We're here to talk about our new record, "Rockpango..."

DAVID GREENE, host:

We had an interview set up with this band, Los Lonely Boys. And when I got to the studio, they were - well, already interviewing each other. And their style is actually as freewheeling as their music.

(Soundbite of music)

GREENE: Just to give you a bit of background, this band is made up of three brothers - Henry, Jojo and Ringo Garza - and it has always been hard to give them a label. They are country; they're soul, blues, hip-hop; certainly, a whole lot of Texas. It all blends together into a sound that has won the band a Grammy, and also a whole lot of fans. They are, as you can hear, eager to talk about their new album, "Rockpango." That's a Spanglish word that translates, roughly, into rock party.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENE: So is that a fair way to describe you guys - a lot of adjectives that could be applied to the music, but no one that sticks?

Mr. R. GARZA: We like to say Texican rock and roll.

GREENE: Texican.

Mr. R. GARZA: It's a mixture of everything that we've been influenced by. When you ask us - people always ask us, well, what do you classify your music? Is it pop? Is it hip-hop? Is it rock? Is it...and if we do got to consider it anything, we coined it our own word, and called it Texican Rock.

Mr. H. GARZA: It's like a business card. It's an easy way to go like, here's what it is.

GREENE: Texican.

(Soundbite of music)

GREENE: What kind of music did you guys listen to, growing up?

Mr. J. GARZA: This is Jojo. We grew up listening to all kinds of music. First and foremost, our father was our biggest influence. And he, you know, he showed us all kinds of music. Of course, his music as well as, you know, the music of a lot of the greats and, you know, like Elvis Presley, the Beatles, you know. We knew about Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. We learned about Creedence Clearwater, Three Dog Night. I mean, it just kept going on and on. Is that Van Halen? What is that, Ringo?

Mr. R. GARZA: Waylon Jennings.

Mr. J. GARZA: Oh, Willie Nelson. And when he was old enough, something - he looked like Van Halen, Sambora - or something.

GREENE: And you guys have golfed with Willie Nelson, if I'm not mistaken. That's quite an image.

Mr. J. GARZA: Yeah, yes, we did.

Mr. H. GARZA: This is Henry. This is Henry; this is Henry. And yes, man, any chance we can, we golf with Willie, man. He's just a person you want to be around at all times, man. He's much like our dad in the way that we feel when we're around him, man, 'Cause my dad has always been like, the lost outlaw, the missing outlaw to Willie and Waylon and Kris Kristofferson, and those guys.

GREENE: You guys brought up the Beatles as an influence when you were growing up. And I want to cue up one of the tracks on the new album, "16 Monkeys," 'cause I feel like you hear the Beatles in the beginning of it.

(Soundbite of song, "16 Monkeys")

Mr. H. GARZA: Wow, that's cool, man. Yeah, I mean - this is Henry. But most definitely, it has that, you know...

Mr. R. GARZA: Kind of old-school vibe to it.

Mr. H. GARZA: Old-school Beatles kind of deal.

Mr. R. GARZA: Certainly like, '60s or - kind of psychedelic, kind of...

Mr. H. GARZA: Yeah, it's kind of like (Singing) I'm the taxman, yeah...Well, you know, so there's definitely some Beatles influence in there. And Ringo was born with the name Ringo. Our dad gave him that name at birth, so it's really interesting and amazing to see that he actually became a...

Mr. R. GARZA: A drummer.

Mr. H. GARZA: ...a drummer.

Mr. R. GARZA: It is really weird.

(Soundbite of song, "16 Monkeys")

LOS LONELY BOYS: (Singing) Me and little brother were sifting chocolate bubbles, wearing underwear over our pants, a blanket cape. We're like Batman and Robin, saving the day, trying to get the Batmobile back to the cave. I really should have listened to what mama had said, instead I fell down and broke my arm. Sixteen monkeys on a chuck wagon rolling down the road, uh-huh.

GREENE: The three of you, I believe, met my colleague, correspondent John Burnett, when he came to interview you a few years ago in your auto body shop, the Texican Chop Shop. And Henry, he described you as the ponytailed, oldest brother, lead guitarist, wearing a sleeveless work shirt with your name written across it, and smoking a Camel. Is that still accurate?

Mr. H. GARZA: That's still me, brother. I mean, you know, that's me at the shop. That's not me out here on public radio or on this stage but...

GREENE: What is it about the shop? I mean, it sounds like that place is very special to you guys. I mean, you just like being around cars? Is it an escape for you?

Mr. J. GARZA: This is Jojo. It's both that and all that, man. I mean, you know, we really enjoy cars, and we just really like to bring them cars back to life. And that was something that we, you know, we really tried to get into there, with the shop.

Mr. R. GARZA: That's our motto. The motto of the shop is bringing rides to life.

Mr. J. GARZA: Bringing rides to life.

GREENE: Well, you guys have a lot of love for cars. I want to play one of the other songs from the album, "Love in My Veins."

(Soundbite of song, "Love in My Veins")

LOS LONELY BOYS: (Singing) It feels like December, baby, when I'm not with you.

GREENE: Talk me through this, if you can.

Mr. J. GARZA: This song was written in the studio.

Mr. H. GARZA: Yeah, man. This is Henry. And we'd never played this song before -ever. It just came out when we were tracking, and it's just talking about how you got to have that love in your veins, you know. It's the biggest drug addiction, and you can't get enough of it.

(Soundbite of song, "Love in My Veins")

LOS LONELY BOYS: (Singing) I can't remember, baby, when I got hooked on you.

GREENE: You channeling Santana a little bit in this song? I feel like there's that influence there.

Mr. H. GARZA: You know, when we're recording, you know, I think we all tried to channel our heroes and teachers, man. And sure, I definitely am trying to tap into some Jimi Hendrix and some Carlos Santana, Stevie Ray and...

Mr. R. GARZA: And Henry is - this is Ringo - Henry's always been able to, when we were younger and practicing at home, we could tell Henry, hey, play like Stevie Ray Vaughan. And for a minute, he'd be playing like Stevie. And then we'd say, all right, play like Santana, you know. And then he would start playing like Santana. He's always had the ability to...

Mr. J. GARZA: Musical parrot.

Mr. R. GARZA: He's a like a musical parrot.

(Soundbite of song, "Love in My Veins")

GREENE: Henry, you're the oldest brother. You're the guitarist. But as the oldest of the three, talk a little bit, if you can, about how you guys got to where you are. Because I've read that you guys have spoken about - you wouldn't be here without going through some very hard times, and then making it through together. What were some of those hard times?

Mr. H. GARZA: Well, I mean, growing up, just being Mexican-American in America is not always the easiest thing. You know, so that's really how it began, just being born Mexican-American. And not just that, but we had our own personal experiences, you know.

One big experience for myself and the whole family was when I lost a son to SIDS when I was 18 years old.

GREENE: Sudden infant death syndrome.

Mr. H. GARZA: It laid a big impact upon our whole family. And I think it gave us a lot more strength and appreciation towards life and each other - even more. And the music, on top of that, just got even more real and more sincere. Just like when I played a note, I was actually crying behind that note.

(Soundbite of song, "Love in My Veins")

LOS LONELY BOYS: (Singing) I got your love, baby...

GREENE: Jojo, you're the bass player; you also do a lot of singing. And I want to ask you about - you had a real health scare last year.

Mr. J. GARZA: Yeah, I actually did, man. It was a vocal cord problem that I had. And while we were recording these sessions, it was like, oh, I didn't sound the same, my voice was staying constantly raspy and stuff. And so, you know, we all got concerned. The doctor, you know, said, hey, man, you know, you can keep going on tour or if you want to prolong the career, you know, now's a good time to really stop and take a big rest, and to chill out. And just basically turned out to be nothing - which is really, really a beautiful blessing.

You know, and I thank God every day. And I thank my family, and all the friends and the fans that were involved in prayers and sending lots of love this way.

GREENE: I mean, the three of you are brothers, and you certainly have this blood harmony in your three voices. It wouldn't be the same with just two. I mean, were any of you worried that this was sort of the end? I mean, when - Jojo, you found out...

Mr. J. GARZA: I was, personally...

Mr. H. GARZA: All three of us were scared off our behinds, man.

Mr. J. GARZA: Well, I was not able to talk so I was like, going - like, I don't think I'm ever going to talk again, much less sing. So...

Mr. H. GARZA: We were crying, dude. And then when we had to go back and listen to the tracks that we had already - previously - just recorded for "Rockpango," and listening to Jojo's voice then, and just imagining if that was the last time you're ever going to hear your brother sing - I could cry right now.

Mr. R. GARZA: I could cry right now just...

Mr. H. GARZA: ...Just thinking about it. It's just, like, it scared the bejesus out of us.

GREENE: Is there a song on the album where you guys listen and just say, there's Jojo. Thank God.

Mr. H. GARZA: "Smile."

Mr. R. GARZA: All of them, actually.

Mr. H. GARZA: Yeah, all of them, but "Smile," when I listen to it, brother, I mean, when we tracked that song, I just cried my eyes out because my brother had put so much love and heart into this song he wrote. When he played it, it just hit me. And everytime I listen to it, I think about that moment. And I think about his smile, man, and...

(Soundbite of song, "Smile")

LOS LONELY BOYS: (Singing) I see miles of happiness is yours, baby, in your smile...

Mr. H. GARZA: Just that's why we love this new record so much - because we went through a lot to get it done. And we can actually hear it and feel it. You know, "Rockpango" is not just a rock party, man. It's our life.

(Soundbite of song, "Smile")

LOS LONELY BOYS: (Singing) In your smile...

GREENE: That's the new CD from the band Los Lonely Boys, "Rockpango." Henry, Jojo and Ringo Garza - three brothers make up the band, and the album debuted last week. Thank you, guys, for taking the time to be here.

Mr. H. GARZA: Thank you, David.

Mr. J. GARZA: All right.

Mr. H. GARZA: God bless y'all, man. And remember, that's the bottom line...

LOS LONELY BOYS: ...'cause Los Lonely Boys said so.

(Soundbite of song, "Smile")

LOS LONELY BOYS: (Singing) Oh, I see every shade of love...

GREENE: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Liane Hansen will be back next week. I'm David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.