- Terelle Jerricks
By Melina Paris, Contributing Music Writer
This summer, I attended a community event in Admiral Kidd Park and had the chance to experience a band with intense sounds and a driving energy. All I knew was that I wanted to hear more.
Romero Y Perez describe their sound as “Spanish Fusion music of classical flamenco with a modern twist.” Their sounds are vibrant, alive and fast. You could tell someone was playing guitar with their fingers on fire.
Yes, the rhythms primarily are Latin, but Romero Y Perez incorporate much more. Their music brings elements incorporate multicultural and multi-genre influences such as rock, metal and jazz, as well as some Middle Eastern inspiration.
Lead guitarist Johnny Romero, rhythm guitarist Victor Perez and Cameron Smith, on the cajón (an Afro-Peruvian percussion instrument), have a dynamic sound. Though their songs take on different genres, they are always backed by Spanish flamenco guitar. Each member complements one another and stands out in their respective parts, as they experiment with cultural music with Latin vibes.
The trio, each of whom played in different bands, met while as students at Cal State Long Beach. Johnny and Victor paired up only this past February. Tapping into a unique sound, together they were consistently well received performing at numerous community events appearances.
Later, Smith became freed up from his reggae band and after a few jam sessions together, including a well-received appearance at Battle of the Bands at the Long Beach YMCA, the trio was formed. Having Smith on the cajón, they all agree, emphasizes their modern sound with his progressive approach and diverse background.
Combined, they have many influences ranging from The Police, to Jose Feliciano, Carlos Santana, Jimmy Hendrix and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Each member’s love for music stems from genres just as diverse. Perez credits classical composers for his first inspiration. Beethoven, Bach and Hanson are his favorites. In the past he played thrash metal and psycho-billy. Smith sources Peter Gabriel and The Police as his initial motivation opening the gateway to playing a range of music from reggae to jazz, orchestral metal and recently flamenco. Romero’s background is in rock, Gypsy and Spanish music.
“It always stands out more to me,” said Romero, professing his love for the music. “Carlos Santana really influenced me a lot because of his solos; they’re live and they can breathe.”
Perez is the rock to Romero’s roll. While he provides depth with flowing rhythms punctuated by his guitar percussion, Romero deftly moves his fingers with speed over chord changes, showing his skill by playing a variety of styles. This especially comes across on their numbers “The Road “and “Olé” both having a distinct rock sound and driving guitar chords.
They also do a great cover of Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s song “Diablo Rojo” and there’s a good reason why. The internationally known band happens to be one of Romero Y Perez’s biggest inspirations.
“The turning point for me was when I saw Rodrigo y Gabriela in the 10th grade,” Romero said. “I just saw what I could do with the guitar.”
Both of these bands play a driving fusion of rock, latin, metal, jazz and more on acoustic guitar. Each have created their own unconventional methods toward success. Both bands also come from a rock and metal background. A deeper look into each of these bands began to show me other parallels between them.
A progressive approach describes how Romero Y Perez relates to Rodrigo y Gabriela.
After eight years and six albums together, Rodrigo y Gabriela’s music, as well as their tour schedule, is on high speed. Their“fusion” sound blends Mexican and Irish folk music, rock, jazz and thrash metal using mainly Latin harmonies and rhythms.
After their North American tour this past spring Rodrigo y Gabriela kicked off a world tour throughout Europe this November that will end up in Australia during the New Year.
Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero met and bonded while playing in a thrash metal band in Mexico called “Tierra Acida.” They recorded some material and played in clubs but no album was released. Frustrated with their prospects of becoming successful at home they decided to take off for Europe, where they were well received.
Upon their arrival to Ireland on an invitation to stay with a friend they found the friend had disappeared. Speaking no English they had to turn to busking on the streets of Dublin to make a living. This move heightened their reputation and connected them to other musicians. After that time the duo had a large range of original material. Soon after, in 2004, they released Re-Foc, their debut album.
Their most recent album, Area 52, released in January 2012 has received positive reviews. It contains re-workings of their original songs but this time they play with an orchestra. It’s quite a departure from previous recordings of only the duo on guitars.
They collaborated with the Collective Universal Band Association, a 13-piece Cuban orchestra comprised of some of Havana’s best young musicians, as well as the legendary virtuoso Ravi Shankar’s daughter Anoushka Shankar on the Indian string instrument, sitar. Charles Benavent played the bass, John Tempest and also Samuel Formell were on drums, and together they all added a whole different dimension to their sound. Area 52 is a natural evolution of Rodrigo y Gabriela’s international sound.
Evolving is the natural order of things and doing so requires paving your own road. When things didn’t look so good for Rodrigo y Gabriela at home, instead of staying put trying to force something to change for the better they took their act to an entirely different part of the world to find success.
Though Romero Y Perez’s challenges are not quite the same they also pave their own road to becoming known as opposed to the standard way of playing in clubs. Musicians pay (the club) to play in many clubs and quite often have to bring a crowd in too, this is so common it has a name, ‘pay to play.
The way they get their gigs is at the very least inventive and is currently proving successful for them.
“Musicians are constantly underrated and underpaid,” Romero explains. “We thought about doing venues but it’s pay to play, we don’t believe in that and we don’t want to be exploited in that way. I look online to find out about events and shows coming up in the community. Things really kicked off this summer with playing multiple Long Beach events like the Green LB festival.”
Romero Y Perez is building a reputation in Long Beach and it appears that they have also found their change for the better in terms of reaching their audience by focusing on playing community events.
Romero explains they want to play for the community, build their repertoire of songs and their reputation. Noting that there’s no Latin musical symbol in Long Beach they take pride in coming from to the city, where they want want to give back to the community.
Romero Y Perez just appeared November 30th in the Waker Building on Pine Avenue playing for an agency known as Men Making a Change. As it turns out Johnny reports that Men Making a Change offered to record them within the next coming months. The next event you can see them live at will be a fundraiser for the Long Beach Immigrants Rights Coalition at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 5450 E. Atherton St., in Long Beach. The band plays at 8 p.m.
Check out Romero Y Perez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Romero.Y.Perez