Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Know Where You Came From - The District
From the District Weekly (4/18/2007)
You could still hear the police dog barking at Joel Morales from inside a nearby cruiser as the singer-guitarist of dios (malos) rolled in for breakfast at Chips Diner, the beloved Googie homage in Hawthorne. He wore a Tecate T-shirt and an implied Fu Manchu moustache—all but buried in a 5 o’clock shadow—and was obviously still woozy from the night before. Keyboardist Jimi Camaro, more subdued with a checkered shirt and gnarled walking stick, came in soon afterward, and alerted the dog only slightly less.
Unrelenting civic pride is one of dios (malos)’s most notable charms, which is why Morales and Camaro chose their hometown’s most-historic restaurant for a roundtable discussion about their nearly completed record—tentatively titled Life Between the Tides—and their upcoming show at Alex’s Bar . . . even if more enthusiasm was reserved for talking about Geoff Emmerick, the six algorithms for successful horse betting and which vitamin supplements go well with gin. Hawthorne, the town that birthed the Beach Boys and the reclusive Emmit Rhodes (Hi Emmit!), is a smoggy suburban sprawl—airport-close and freeway-accessible. But it’s their urban sprawl, and that’s what counts. The Hawthorne water tower, a giant teal Q-tip visible for miles, is pictured on the back of the first dios (malos) record; their first EP, which lists none of the band members, still managed to make room for the phrase “dedicated to hawthorne, ca.”
Considering such reverence for place, maybe it’s not surprising that Morales’ hard night before began when a complicated series of events put him in a classroom full of freshmen at Cal State Dominguez Hills, administering a geography test. He insisted he was up for the assignment, hoisting his beltless pants, throwing on a hat and catching the bus over to campus, maybe looking as though he had just washed ashore, but diligently watching the clock and banning all cellphone use while insisting on being addressed as “Dr. Morales.” “I know my stuff,” he said reassuringly. “Oh, I know my geography.”
Makes sense—the band has seen a lot of it, criss-crossing the country several times a year in a packed van. But of all the places their music has taken them, dios (malos) seem to be most creative and comfortable at home. It’s where they recorded their first album and early demos, in their practice space/studio/hostel, writing hazy pop songs shrouded in bird sounds, tape clicks, and indecipherable mumbling. When the band was shipped up to Seattle and given a deadline to churn out its second record with indie hit-maker Phil Ek, the result was noticeably more polished.
Now free of their record contract with Startime, dios (malos) have returned to recording at home and seem just a few flashbacks away from completing another album. The music that’s surfaced from these new sessions has indicated a return to the relaxed but murky soundscapes that always seemed to come so naturally but are now strengthened by increased confidence in their playing and ideas.
The addition of new drum-punisher Patrick Vasquez—their fifth—seems only to have helped. Occasionally smashing his cymbals with his fists, Vasquez’s unhinged style almost makes your knuckles bleed with sympathy and has garnered some YouTube adoration.
This Friday’s show is at Alex’s Bar, which is a familiar venue to Morales.
“I go to hear the DJs,” he says, “and I hold an unannounced drinking contest there every Saturday afternoon. I always win.”
THE DISTRICT WEEKLY AND PLATYPUS BEATS PRESENT DIOS (MALOS) WITH WIRES ON FIRE, HORNS AND DJ DENNIS OWENS AT THE DISTRICT WEEKLY LAUNCH PARTY AT ALEX’S BAR, 2913 E ANAHEIM ST, LONG BEACH 90804. 562.434.8292; ALEXSBAR.COM. FRI 8PM. $5. 21+.
Know Where You Came From @ the District