Long Beach's Rudy de Anda Wishes He Could Open for Billy Idol in Spain in 1983
Rudy de Anda
Rudy de Anda is a man of many metaphors.
Ask him what L.A. sounded like to a self-described, first-generation Mexican-American weirdo growing up between Compton, East L.A. and Long Beach in the '90s and he'll tell you it's kind of like the time he abandoned the mix of rancheras and old-school R&B at a family quinceañera to sit in his parents' car and bump Jeff Buckley's Grace.
His last band, Wild Pack of Canaries, an exploratory mix of dissonant prog-rock and classic pop songwriting, he says, "was basically like listening to Harry Nilsson while listening to Hella."
The best descriptions, however, are reserved for his current solo project, the eponymous Rudy de Anda band, which has found the mild-mannered, 28-year-old singer, songwriter and guitarist playing his jangly, Latin-tinged indie-pop everywhere from the El Rey to dive bars in Tijuana to the mainstage at September's Music Tastes Good festival.
"If Billy Idol would have played in Spain in 1983, we would've been the perfect opening band," he says, taking a drag from a cigarette outside the live-work warehouse that doubles as his practice space in Long Beach.
De Anda's two albums — 2015's Ostranenie EP and 2016's Delay, Cadaver of a Day — drift away from the spastic psychedelia and dense soundscapes that defined his time in Wild Pack and find him wading into a stripped-down world of glimmering, Spanish-language guitar songs and melodic noir that's inspired as much by Sonic Youth as it is by romántico singer Leo Dan and Spanish new wavers Duncan Dhu.
The albums have earned de Anda a rightful place in L.A.'s emerging alt-Latino movement, a growing collective of bands — including "big brothers" Chicano Batman, for whom de Anda has opened — that dabble in non-Latino scenes and support one another's efforts while charting individual paths so distinct it might be a stretch to call it a movement at all.
What de Anda and these dozen or so acts have in common, though, is that they're all mining their roots to write original soundtracks to the millennial Hispanic experience; and they join hundreds of other bands across the United States and Latin America doing the same. It's a cross-cultural zeitgeist that just may turn Latin rock into the next global sound.
"If you look at each of the bands, they're all very different, but it connects with a certain type of person," de Anda says. "Sure, they like ['80s Mexican rockers] Caifanes or Tame Impala, but this is something that's hitting a little closer to home."
This year's Echo Park Rising, for example, found de Anda, Chicano Batman, Thee Commons and Buyepongo (who are all friends) playing within walking distance of one another. While they might not sound like obvious kindred spirits with their disparate sounds (danceable psych-rock, Wu Tang–inspired cumbia, Mac DeMarco guitar-pop), the connection is more common culture than common influences.
"People finally feel they're being represented in a more accurate way, which in reality is us just saying, 'Don't label us, don't judge us, we're just here,'?" de Anda says. "Isn't that what the black and brown community has always wanted?"
It was never de Anda's plan to pick up his mom's old Leo Dan records or to start writing songs in Spanish. Conceived in Mexicali but born in L.A., he lived in Compton until the family's house turned to ashes during the 1992 L.A. Riots.
After a stint with an aunt in East L.A., de Anda's dad and uncle bought a duplex in Long Beach, where he spent his formative years flitting between backyard barbecues in the Valley (where his "chola cousins" would bump Tupac) and anarchist punk shows (where he picked up a healthy distrust of music theory). In between, another uncle introduced young Rudy to Bob Marley, Mano Negra and King Crimson. He also discovered the rich musical legacies of his now-permanent hometown — not only Sublime but also The Mars Volta and Black Flag.
By the time he picked up a guitar and started his first band in high school, he was deep in the discordant world of art rock and mingled in the Smell DIY circuit, far from the Los Tigres del Norte that floated through speakers at his grandma's house.
"I think I grew up mostly as a Southern California kid," de Anda says, noting that his upbringing was not unique. "I felt like I was proud of being Mexican, but I also embraced showing people that's not even a term. You can't pigeonhole us as a community, and definitely not me personally. I'm going to make it impossible to try to figure me out."
While working on new material for Wild Pack a few years ago, de Anda noticed a change in some of his songwriting. He had rediscovered his love for old rock en español bands and, through some internet searching, located other musicians his age (such as Dënver, Astro and El Guincho) who were finding creativity in the places where Latin music and Western rock culture meet.
Soon he was sitting on an album's worth of new songs that didn't quite fit with the organized sonic chaos for which Wild Pack had become known. So when Wild Pack's members started to drift into their own separate projects, de Anda teamed up with bassist Lily Stretz, went into the studio with Ikey Owens (The Mars Volta, Jack White) and took the new tracks solo.
"[Latin music] was right under my nose the whole time. I went on this musical journey of discovery and it brought me back to my roots," de Anda says. "Now I can bond with people who are in this new generation with me."
His five-song debut, Ostranenie, released in July 2015, 10 months after Owens' untimely death, introduced an entirely new side of de Anda, whose crooning once was hidden beneath layers of dense atmospherics. Songs such as "Tu Esquina" — which slows down a plucky surf-rock song with a soft electronic beat, over which he pines for a girl in Spanish — displayed a more direct songwriting aesthetic and a clearer sense of purpose.
Delay, Cadaver of a Day, which is getting a proper vinyl release on Nov. 18, expands on this new Rudy de Anda sound, letting his fret-flecking dance with core member Strëtz's Buzzcocks bass over eight songs that sound about as "Latin rock" as Bauhaus.
With two former members of Wild Pack now playing with the band (Delay producer J.P. Bendzinski on guitar and Alfred Hernandez on drums), de Anda is ready to take his solo effort in yet another direction, exploring his love for tropicalia.
At a recent practice session, the group launched into "Los Canarios," a new song that's already been recorded for the still-unnamed next album. With the flick of a pedal, de Anda's guitar turns into Ray Manzarek's organ dragged through a Peruvian rainforest, and he sings as if members of romántico groups Los Ángeles Negros or Los Pasteles Verdes were watching. The tune is a dreamier take on the psychedelic chicha genre. It wouldn't sound out of place as the last dance at a '70s quinceañera.
RUDY DE ANDA AND E. ARENAS | Multiply L.A., 200 S. Hill St., downtown | Friday, Nov. 18, 8 p.m. | $10 | multiply.la
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