Thursday, February 28, 2013
Sibling bands don’t have very good track records when it comes to longevity. Between The Bee Gees, Oasis and The Carpenters, early retirement – whether by way of a member’s death or a falling-out – often outpaces late greatness. (For rock authenticity purposes, we won’t count the Jonas Brothers, not that they are going too strong at the moment anyway.)
Los Lonely Boys, featuring Henry (guitar, vocals), Jojo (bass and vocals) and Ringo (drums, vocals) Garza, are an exception to the curse of the sibling band. Jojo is aware of the jinx and grateful that he and his bros have something special.
“We’re very blessed to be together in this business,” he says before a show in Midland, Texas. “We all have the same frame of mind in terms of what we want out of [the band] and what we want to give to the people.”
Los Lonely Boys come from humble beginnings in San Angelo, Texas, and have been at it for nearly 20 years, earning a laundry list of accomplishments. Since the 2003 self-titled debut, which has sold more than 2 million copies, the group has snagged a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal – from five nominations across several categories, including Record of the Year – and shared the stage with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Santana and Willie Nelson.
But Jojo values being in a band with his brothers above those accomplishments.
“It is one of the best things I could ever hope for,” he says. “I can tell them everything and they can tell me anything. We’ve been up and down and all around together so it’s definitely a bonus.”
The Garza brothers learned how to get along in a band setting by watching their father, Ringo Garza, Sr., who performed in a band with his brothers called the Falcones.
Jojo says his father is the kind of guy who likes to dole out words of wisdom and sentiments of encouragement.
“He always tells us that the sky’s the limit, and there’s no end to what we can do,” he says.
Los Lonely Boys shape a distinctive brand of border-brother soul, Texas blues, Tejano and country music. They dub it “Texican rock and roll” out of necessity as much as anything else.
“It’s a name we came up with because they didn’t know what to classify our music as,” Jojo says. “We thought, if there’s no genre for us, we’re going to have to create a new one.”
“Heaven,” from Los Lonely Boys’ chart-excelling first record, is part Santana, part border-bridging cross pollination and part bright pop, with a dollop of reggae rhythm for flavor. It’s also an instant classic endowed with one of those iconic guitar riffs that stands the test of time. Ironically, the tune almost never made it out of the studio.
“At first, everyone was against the song and negative towards it,” Jojo explains. “All the promoters and the record label were like, ‘I don’t know what’s up with this heaven stuff,’ and all of the sudden one guy from Epic Records heard it, and that changed everything.”
“Heaven” went on to earn the top spot on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart, number 16 on Billboard’s Hot 100, the silver tuna and aforementioned Grammy for Best Pop Performance.
“We’re proud that we’ve been able to reach the masses and have our music heard by millions of people,” Jojo says. “That’s a great accomplishment for anyone who comes from where we come from.”
Jojo refers to winning a Grammy as the end of a new beginning, which is coincidentally also the name of one of their tunes, but – as always – talk of achievements circles back to family.
“There have been so many accomplishments, but staying together is one of the most major out of all of them,” he says. “It’s never been about [awards].”
Despite some cold reviews from the critics, Los Lonely Boys’ seventh and most recent release, Rockpango – a Spanglish word coined by the band that means “rock party” – is 11 original tracks showcasing their three-part harmonies, Henry’s underrated-but-masterful guitar skills and a nod to Texas blues masters like Albert Collins and Lead Belly.
Los Lonely Boys, performing Tuesday at Sunset Center, has seen some albums stutter. The two albums that followed up their debut flopped. And there have been other hiccups as Ringo and Jojo traded paint with the law. But fans will focus on their triumphs, including the cool cover album they did in 2009 called 1969, covering songs like The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues,” The Beatles’ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” and Blind Faith’s “Well All Right,” the first released on their new label, Lonely Tone Records.
The trio, meanwhile, will be content to prove endurance, persistence and a hard-to-miss love for playing music with one another – and sharing that music with others – more than carry the day.
“We just want to be remembered as some guys who jam out some music and bring people good times,” Jojo says. “All we want to do is play wherever and whenever we get the chance.”
LOS LONELY BOYS perform 8pm Tuesday, March 5, at Sunset Center, San Carlos Street at Ninth, Carmel. $39; $46; $59. 620-2048. www.loslonelyboys.com