The raw, yet dulcet tones of El Monte’s The Red Pears have seen the trio climb from backyard gigs to high profile festivals, such as Tropicália, reviving an unrested youth in listeners. After their much anticipated and successful second full length album, For Today, For Tomorrow, For What Is, For What Could’ve Been, the then duo and now trio — Henry Vargas (vocals/guitar), Jose Corona (drums), and Juan Aguilar (bass) — take their prolific garage rock and scattered sounds to the El Rey Theatre on October 27, as they headline and play alongside Jurassic Shark, Spendtime Palace, with DJ Sister Mantos.
Meeting in High School, Corona, Junior and Vargas, Senior, the two crossed paths through mutual friends and through their own involvement in the music scene. With their first show being at an open mic at a church, the reaction led to a spark that carried throughout the years. In the midst of preparation for what has been dubbed as a “milestone” in their career, Corona took some time to chat with GUM and reiterate that they will always be honest and bring everything to the table…except tables, they can’t bring tables to the table.
When you guys were playing at the open mic at church, was it something special about that show?
Yeah, in a way. It was a good response from strangers, it was like your first time showing someone else your music, like a complete stranger you know? And Henry had a friend, a co-worker that told us about the open mic at the church; the only other person that knew about our music and how we sounded like. And [it’s] nerve wrecking cause you don’t know what the response is going to be, but it was really nice and people wanted to meet us, wanted autographs and stuff, and we were blown away. It was a really good response because your first show is really weird, and a really weird place, but it had a great response from the random audience and that was a good start for us. I mean, at school our music isn’t that bad, you know? (laughs) So, people are responding to it, [it’s] just a good start.
Yeah, that’s nerve wrecking, especially at a church. I’m afraid to sneeze in a church.
Yeah! Me and Henry had to, well Henry was trippin’ about like what he could sing and what he couldn’t sing and one of the words were a curse word and — being very “careful” about what we were doing and going about our ways and stuff. Oh yeah, I remember too, like there was a cross, (laughs) on the stage and we needed to move it and we were kinda scared to ask ‘hey can we move this cross, over there?’ you know, to make room for the drums and stuff.
Did you guys eventually get it moved?
Yeah we just asked, ‘can we move this cross?’ and they were like ‘yeah, yeah, move it.’ they were very cool about it the people were very nice, and very welcoming to some random band. It was very welcoming.
Your recent album, For Today, For Tomorrow, For What Is, For What Could’ve Been, very poetic by the way, took a more intimate and raw tone than previous work. What was the inspiration behind that tone?
I think, well it started with that title. In that period a lot has changed, a lot was different compared to the beginning. Like you’re trying to be something, just having fun with it and try to go somewhere with it and now its kinda like, relationships have changed and friendships have changed, people have changed, and oh members have changed. Juan was leaving the band at that time. So much has happened from those two releases, it was very….the title was reflective of that. The times that were yesterday, today and will be different tomorrow.
Kinda philosophical, huh?
Yeah, that was our approach. Things were changing but me and Henry weren’t going to change, our music wasn’t going to change, but everything around us was changing.
I like how you said you and Henry weren’t going to change. The last time I saw you guys live it was insane! I almost got kicked in the face, which was awesome.
(laughs) I’m sorry about that!
No, don’t apologize. I loved that. I like that you said you and Henry weren’t going to change because during the live performances because it’s all out there. That’s why when I listened to that album I’m like ‘oh it has a couple of slower, intimate songs’ which I haven’t seen live. Was that intentional though – when you put together your live performances, like hey I want people to mosh or just an accident?
Oh, I think that was just an accident. You kinda hope for any kind of response. When we’re writing the music we know it’s a certain type of tone and mood, and thought it’d be cool if people react to this, but there’s those times where you play the same songs and there’s no reaction, you know what I mean. Like you’re playing the same songs and you get the opposite reaction of what we usually get. You just never know what’s going to happen with the art you’re putting out there until it’s out there.
When that happens, when you see a bad response, what do you do?
You just learn a lot from the bad times more than the good times, in all honesty. I feel like the shows that were empty and we’re like didn’t feel went well, those effected us more than all the good shows. You just don’t forget about that as easily. (laughs) There’s a certain sting that lingers in a way.
I remember playing a show in San Bernardino, Redlands actually, and it was this record store and it was just one guy that was there, the owner of the record store. And it was like an hour drive for us, more than an hour for us, from El Monte to Redlands, and I thinking like ‘damn we went all this way and just the owner is here watching us,’ but it was cool. At least we had someone there and he gave us a very positive reaction, and that was an experience that we haves never forgotten.
Experiences like those makes you not take things for granted. Like when you have a crowd, when you have people vibing, like reacting to your art. It’s like ‘remember that one time where we played at Redlands with just one guy?’ We just make the music that we like, drawing from our influences, our own variations, like Henry is very into metal and I have hip-hop influences and we kinda just mesh it into different types of things. The art that we’re creating makes us feel like a certain way and that’s good enough for our standards. As long as the art we’re making is making us feel a certain way, we have emotion into it and all you can hope for is that others feel the same way about it.
Speaking about shows, you mentioned gratitude to your fans for “reaching this milestone” for the 10/27 show at the El Rey Theatre on Twitter. What does this mean to you as well as the future for The Red Pears?
Just being from El Monte, I just feel like nobody seems to come out from there, the one thing we have is the guy that went to the Olympics [boxing], but you don’t really hear any success stories from El Monte and we’re kinda becoming one in a way. It’s crazy. If I was in high school and I heard about this band that was playing in LA, and playing at El Rey, and doing this and that, I would be proud to be from that city, proud to know we’re from the same culture, the same ethnicity. ‘Damn they’re Latino too? They grew up around here?’ and that would be very inspiring to me as a person from the outside.
Yeah, a huge milestone for a Latino from the SGV to have as much success as you guys. Is that something that you also want to make intentional for people to know: we’re Latinos, we’re from SGV. Because you’re right, you don’t hear much from El Monte, La Puente or anywhere else in that area.
I think at first we didn’t think about the color of our skin or where we’re from, we were just in a bubble and happen to know each other and have this passion for music. There’s attention on us…that’s where we’re from. If people want to label us as Latino, yeah we’re also Latino, we’ll bring that out because we feel that it inspires others hopefully, other Latinos and people from El Monte — whether Latino or not — people who relate whether they’re from El Monte or not. Maybe they feel where they’re in a similar situation and in a place where nothing really happens and they have these aspirations, and these passions, and they want to leave that box where they’re in, the home they’re in. And they have these visions and they want to pursue them and it is possible, just a matter of doing it and not quitting.
I only stressed that because I’ve seen bands from local cities and they rebrand as from Los Angeles. That’s why I wanted to know if it was intentional that you kept “El Monte.”
Whether you know the city or not, whether you think its a nice city or not, that’s where we’re from. Nothing we should be ashamed about; that’s what we feel.
Why do you guys think your music connects so well? When you guys came out that’s when psych-rock was huge in the inland empire! And obviously you guys were not, are not that. Why do you think you guys are lasting? Because, as you can see, psych-rock is dying out.
You know I talked about that with Henry a lot, other people; these spaces with music. I think when Henry was going to shows, like Cherry Glazerr, then some other bands took that platform, and then some other bands took that platform, you know. The attention of genre keeps shifting. One genre comes in and it’s popular, then it’s gone, then another genre comes in. I feel the only thing we do is be honest. I feel like our music is emotional and comes from experience, comes from a very honest place and people relate to it.
I feel like it’s music that you can relate to and think about and captures you emotionally. I don’t know how to say it, it’s not just like a sound. You kinda hear it in the back…words that are very powerful and tell a story, describe an emotion, describe a feeling, describe an experience. That’s the music that I love to listen to. A lot of music is cool, but I feel the music that is personal to me [is music] that I’ve held on to all these years. And music I can tell a story lyrically, and I can relate to and I feel like that’s how Henry feels too. That’s what we try to model our music after. I always tell Henry, ‘If you’re gonna say something, say it with your heart; write something down, mean it and I’ll do the same.’ That’s the most we can do and have it come from the heart. That’s all we can do, whatever happens after, happens.
For the show, what are you guys gonna be for Halloween? Or is that a surprise?
You’re laughing, it’s gotta be good.
It’s a …we’re actually shopping right now for little details and little things.
Ah, the details that’s where it’s at.
We’re getting the finishing touches on what we’re gonna be. Hopefully make that show memorable. I know it was an expensive show, and all these convenience fees. As a show-goer you kinda deal with, like damn, it’s $18 but you end up paying $25. So, I think [to] try to make it as meaningful and memorable and special as we can.
You guys are gonna pack that place.
(laughs) Hopefully everything goes well. You never know how things are gonna go until it happens.
Well, you’re not gonna be singing and drumming for one person. Anything else you wanna add?
Just a thank you to everybody. And people like Rene from Viva!, Gil from Cosmica, and George and Christian, our booking agents, people from Spaceland, and everyone from backyard shows that give you support. Just, when you started with zero support and now people want to help you out because they believe in you, believe in what you’re doing and your work ethic, that means a lot. We never thought we’d have any of this and we mean that from the bottom of our hearts. To be able to tell our moms ‘hey mom we’re playing this venue,’ ‘oh hey check out this video from the show last night,’ thanks to everyone for making that possible.
The fact that we’re here wasn’t a thing we did on our own. We definitely had help from our friends, our friend Louis, our friend Sammy, who helps out along with the scenes in the back that people don’t see, all the merch. So many people to thank, so many people are responsible for what’s going on with our music and just thank you to all those people.
October 27th, The Red Pears at The El Rey Theatre with Jurassic Shark, Spendtime Palace & DJ Sister Mantos. Tickets start at $18 and can be purchased through AXS.