Generacion Suicida come from South L.A. - not East L.A., as people tend to think. "People automatically think that when you're punk, Latino, and from Los Angeles, you must be from East L.A." says Generacion Suicida guitarist and singer Tony Abarca.
Since 2010, the quartet's catchy, fast paced melodic street punk (with snotty Spanish-language vocals) has lit up the Southern California underground, a scene for the most part dominated by hardcore and metal bands. "Right now everyone's into really fast hardcore. We play at a slower pace and with more melody. I don't think anyone is doing what we're doing right now," Abarca says.
Drawing comparisons to both local punk pioneers the Zeros and the almighty Ramones, the group is one of the city's best-kept secrets.
Most of the band's shows so far have been at underground venues off the beaten path. In December, they organized their own tour of Europe, where the group has a solid following, playing packed concert halls and squats from Spain to Sweden. Some of their best shows in 2013, however, were house shows performed in the garage adjacent to the one-story house on 88th Place in South L.A. that Abarca and drummer Kiwi Martinez - partners in both love and music - share.
Generacion Suicida released their first album, Con La Muerte a Tu Lado, last year. Seeing them live is like taking a time machine back to the late '70s. Martinez learned to play drums by emulating Marky Ramone's bare bones style. Add into the mix Abarca's raw, unschooled voice, guitarist Mario Quezada's catchy leads, and bassist Juan Zarate's melody-carrying bass lines, and it's hard not to feel like you're watching an outtake from Rock 'n' Roll High School.
"The first show we played in the garage in March of 2012 is probably my favorite," says Martinez. "It was packed and people were dancing and falling on my drum set, which is actually something I really like. There's so much energy."
Quezada, who used to play in hardcore bands, adds, "People are always dancing at the shows. It's just pogo instead of a circle pit."
So far, the gigs in the garage have been relatively problem free. "We know the neighbors well. My parents actually live right next door," says Abarca. "We try to end the shows by midnight."
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There have been issues though. 88th Place was once the dividing line between Bloods and Crips territory, Abarca says. "People around here don't have a lot except for their pride. Sometimes tempers run off." Once, people leaving the garage after a show were chased down the street by a woman in her car who threatened to kill them all. "She kept circling the block all night. We could hear the bass from her car stereo every time she drove by the house," says Martinez.
Despite the inherent risks, doing it themselves is important to Generacion Suicida. "DIY is all about having total control over what you're creating," says Abarca. "We look up to the Ramones. They never stopped touring and that's really the only way to make it as a DIY band. That's how you get the funds for new equipment and records. And all the cool experiences, too."
Catch Generacion Suicida at Arte de la Tierra in Santa Ana on February 28 at 7 p.m.