Tony Abarca, frontman with L.A. punks Generacion Suicida, is nothing if not modest. When asked to describe his band’s sound, he chuckles and says, “I often tell people that we’re the B-side of every good record you’ve ever heard.”
That’s funny, but inaccurate. The Latino band from South Central Los Angeles have spent the last decade releasing a string of urgent, melodic and infectious punk tunes in Spanish that are far from studio throwaways. In doing so, they’ve built up an adoring and loyal fanbase.
“We started playing in 2010, about 10 years ago,” says Abarco. “We were just young kids — we got together, we started jamming out to have fun. To be honest, I don’t think any of us really thought that anyone would ever even listen to our music so we just ran with it and had a whole bunch of fun. Here we are today and we’re still playing, we’re still recording records and stuff. Initially, when we first started, the idea was we wanted to record a vinyl. We were young, so we thought it would be really cool to record an actual vinyl. That ended up happening, and then we just kept going from there.”
Initially, the band’s sound was easy to spell out. The fast-paced punk of the Ramones combined with Spanish bands such as Eskorbuto and Parálisis Permanente — the influences were clear. But as time has passed, they’ve naturally evolved and there’s a dark and emotional post-punk vibe, inspired by the likes of The Cure. But of course, the strongest source of influence is their culture and surroundings.
“There’s always been a really strong Latino punk scene in L.A.,” Abarco says. “It was a little bit stronger a few years ago when we started. Like in 2008 or so, there was a reemergence of Spanish punk bands, like a bunch of kids from the hood started playing music. I’m just talking about my era. There were all these bands coming up and all of them were singing in Spanish. All of them were first generation immigrant kids from Mexico, Central America and things like that. So I think in L.A., that gives it its personality. A lot of bands come through here and they get blown away. It’s not what they think of when they’re going to tour through the West Coast. These kids are speaking different languages, and we have our own culture, our own identity, our own style. It’s even from if you were actually born in Mexico or if you were to go to Central America. It’s a different thing.”
In 2016, a documentary movie was released called Los Punks: We Are All We Have, exploring L.A.’s Latino punk scene. Or, as Abarco is keen to stress, one segment of it.
“A lot of people my age that I know criticized it saying it’s not what real punk is,” he says. “But in my eyes, there’s no such thing as what really punk is — it just depends on what people want to run with. Another thing is, that documentary really shows the backyard scene, which is completely different. It’s wild. The backyard scene is nothing like other punk scenes. It’s almost like a different scene altogether, and I think it really emphasizes the younger kids who are still too young to be able to go to bars and venues. They have all these other issues. They have to deal with gangs. It’s crazy. That’s how our band started — we played shows like that. I feel like it shows that pretty well. It shows all the negatives too. When people are like, ‘Are you gonna pay the bands?’ and they’re like, ‘Nah, I’m gonna pay my rent’ with the door money or whatever. That’s what it really is like.”
Generacion Suicida’s most recent album Reflejos came out in 2019, though it was initially rush-released in a shorter form to coincide with a European tour, confusing everyone. Abarco says that, in retrospect, this was a mistake — but hey, you live and learn. The good news is, there’s another one on the way later in the year.
“We have this thing where we’re releasing a new record every year,” Abarco says. “With this one, we just took our time a little bit. It’s a little different. We’re all getting older and taking influences from a bunch of different things now. It’s not just listening to the same Ramones records every weekend or whatever. Now, it’s like we’re listening to a whole bunch of other stuff and implementing that into our music. The last record actually had some of those elements, so people already have an idea of what the sound is coming out like. I don’t know about a lot of the people who are die hard fans, if they’re going to accept that. But we can’t just be playing sped-up punk forever.”
That’s true, and that desire to grow while risking the wrath of their devoted fans is to be admired. That growth is also reflected in the lyrical content.
“We write about whatever we see in the neighborhood,” Abarco says. “I think there’s a misconception where people look at the hood and they’re scared — they think it’s nothing but thugs on every corner and people are gonna mug you and they’re gonna rob you. Those kinda things happen but it’s a systemic thing where like it has a lot to do with the fact that there’s obviously a sense of inequality in this area. And so I think people lash out at that, especially at people not from here. But at the same time, there’s a community and we’re all really in it together. That’s one of the things that I write about.”
Abarco is also keen to touch on loneliness and mental health with his lyrics — subjects that men traditionally don’t talk about for fear of losing their “tough guy” reputation. That shit needs to stop.
“The perception is, because you’re from the hood you’re not allowed to feel those feelings,” Abarco says. “We’re just supposed to be hard about it, like it doesn’t really matter. We don’t talk enough about that so I write a lot about that kind of stuff as well.”
All that, and more, will be aired at Alex’s Bar this week. Just don’t expect them to hang around. Says Abarco:
“You go up on stage, you do it as quick as you can, you get off, and you’re done before anybody even really notices that you’ve been fucking up the whole set.”
Generacion Suicida plays with Manic Hispanic, Blindhouse and Loose Trucks at 8 p.m. on Saturday, February 1 at Alex’s Bar.