Mariachi El Bronx's Joby F. Ford May Be "The Whitest Guy In the World"...or Not
Pounded By the Surf, "the best looking band in the world" (according to a highly unscientific poll)
Photo by Adam Burns
Joby F. Ford, multi-instrumentalist musical visionary behind several bands including The Bronx, Mariachi El Bronx, Pounded By the Surf and the Drips, describes himself as “the whitest guy in the world.”
“I’m really just this nerdy Colorado guy with flaming red hair and a beard,” Ford jests from his home just outside Los Angeles. “Through my music, I get to leave myself behind occasionally and become this other guy.”
Musically, for Ford it’s all about mixing things up.
“It’s small stuff that gets me going, you know," he says. "Like I never really have any aspirations for any of my bands, that’s not the reason to make art. Make things because you like ‘em. With me it’s whatever comes comes, I don’t really have any plans, in fact I never have any plans, I’m not that kind of guy. I really love music and I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks, I want to play it with my bros and if nothing comes of it, nothing comes of it.
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"To me, that’s punk attitude," Ford continues. "Mariachi may not sound like a punk band, but it’s a very punk thing because that’s how we first approached it and that’s still how we approach it. The whole idea of Mariachi El Bronx was to try mariachi music circuited through this band that basically had a punk foundation and musical view. The same with Pounded By the Surf, but in that project, which is mainly made up of guys from The Bronx and Mariachi, we’re mixing up surf-rock with these dry, Western sounds.”
Pounded By the Surf, who style themselves as "the best looking band in the world," will follow San Antonio punkers Pinata Protest before Mariachi El Bronx takes the stage. Ford is just happy to get to play some live gigs with Pounded and to get back to Houston.
“Mariachi was booked to play the Free Press Summer Fest but we only got onstage about 30 seconds before they evacuated everyone because of lightning," he remembers. "So we’ve never really had a show in Houston before, and we’re just hoping to draw a good, enthusiastic crowd this trip down there.”
All three bands played San Antonio Tuesday and Austin on Thursday before hitting Numbers Sunday night.
“We’ve always thought we might do well in Texas, but so far we haven’t really tapped into it,” says Ford. “But we’ve played some shows with the Pinata Protest guys and they’ve given us some good information about playing Texas, so hopefully we’ll pull a decent crowd in Houston this time.”
Ford goes on to note that David Hidalgo of Los Lobos has become a fan and supporter of several projects. Mariachi lead singer Steve Caughtran grew up in Pico Rivera, California, where Hidalgo was his next-door neighbor. Hidalgo’s sons David Jr. and Vincent formed the rhythm section of one of Caughtran and Ford’s first projects, punk band The Drips. Vincent Hidalgo plays guitaron in Mariachi.
“Vincent plays in Mariachi and in Pounded By the Surf, and David Sr. actually sits in with us occasionally,” Ford notes. “I play accordion in Mariachi and there have been times when I’ve found myself onstage with David and his accordion. He actually sat in with us one night on one of the late-night talk shows we did too. He’s been a big-time supporter.”
But Ford has had other instances where he's had to pinch himself and see if things are real.
“We were doing a show out here and I looked over and Flaco Jimenez is plugging in his accordion," he says. "I couldn’t believe it, and then he’s just in there playing with us. He was such a sweet and talented guy and so friendly toward all of us, but he didn’t get how in awe of his playing I was, I don’t think. I’ll never forget that happening.”
Ford also finds Mariachi’s popularity on late night television funny.
“We’ve done so many of those late-night tv things,” Ford laughs. “The fact that we were on Jay Leno, Conan, Letterman, it’s fucking hilarious because we’re not a trend, there’s no one rushing to replicate us, there are no labels screaming ‘bring us the next Mariachi El Bronx.’ It’s not a thing, it probably never will be, but we sure seem to keep getting cool gigs.”
Ford came to California on a baseball scholarship, but he was also playing in bands while getting a degree in art.
“I went to work for a label called Vagrant Records,” Ford recalls, “and all I wanted to do was design cool album covers. I met our drummer Jorma Vik through the label. It looked like they were going to sign his band for a while, then they didn’t. He and I kept in touch and started playing some and I eventually drifted into playing pretty much all the time. I played in bands about ten years before anything at all happened.
“One of the great things I learned about music is that there are no rules,” observes Ford. “To me, that’s at the heart of punk attitude. No rules. I don’t’ want to stay on some path, I’d rather go off the grid and mix things that sound exciting to me and not do something everyone’s done. Besides that, I have a short attention span. I hear a sound and I want to make a record, hopefully a record that‘s not like any other record. And for me that all comes back to mixing things up like there are no rules. That’s why the Bronx mixes punk and rock, Pounded mixes surf and Western, and Mariachi mixes Latin and rock. I don’t know any other way to describe it, and I don’t know any other way to make the music we make.”
As far as Pounded By the Surf goes, Ford notes that while the band has only played a dozen live gigs, the new album comes out today, just in time for this Texas swing.
“I look at it like we’re just getting started and we don’t know what might become of this or where it might take us eventually,” Ford surmises. “Everyone in the band except one also plays in Mariachi, so the logistics were great for us to tag onto this tour and see if anyone digs what we’re doing.”
Mariachi El Bronx, Pounded By the Surf and Pinata Protest perform Sunday, November 15 at Numbers, 300 Westheimer. Doors open at 7 p.m.
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