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Band projects joy, culture of its Latin roots

The B*Side Players - (from left) Luis Cuenca, Damian DeRobbio, Reagan Branch, Victor Tapia and Karlos Paez - will bring their eclectic rhythms to Plush on Friday.

The B*Side Players - (from left) Luis Cuenca, Damian DeRobbio, Reagan Branch, Victor Tapia and Karlos Paez - will bring their eclectic rhythms to Plush on Friday.

The music of San Diego’s B*Side Players is a gumbo of sound. Formed in 1994, the band blends the rhythms of Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico and Brazil with funk, rock, jazz and hip-hop.

“The root of all pop music is African,” says Karlos Paez, the band’s lead vocalist, trumpet player and founder, in publicity materials. “Our sound acknowledges that fact. That’s why the music is so soulful. We’re playing the ancient beats that came from Africa to create reggae, son, Afro-beat and funk and mixing ‘em all together.”

In an e-mail interview, Paez and bassist Damian DeRobbio discuss their genre-bending music, Valentine’s Day and charming the ladies.

Question: I see you guys are holding a Valentine’s Day Ball. How are you altering your playlist for this show? Any special romantic surprises planned?

KP: We are going to include some old B*Side classics from the mid ’90s in our Valentine’s set. Some boleros, cha cha cha and more lovers reggae rock.

DD: The romance will be in the ’70s velvet tuxes that we will be wearing! We are going to crown The King and Queen of the ball right before we go onstage and celebrate with champagne, a balloon drop, confetti and probably kick off the party with the song “Alegria!”

Your material is pretty political. What do you hope to accomplish through your music?

KP: Higher consciousness.

DD:World peace and the end of poverty, hunger, segregation, war and oppression.

How did you hook up with Quetzal Flores of East L.A. band Quetzal, and how has he helped you?

KP: B*Side Players Have been around since 1994 so Quetzal and other L.A. bands and musicians have worked together for years. Quetzal helped us to express our folkloric roots.

DD: Quetzal is an old friend of ours. Our manager Ivory Daniel used to manage them back in the day and we have done many shows together. Quetzal and (Quetzal band member) Martha (Gonzalez) are like family to us. It was a little dream of ours to do a record together and “Fire in the Youth” just happened to be that record. We really stripped things down and kept it roots with Quetzal.

What separates B*Side Players from all the other bands that are cross-pollinating music genres?

KP: B*Side Players were the first musicians to reincarnate the ’70s Chicano movement sound: War, Santana, Malo, Fania All Stars, etc. B*Side Players ignited the rebirth of Latin Afro-Funk Soul and paved the way for many Chicano-Latino-Mexican bands.

DD: We represent our area of the world. San Diego, Tijuana, Tecate, Mazatlan and Recodo Sinaloa. When you listen to similar bands, you are hearing the streets that they live on or grew up on. You are hearing their tierra and their barrios. When you listen to The B*Side Players, you are hearing the struggles of the Tijuana border mixed with the joy and culture of our people.

Why do you think your music resonates with so many people?

KP: Music is the balance of pleasure and pain and the universal language.

DD: Our music is just a reflection of life. It is full of pleasure and pain. So hopefully people identify with us because we are just a reflection of them.

What is the biggest misconception about B*Side players?

KP: That we are famous, wealthy, and playboys.

DD: Maybe that we are successful? haha . . . I don’t know. I’m not sure if people realize how hard it is to keep a band like ours together. We have never seen the commercial success of bands like Calle 13 or Manu Chao. We still are traveling through the mountains – 12 guys in a van pulling a trailer. That is what may also keep us so grounded and connected to the street. We are still and always will be part of the struggle and the culture of resistance.

What cultural-political changes are you noticing in your hometown of San Diego or in the country and how are they affecting your music?

KP: The economic crisis is uniting the people and the music scene. In hard times, people prefer struggling together as a family. Bands are doing more benefits and community shows in the recession. Struggle creates good art, music and sex.

DD: Well, this election was a very big win for us and our country. Now we have a general positive feeling about our country and our president. We have gone from being ashamed of our president and his actions to being proud and hopeful. It makes us want to write positive music!

One customer review of your latest CD on Amazon.com says you guys always get the girls. How true is that?

KP: We get the ladies to come back to our shows and return with their moms, daughters, tías and comadres. This is true.

DD: We actually have some new guys in the band who never get any girls. . .haha. . . Girls like to dance and B*Side is a great band to dance to!

What’s your next project?

KP: A world tour.

DD: We are currently working on new songs for the next record and we are going to start filming a documentary on this Rocky Mountain tour.

———

IF YOU GO

What: B*Side Players in concert

When: 10:45 p.m. Friday

Where: Plush, 340 E. Sixth St.

Price: $8

Info: 798-1298, plushtucson.com

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