Marissa Lopez and Gil Gastelum's broad kitchen table, covered with a brightly colored oilcloth and set with a fresh basket of pan dulce, is the heart of their Arleta home. For one hour each night, it's also their refuge.
"She doesn't allow phones when we're eating," Gastelum says.
"I tell him, 'It's one hour,' " Lopez explains, looking at her husband with an affectionate smile. "You need that for your sanity."
Aside from dinnertime, Lopez, 33, and Gastelum, 42, keep a less conventional schedule — late nights at clubs and regular trips out of town. It comes with the territory: Lopez is director of writer-publisher relations at performance-rights organization Broadcast Music Inc., which means coordinating and attending frequent songwriter showcases and performances. Gastelum, who owns the indie label and musician-management company Cosmica Management & Records, also attends shows several times a week with his artists — acts including La Santa Cecilia, Maria Del Pilar, Charanga Cakewalk, Carla Morrison and Gaby Moreno.
Sometimes, if they're lucky, Lopez and Gastelum end up at the same show.
"He goes, 'All right, babe, love you. Do what you gotta do,' " Lopez says. Then they're off on their own, greeting clients and taking care of business. "It's not one of those things where we need to be right by each other," she adds.
Naturally, it was work that brought the couple together.
Gastelum had a meeting with Yvonne Drazan, Lopez's then-boss (and then Yvonne Gomez) at the independent music publisher peermusic. Drazan was showing Gastelum around the office when he spotted a picture of a smiling Lopez in a pink wig. Gastelum remembers thinking, "She's kind of cute."
Drazan saw the potential right away and suggested that Lopez attend a show at Largo featuring a longtime Gastelum client, David Garza. At the show, they had a few margaritas while Garza played "wingman" from the stage, telling stories about Gastelum between songs. Lopez was charmed — though she wouldn't admit it at the time.
Still, after that night, it was actually Lopez who made the first move — at Drazan's urging, of course. She asked Gastelum to a film screening. After a couple of post-show drinks at Velvet Margarita Cantina, Gastelum got up the courage to ask her for a kiss.
Gastelum proposed during the Christmas season a few years later, first with his family in Arizona and a few days later in front of her family in L.A. Both times, he managed to surprise her. The first dance at their wedding? "For Keeps," a song David Garza had performed at their first meeting. Now Gastelum's best man, he once again performed it live.
The couple celebrated their third wedding anniversary last November. They hope to start having kids soon and already are planning to "immerse" them in art and music, Lopez says.
Their shared love of music goes back to their formative years. Gastelum worked at a record store in his hometown of Tucson, and later at the now-closed Beverly Center Sam Goody and the Virgin Megastore in West Hollywood. Lopez, who grew up in the Los Angeles neighborhoods of South Gate, Downey and West Covina, was a disc jockey for a Spanish-language hour called Radio Elektra on her college radio station, KSAK. She also worked at legendary music magazine La Banda Elastica.
At shows around Los Angeles these days, their friendly smiles are easy to pick out of the crowd. Even at the loudest clubs, they have a way of making their artists feel right at home.
"They lean on us," Lopez says. "We're part of their family."
Apologizing, Gastelum sets two phones down on the kitchen table and glances at them like a worried big brother. La Santa Cecilia is on tour in Northern California, he explains. The band, like all of his artists, knows about Lopez's kitchen-table rule, but this is an exception.
"I'm always nervous when I have a band that's on the road," he says. "I'm just making sure they're getting where they need to."