Mariachi Punk: The Bronx At Home In L.A. The members of The Bronx have always felt a deep love for the music of their Los Angeles home, from the vibrant punk scene to the ever-present Latin rhythms that make up the background of Southern California life. So this hardcore punk outfit decided to record a mariachi record.
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Mariachi Punk: The Bronx At Home In L.A.

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Mariachi Punk: The Bronx At Home In L.A.

Mariachi Punk: The Bronx At Home In L.A.

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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GUY RAZ, host:

We turn now to the story of an L.A. hardcore punk band that's taken a radical career turn. They have produced a mariachi record. The band is called The Bronx, and normally, the music sounds like this.

(Soundbite of song, "Past Lives")

Mr. MATT CAUGHTRAN (Singer, The Bronx): (Singing) Think fast or you'll never survive. You feel the whiplash if all the cities divide.

RAZ: The song "Past Lives" from The Bronx's self titled 2008 album. For the time being, though, the band put the hardcore on hold and they transformed into Mariachi El Bronx.

(Soundbite of song, "Cell Mates")

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: (Singing) (Unintelligible) crawling back to you.

RAZ: We're hearing the song "Cell Mates." It's off the new album by Mariachi El Bronx. Matt Caughtran is the band's singer, and Joby Ford is the band's guitarist.

Gentlemen, welcome to the show.

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: Hey, man. How's it going?

Mr. JOBY FORD (Guitarist, The Bronx): Hey.

RAZ: Matt Caughtran, how did you guys decide to do this?

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: It came about - you know, we got some friends together to do a mariachi version of a song on our second record called "Dirty Leaves" for a TV show. It was just kind of came about as a way to get around having to do the typical rock goes acoustic singer/songwriter type of boring things that's been done.

RAZ: The MTV unplugged kind of sound.

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: Yeah, that type of thing that's been done just a zillion times. So once we did the song, after that, really, the record just completely took off. I mean, as far as writing, recording the whole thing, it was just - it was an amazing moment, you know, out of all of our lives to be able to take this thing from an idea, you know, all the way to completion.

(Soundbite of song, "Cell Mates")

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: (Singing) (Unintelligible) crawling back to you.

RAZ: How familiar were you guys with mariachi music?

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: Outside Los Lobos and stuff like that and just, you know, I really wasn't too well versed, you know? Joby's got the mindset on that one, so let him tell you all about it.

RAZ: Joby Ford?

Mr. FORD: I think probably the most difficult thing to do was to learn how to play everything correctly. We are a touring band. We're on the road more times than not. So I actually went on YouTube to find some of the (unintelligible) lessons.

(Soundbite of laughter)

That's kind of the way my life goes.

RAZ: The music on this record sounds so authentic. And in fact, when we first heard it here, we were blown away. And it's all sung in English. And I want to play a track off the album that's called "Clown Powder."

(Soundbite of song, "Clown Powder")

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: (Singing) Lo and behold, the house is (unintelligible).

RAZ: Did you guys get coaching to sort of learn how to do this authentically?

Mr. FORD: No, no. I mean, we coached ourselves. We had - Vincent Hidalgo, who played guitar over the record, has been a friend of Joby and myself for a super long time. And he was a very good guy to kind of balance things off to make sure we were doing things right as far as rhythms and stuff like that.

RAZ: And Vincent Hidalgo is the son of David Hidalgo…

Mr. FORD: Yeah.

RAZ: …from Los Lobos.

Mr. FORD: Yep.


RAZ: And David Hidalgo also played on this record.

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: Yeah, yeah.

RAZ: Was it intimidating to play with somebody like that?

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: A little bit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FORD: Yeah, a little bit. I - yeah, I've known Mr. Hidalgo for a long time and...

RAZ: You call him Mr. Hidalgo.

Mr. FORD: Oh, we call him Mr. H.

(Soundbite of laugher)

Mr. H. You know, you've got to give him respect. I've always wanted to impress that guy, you know, since he has seen me (unintelligible), you know, high school punk band with his kids. And I, you know, I've always wanted to impress him. And when he came in and, you know, (unintelligible) write or play a couple of things on the record, you know, I was nervous as hell. I think we all were, you know, because, you know, that's kind of like the final test, like, are we doing something right or are we just going to get laughed at right now?

And, you know, he was blown away, man, and it was cool. It was one of the, you know, best feelings in my life, you know, having him excited about what we're doing. So that was a real special day when he came in.

(Soundbite of song, "Clown Powder")

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

RAZ: Matt Caughtran, this entire album is in English. Did you guys ever think about singing in Spanish?

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: Yeah. You know, we've thought about it for a second. But it just felt like that would be, you know, extremely fake, you know? I don't know Spanish, and there's nothing worse, you know, in our heads than, like, white guys playing punk.

(Soundbite of laughter)

You know what I mean? So it kind of felt like it would add an element of cheese and then we'd just be wrong if I did that, you know? So we did it in English. And I think it's kind of cool, too, in that way because a lot of people, when they hear the music, they immediately kind of expect to hear language that's not English, you know? And when you hear it, it kind of throws you for a little bit, and I think it's a - it just kind of adds the originality of the record.

RAZ: Joby Ford, are there any songs on this record that started out as punk songs but then ended up as mariachi songs?

Mr. FORD: No. That would be very interesting, though. Maybe that might be our next record.

(Soundbite of laughter)

I started writing everything just kind of, you know, learn the instruments and songs would kind of come out doing that or have bits and pieces (unintelligible) around. It's very difficult to take a song that is not kind of written specifically for mariachi and make it mariachi. And I can actually validate that firsthand because we did a - Spin Magazine put out a "Purple Rain" tribute album to Prince, had a bunch of bands do stuff. And we got picked to do "I Would Die For You," and we did it mariachi version. And man, talk about it, nightmare trying to figure that out. And there it is.

(Soundbite of song, "I Would Die For You")

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: (Singing) I'm not your woman. I'm not your man. I am something that you'll never understand. Ill never beat you. I'll never lie. And if you're evil, I'll forgive you by and by. I would die for you.

RAZ: If Prince himself isn't proud of this, then I don't know what he could be proud of.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: He better be.

(Soundbite of song, "I Would Die For You")

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: (Singing) I would die for you. Yeah. I'm not your lover. I'm not your friend. I am something that you'll never comprehend. No need to worry. No need to cry. I'm your messiah and you're the reason why, because I would die for you.

RAZ: Matt Caughtran, have you had any feedback from other mariachi musicians?

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: You know what, we're starting to get that for the first time. You know, it's wild. Our MySpace is getting flooded with other mariachi bands, like, saying, you know, this record is great. We should do shows together, and stuff like this. So, you know, the feedback has all been great. I'm very, very stoked about that because the actual reaction from the Hispanic community has been awesome, and I was a little worried about that because the record means so much to us and it's an homage to the culture. So I was really hoping that it wouldn't get trashed and, you know, the response has been great.

RAZ: Have you guys been booked for any kinsenieras(ph) or first communions yet?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FORD: No.

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: We're - I know you can't see us, but we're pretty sketchy looking dudes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: (Singing) Oh, my love, where have you gone?

RAZ: That's Joby Ford and Matt Caughtran of Mariachi El Bronx, also known as The Bronx. Their album, "Mariachi El Bronx," is out now.

Gentlemen, thanks for coming in.

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: Thank you so much for having us.

Mr. FORD: Thank you so much.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. CAUGHTRAN: (Singing) You made me say. You made me nervous. You made me say, oh, my love, where have you gone? Oh, my love, have you…

RAZ: And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Join us tomorrow when we'll speak with two men who each command a pretty respectable following, Ron Paul and Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy.

I'm Guy Raz, have a great night.

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