Ever thought that the guitar solo on Black Sabbath's “Crazy Town” would sound so much cooler if it was played on a violin, by a shirtless man in a studded dog collar? If so, you're in luck, because what's sure to be your new favorite band is coming to town to play this weekend's Tamale Festival Houston.
Metalachi's music is exactly what it sounds like: a combination of metal and mariachi. The band covers heavy metal songs — “Crazy Train” is a particular favorite — but plays them in mariachi style. Despite how the two genres might sound, metal and mariachi actually aren't so different, explains Metalachi's trumpet player El Cucuy. Or at least their fans aren't.
“The crowd, they all know the words and they're all singing along, having a good time,” he says of heavy metal songs and concerts. “With mariachi, it's a lot similar. Because there's like a thousand mariachi songs but the like people we play with, they know the words to all of them. And they'll sing.”
When asked how the band's five members originally met and decided to form a band, Metalachi's lead singer Vega De La Rockha replies, “Oh, we're family… We're brothers from the same mom but different dads, unfortunately. Mom was a bit promiscuous.”
“I know it's kind of hard to see because I'm so handsome compared to my brothers, but we're really related,” adds El Cucuy.
They also apparently have a sister, who happens to play the violin. In case you couldn't tell, that's maybe not quite a true story. But then again, that's the Metalachi mantra: Go all in. In previous interviews — including one with our sister paper, LA Weekly — the Metalachi men refused to give their true back stories or to even break character.
Still, De La Rockha and El Cucuy did divulge how Metalachi first emerged. The “brothers” started off as a normal mariachi band, playing Los Angeles-area baby showers and weddings in the typical mariachi three-piece suits. (The band members now often prefer to wear leather, studs and skin-tight animal prints.) Then, about seven years ago, while working at a quinceañera, the band decided to play Black Sabbath's “Iron Man” as a mariachi cover, dubbing it “Iron Tapatío.” People loved it.
“Tequila had a big part in it, and also a lot of phrase[s] of not sleeping. You know, you can't think right,” De La Rockha says of the decision.
And so Metalachi was born. Their first album, Uno, was released in 2012, while their second, Dos, came out this past Tuesday. Dos also happens to include the band's first ever original song, though the band still primarily focuses on covers, with about 50 in their repertoire.
Still, translating metal into mariachi can be difficult, since some metal songs don't have chord structures or may jump back and forth between major and minor, El Cucuy says. Metaliachi has a musical director who often sets up their music, and while it typically about one to two weeks to turn a metal song mariachi, some require a bit more work. AC/DC's “Thunderstruck,” for example, took a month.
But when it works, somehow, it really works. If you can't make Metalachi's upcoming Houston show, their music video rendition of “Crazy Train” (below) features the aforementioned shirtless violin player. Prepare yourself, though: There is a copious amount of Ozzy Osbourne-style tongue lolling in the video.
Metalachi's members know that their music is, to say the least, a little unusual. El Cucuy said that many people often have no idea what they're going to see. “Because you tell them, 'Hey, we're going to go see a heavy metal mariachi band.' They usually go to like maybe laugh, you know, make fun of what we're doing,” he explained, adding, “But then they leave, 'Ah damn, you know, that was such a great show. And everybody in the band they really can take care of their instrument very well. There's not too many people who can play their instruments like they do.'”
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It might not just be the band's playing that's memorable. The band likes to frequently bring up audience members for some, ahem, antics. De La Vega described one particular move, involving El Cucuy's spiked codpiece. “It's called a Croucherita. We bring up the girl, and everybody has a drink in their hand, and everybody pours in an ingredient for a margarita.”
At the end, the woman squeezes a lemon on to the codpiece's spike, then slurps up the drink. “Like I said, tequila has a lot to do with our decision making,” De La Vega laughed.
“We do not take ourselves too seriously onstage, when it comes to joking around with our fans,” he said. “And they love that. They love to be a part of the show and feel like they're being incorporated into it.”
Metalachi will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, December 3 at the Tamale Festival Houston on the Navigation Esplanade at 2600 Navigation. General-admission tickets are $; see tamalefestivalhouston.com for more details. The band will also play 10 p.m. Saturday, December 10 at Scout Bar, 18307 Egret Bay Blvd. in Clear Lake. Tickets to that show are $12.