At the beginning of Los Skarnales' new video for "Wait A Minute, Güera," the first single from the longtime vatos rudos' new EP Another Day, Another Borrachera, the band members are approached by a mysterious fair-skinned beauty in a 1950s-era Cadillac. Front man Felipe Galvan is carrying an equally mysterious briefcase, its glowing contents seemingly traded for the continuation of a band who just last year celebrated their 20-year anniversary. "We are at a crossroads," says Galvan as we drink more than a few Lone Stars inside his home just steps from White Oak Bayou.
"Asi como Robert Johnson!", he adds.
Los Skarnales are indeed at a crossroads, although that is nothing new. Over the years, the beloved ska/punk/cumbia band has endured and survived several iterations and multiple lineups which for any other band would have proved disastrous. But there is more to them than just the music, more than just the individual players.
"This is a way of life, compa" declares Felipe. "We drink Lone Star because it's good and cheap, we act and dress the way we do because that's who we are, and we play the way we play because we know of no other way to do it".
And that's exactly the reason that they continue to be one of Houston's most popular and dynamic live acts. The release of the new EP is just another opportunity to share their souls with their devoted fanbase, and with Friday's show at Fitzgerald's, you can rest assured that it will be loud, it will be rambunctious, and it will be Puro Skarnales.
"I like to think of the album name as an ode to Freddy Fender's 'Wasted Days, Wasted Nights'" states Felipe. There's a song that didn't make the EP that said "Another day, another borrachera... Drinking all day, no mas por culpa de ella!"
Vocalist and hypeman Nestor "El Tiburon" Aguilar tells us that the name of the EP reminds him of "Another Place, Another Time" by Jerry Lee Lewis. Its the end of the night, and they are down to the last dime. But there is always the hope that the party will continue on, someday. For Los Skarnales, that someday is here. With the success of The Suffers growing by the minute, it became evident that Michael Razo, Jon Durbin, Kevin Bernier and Jose "Chapy" Luna needed to focus on their new band full-time.
"There's no bad blood between us though" says Galvan. "We love those guys and are extremely happy for them. We still talk in a group text and share laughs and stories all the time. Just like everyone else who has ever been in the band, they will always be Skarnales."
New to the clan is drummer Brian Shoppell, affectionally known as Chopper, who has formally played with some of Houston's greatest bands such as the Umbrella Man, The Octanes, Robert Ellis and more. ("He's a slut drummer, he gets around" jokes Felipe.) Their friendship goes all the way back to a fateful day at Alice's Tall Texan, and has finally lead to his induction into the band. Shoppell adds that the energy of this crew is infectious.
"There is never a dull moment with these guys," he says. "Our rehearsals are at the same intensity as our live shows, full of heart and camaraderie."
Also new are Chavo Velasco on trumpet, Aaron Houzvicka on trombone, and Nicco Martinez on guitar and organ. "The new members are fresh and focused," continues Aguilar. "They are eager to please and perform at all times. It definitely motivates us older guys!"
The EP was recorded last summer at SugarHill; if some of the tracks sound familiar, that's because they are. Most of them have been staples at Skarnales shows in the past few years, although this is the first time they have been recorded.
"It takes time and effort to meld all of the styles that drive our creative process" says Galvan. From ska to reggae, cumbia to punk, the band has an open mentality, without losing any of its attitude or identity. "We definitely don't play it safe. We are a roots music driven punk band with Latin under tones with amazing fans!"
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And that will never change.
Los Skarnales play Fitzgerald's (2706 White Oak) this Friday, June 26th with special guests Black Irish Texas, Las Skagaleras, and Alamo City Soul Club.
When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston Music scene and beyond. You can follow his adventures on Instagram: @MarcoFromHouston.