Mariachi El Bronx: Fresh sound

By Jared Curtis 

Much like life, the music business is full of changes. Change in sound is crucial to grow and mature and in doing so, we’ve seen plenty of bands jump genres to little or no success (remember Garth Brooks’ rock alter ego Chris Gaines?). But that wasn’t the case with The Bronx. After releasing three albums of hardcore/punk tunes, the Los Angeles band needed a change, and what they did next was totally unexpected — they became a mariachi band.the bronx web

“After the third Bronx album, we got kind of bored with what was happening with the band so we wanted a change,” said vocalist Matt Caughthran. “It was a frustrating time, we had no money, no management or label but we weren’t quitters, we weren’t going to give up. So we decided to do something different for a while and take a break from the stress that had become The Bronx.”

Doing something different is exactly what Caughthran and crew had up their sleeve as they began messing around with the mariachi genre.

“It all started with one mariachi themed tune, we liked it so much we decided to turn that one song into an entire record and Mariachi El Bronx was born,” Caughthran said. “The first album (Mariachi El Bronx – 2009) was good, but we knew we could do better so we added some new members and made our second album (Mariachi El Bronx (II) -2011). Now, almost seven years later we are finally hitting maturity.”

The band’s third album, Mariachi El Bronx (III), which was released on Nov. 4, shows a group that has grown and improved their musicianship. They band also incorporated some electronic elements into their normally acoustic sound.

“It took awhile to find what type of record we wanted to write. There had to be a new direction, some sort of new experience or feeling that guided the record,” Caughthran said in a press release. “There were things that I thought I had already written out of my system — my dad passing away, some slip-ups that really dragged me down — but I think that with this record I finally got those monkeys off my back. Which is what I love about the soul of mariachi music, and El Bronx, is its feeling of triumph.”

Some might question a bunch of white dudes playing a predominantly Hispanic style of music, but Caughthran, who grew up in California’s melting pot of culture, promises they are doing the genre right.

“Growing up in L.A., I was surrounded by Hispanic culture and knew of mariachi music, but never felt the urge to play it. When we started to look at the structure of the music, we found something inspiring,” he said. “I made the natural decision to sing in English because I cant speak Spanish, but other than that we’re not changing the heritage as we wanted to be serious, creative and respectful to the mariachi culture.”

Three albums in and Caughthran is excited where the band is going.

“We are definitely growing as a mariachi band. The second record was all about more authentic, knowing the rules and perfecting what we learned. With the new record we have expanded on that,” he said. “We opened up the song writing and just went for it. It’s a process of evolution, which is scary, but it’s exciting to get to the moment in time when the album is ready and you get to hear feedback from the fans.”

Although the group has performed a few double bill shows (Mariachi El Bronx opening for The Bronx), only expect to see that on special occasions.

“It definitely was tiring, but the energy was so amazing that we’ve tried it a few times,” Caughthran said. “The logistics of it was a nightmare — double sound checks, loading all the gear in and out — but it was so much fun. I’d like to figure out a way to make it work because every time we do it it’s a unique experience.”

The band will only be playing mariachi tunes during their stop at the Wild Buffalo with Tijuana Panthers and Pounded by the Surf (Bronx guitarists Joby Ford’s side project) on Monday, Nov. 10 ($15), but don’t expect a few dudes strumming giant guitars, Mariachi El Bronx offers fans a Mariachi experience unlike anything they’ve ever experienced.

“The trick to being an artist is longevity and we’ve found a way to have two completely different creative outlets. Mariachi El Bronx has kept The Bronx going and vice versa, allowing us to keep ourselves busy, creative and inspired to make new music. Which, as a musician, is all you can ask for.”

For more information about the band, see thefunstar.com/artists/mariachi-el-bronx/.

Published in the November 2014 issue of What’s Up! Magazine