MEMBERS & INSTRUMENTS:
George Mercado (guitar, lead vocals); Jaime Cisneros (drums, percussion); Albert Noriega (bass); Kyle Armstrong (keys, melodica); Matt R. Perez (alto and tenor sax); Gilbert Rodriguez (trumpet); Jose R. Peralta (bass trombone); Jeff D. Girard (trombone); Jesus “Buddha” Barron (valve trombone); Jose “Chichi” Zamora (percussion).
CITIES OF ORIGIN:
Moreno Valley, Wildomar, Redlands, Los Angeles, Indio.
La Banda Skalavera (2008).
Perez Prado, Bebo Valdez, The Skatalites, Mexican banda music, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Latin jazz, salsa music, merengue, cumbia, samba, punk rock and reggae.
If three’s a crowd and eight is enough, then what in the heck’s the consensus on dealing with nearly a dozen warm bodies? At last count, there some ten members of La Banda Skalavera and as frontman George Mercado tells us, being one-tenth of this mammoth musical congregation has its share of fairly interesting adventures. It’s tough to wrangle such a headcount at times, but, Mercado says, “it makes [it] all fun and there’s never a dull moment.”
And there really hasn’t been anything dull about La Banda Skalavera since the act formed in South Central Los Angeles over a decade ago. A key group in propping up a relatively new subgenre (Latin ska), this lofty member count of La Banda Skalavera (note: the band’s name was actually supposed to be temporary) is actually de rigeur for most ska acts, who typically employ your standard fare four-piece rock band with the addition of a horn section featuring at least a pair of brass and reed blowers.
Of course, much has happened over the past dozen years, including an evolution in style. “LBS has always been composed of misfits from different genres of music,” says Mercado. “We went from playing ska/punk/Latin to traditional ska/reggae/Latin. But we still write some of the harder stuff to stay true to our roots.”
And the group’s holding fast to its origins as it sees the rise of the subgenre it’s been a part of—even if the main genre’s been a bit elusive in its own neck of the woods.
“Latin ska and Latin ska-core is probably one of the biggest underground scenes in Southern Cali,” Mercado says. “It sucks that ska is huge in Latin America, Europe, Asia, except in the U.S., which is why we got signed to Ubersee records in Germany. It makes it hard for bands like us to make it out here. Our music is being played all over Latin America and Europe—[it’s] sad we can’t get any airplay out here.”
But La Banda Skalavera’s built plenty of solid cred, touring through the U.S and Mexico, opening for Latin acts such as Maldita Vecindad, Molotov, Panteon Rococo, plus American bands Reel Big Fish, The Slackers and ska legends The Skatalites. Plus, there are always major props for taking home an MTV Video Music Award.
“MTV was looking for the best breakout artist of L.A. in Latin music,” Mercado explains. “We submitted our band and people got to vote. We won the popular vote placing first out of 120 bands. MTV prerecorded our performance at Six Flags. [There] were a panel of judges composed of reggaeton artists Alexis y Fido and Kat Deluna [who] made the final decision of best breakout artist of L.A. out of the three finalists. They announced the winner during the live VMAs in New York in ’09 and showed part of our performance. We were excited that Latin ska got a chance to be heard on national TV.”
La Banda Skalavera at the Mission Tobacco Lounge, 3630 University Ave., Riverside, www.missiontobaccolounge.com. Sat, 8PM.