Long Beach and Orange County, California, have given us some of the greatest US ska/reggae of recent times, and with bands such Sublime and No Doubt, you could say that they’ve also deliver the most popular. A “new” band is emerging from here also and promises to brake new barriers for this new generation of skankers. Roncovacoco has just released their debut self-titled album with ten years of production behind it, so it’s not a surprise that it reached the iTunes latin charts with only the support of their fans collected in a period of over a decade.
We catch up with the band backstage at the House of Blues on Sunset during Colombia’s Alto Grado album release party, coincidentally on the same day that it was announced that the venue would be demolished to make room for a more “modern,” and expensive, apartment building/hotel.
LatinAlt: What’s up everybody? We are here with Roncovacoco!
Alex (vocals): Hey que onda raza?
LatinAlt: How are you guys doing?
Alex: We’re doing good man, happy to be here supporting the album release of (the band) Alto Grado, Colombia in the Casa!
LatinAlt: Yeah! (I respond with a shout when my country is given props). So tell us about your new album that just came out, it made it to number 23 in the iTunes latin charts, right? How was the recording process?
Alex: Well the recording process actually took a long time. We started recording maybe ten years ago.
Alex: Yea, approximately ten years to get it done. A lot of us were still in or just out of high school. We didn't really know what we were getting into, we just knew that what we were doing was something advanced, and even though it was so long ago, I still feel like the songs sound fresh. They are something that a lot of people can relate to at this time.
LA: Yea, I remember I listen to your guys’ song “Soncovacoco” maybe back in 2010, great song by the way.
Alex: Yea is a cool song, an instrumental version. Yea its a great song man.
LA: There is this song that you guys recorded with the band Locos Por Juana, right?
Alex: yea we did this festival… what was it called guys?
LA Sound System.
Alex: Yea this was back in 2008. Locos Por Juana was on there, we played together and became friends, then we were working on our album we asked those guys “hey, we got this song… it needs something.” We hit Itagüi up (vocals) and he was like “Yea, man I’m down to get it done,” and the rest is history (laughs).
LA: Tell us how was the scene when you guys started playing? What made you guys want to start this band?
Roberto (Second Vocals): We started paying at houses, the scene was crazy, everybody knew everybody and we were playing like four shows a night. (Laughs) after that, we just decided to start taking it seriously. Started preparing our music, fixing it, perfecting it. That’s what took a long process.
Alex: Before we started doing ska music, we were a Rock en Español band. Jaime (guitar) here and Angel (Bass), we listened to Sekta Core, this band from Mexico and they were it! (he excitingly remarks) we listened to that and we were blown away. That’s when we decided that man, this is what we wanna be doing, this is the kind of music we wanna do. When we started playing in the beginning everything was super fast and in your face, and I guess as we got older and time went by, it kinda slowed down, we started getting into like some reggae music and stuff. I think at this point I’m really glad with what Ronocovacoco’s sound is now, we can still play some of that hard stuff but we can bring it down and play a little bit of roots reggae, add some cumbia, things that we weren’t really doing before cause we just wanted to play kick ass stuff (laughs).
LA: How have you guys gone about promoting your record since it’s showing results? You know people are buying it, they’re digging it.
Alex: You know, it’s always one of the most difficult things for an independent band because you don’t really have advertisements, things that cost money, you don’t really get a budget for that type of stuff. We just had to get creative and there are a lot of free tools out there, like mailchimp, things like that, that allow you to do things. I guess if you’re smart about it, you can get away with promoting for free. We happened to develop a pretty good fan base and I think that’s really what helped us out. A lot of people believed in us and the moment that our album was finally gonna drop, everybody was ready for it! So when it debut, I mean… for an independent band, we released it ourselves and it was in the charts with like Juanes, Enrique Iglesias, things (people) like that. So for us, you know, some guys growing up in the hood, it’s pretty amazing man.
LA: Pretty cool. (I assure you I sounded very interested) How’s the (ska) scene here in LA? and actually, how long have you guys been together?
Alex: Thirteen years? yea, thirteen years. The scene has changed a lot (I seem to have switched from a great subject to an awful one by the sound of his disappointed voice), unfortunately, I don’t think that bands support each other enough. There is a few bands that believe in friendships and stuff like that, but, it’s just kinda hard. That’s why we took it upon ourselves to help Alto Grado out, you know, bring them over here to our scene and try to get a name for them. Hopefully they can do the same for us back in their hometown.
LA; DefinItely, you let them stay in your house, you pretty much are showing them the ropes. I was telling them that they are doing it the right way because they’re playing with the right bands at the right venues, I think they’re making a good impact. So I guess you put a lot of you own shows right?
Alex: I guess we have the smarts to put our own shows together. It’s just been a lot easier because we dont have to really work with other promoters or stuff like that (glad it got better since two paragraphs ago). We pretty much just ask our friends to play shows with us. Ana plays in other bands, David, a lot of these guys play in many of these bands.
LA: What bands?
Alex: Manny was in Red Store Bums I don’t know if he still is? Yeah? (he asks Manny) yea he is. Ana plays with Chiles Verdes and Rosas de los Angeles, Angel and the other guitar player, Sam, play in another band called Grado de Altitud, and David plays with India Maria Ska and some other bands. Whenever we do shows, we just get together… Ya tenemos que subír (He tells me after they’re told to get on stage) Should we finish it later?
LA: Yea man, cool… Actually we’re good, that’s a pretty solid 10 minutes, Suerte in the show!! Peace!!
Everybody: Peace out! … Bye … vamonos!