East Los Angeles is enjoying a rocksteady renaissance, thanks largely to a group called The Delirians. They formed as teenagers and have made the traditional Jamaican music their own, blending the slower-than-ska-but-faster-than-reggae riffs with signature East L.A. sounds of soul, funk and R&B. The group has been widely accepted by rocksteady legends like Thee Jamaicans, Pat Kelly, and Derrick Morgan, they also opened for Toots and the Maytals and toured with The Skatalites.
How did a group of punk kids from the barrio pull all this off? They set high goals and played tons of small shows, says Angel “Honeydripper” Salgado, the bubbly frontman and rhythm guitarist.
Their name has changed over the years; they started as a ska-punk band from Garfield High School called The Drunk Skunks. During their slightly-mellower bilingual phase they were Ultima Caida, before becoming The Delirians. Since getting serious in 2007, the act has recorded vinyl singles for Steady Beat Recordings and Moondust Records
Their style follows Los Lobos, Cannibal and The Headhunters, Thee Midniters, well-known Mexican American bands that have come out of the area. They too have not pigeonholed themselves as a Latino band, but have covered Rocksteady'd funk classics like “Express Yourself” and “I'll Take You There” that appeal to people of all cultures.
Their eight current members are between the ages of 20 and 25, except for their new horns player, Eitan Avineri, 38, who plays trumpet and is a producer for the band Western Standard Time. The founding members are Joseph Quiñones, Salgado, and Anthony Medina. They've also added a new 25-year-old female vocalist to hit their falsettos, Scarlett Brais.
The Delirians have come a long way, racking up enough band funds to pay the $750 rent for their practice studio. That said, they still get excited to play a free show in exchange of free booze and a meal every once in a while. They're currently contemplating a self-promoted 55 day U.S. tour, and are happy to do it as long as their basic “three S's” are covered, says saxophonist Aaron Reyna. “Shit, shower and shave.”
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