Spring may have just sprung, but Gio Chamba's "High Rider" is pulling up to your curb, swinging open the passenger door and inviting you to cruise along into summer jam territory.
The Houston music dynamo's latest single dropped in February. It's a Latin Boogaloo-infused honeydripper that sounds like a beer, Buchanas and barbecue party at your compadre's house. The video for the song premiered today on Vevo, YouTube and right here. Raven Tower hosts an official viewing/release party tonight.
“[The song] was written in June 2016 and it came about after I showed several Boogaloo artists to our friend and co-producer, Svani Quintanilla, also known as Principe Q, from Corpus Christi," Chamba says. "He immediately said, ‘I'm gonna make a beat like that,’ and he sent it to me within an hour. He works super-fast.
“I was really impressed in how he captured the Boogaloo style so well, down to the claps, but at the same time, threw his signature urban sound on it," he continues. "I loved it so much, I wanted to finish my part quick. I wrote the lyrics and melody the next day with the help of [bandmate/producer] Coffee [Guzman]. That's one of the many songs we have co-produced with Svani.”
Chamba and Guzman share a diverse love of music. We asked for a few acts that inform their own sound and got a list 30 names long. Their shared musical heroes include Bob Marley and Dengue Dengue Dengue. Separately, they noted acts like Mano Negra, Manu Chao, Bone Thugs and Devendra Banhart (Chamba) and Slightly Stoopid, Tito Puente, Beastie Boys and Daft Punk (Guzman) as some of their musical role models.
We got to talk about a few of our own music favorites with Chamba. The song title and the video remind us a bit of the oft-sampled War classic, “Low Rider.” The correlation was intentional, Chamba insists.
“I have been listening to Chicano Soul-Latin Boogaloo for quite some time, because it's a very unique style with a very interesting history," he says. "It's the blend of American R&B, soul and funk styles with Afro-Cuban instrumentation, and most of it contains English lyrics. There are a lot great Boogaloo artists, but one of my favorites is The Joe Cuba Sextet because they made the catchiest tunes.
“When I listened to the beat that Svani made, I immediately felt like it was a cruising song," Chamba continues. "It wasn't just that he named it ‘mi lowrider’ for the sake of saving the Ableton session, but it also reminded me of a Joe Cuba-type song. I knew that there's already a song called ‘Low Rider,’ so I decided to flip it and call it ‘High Rider’ because it's a new feeling.
"We decided to make the connection between ‘High Rider’ and a person that you love to spend time with, while jamming out to music in the car," he explains. "As soon as we put the track out, we started seeing videos on Twitter with couples jamming to ‘High Rider’ in their car and singing along...and we're cruising through the streets of H-Town.”
Houstonians, especially those in music circles, should see some familiar sites and faces in the film.
“The video was shot and directed by Frank Ipkiss, also known as Quite Frankly. He's a very talented young director from Houston who has his own visual style that fits so well with ours," says Guzman. "Frank has the ability to see our unique vision and vibes with us on a personal level, so it makes it really easy to work with him."
“The video was mainly shot at an event that was sponsored by Wonky Power Records in conjunction with Boombox Taco. We shot it in one day and we had our friend Frank Cruz from Corpus Christi come up to Houston with his 1961 Chrysler Newport,” he adds. “Príncipe Q and Frank star in it, as well as our good friend Christie Chafoya, also known as ‘Cheech,’ and Alex 'Senior Jukebox' from Boombox Taco. It also has special appearances by Marco Torres, Richie from Mind Shrine and the Mantra Love homies.”
Despite the easy vibe of the song, Guzman said the undercurrent to the video is about work, the kind that drives this city.
“We wanted to represent a day of CHAMBA (work) in Houston through our personal, day-in-the-life viewpoint,” Guzman notes. “That's why it shows Gio working in the taco truck and me playing congas outside. Then, later in the video, you see us working onstage. We literally work all day, every day. We also wanted to show the world a different side of the culture that Houston offers, a more artistic and open-minded side of the city. Due to high population, there's a multitude of people that are seeking good food, arts and entertainment. We wanted to pay homage to the city by showcasing those aspects in the video.”
We wondered if this could possibly be Chamba’s first official music video and were a bit surprised when Guzman confirmed it is. He said the best parts of the first-time experience were “that we worked with a great friend who is hustling out here just like we are, and also the fact that we were able to incorporate different friends of ours who we respect in the city and outside the city.”
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“High Rider,” the song, is available on all streaming platforms and is part of an upcoming album tentatively titled TEJAS. After tonight’s event, Gio Chamba can be seen at the Houston Astros Opening Day Party Monday, April 3, and then at Cinco de Mayo festivities at Market Square Park.
We close by noting that all those musical influences Chamba and Guzman shared have melded into something new in their hands, something that feels identifiably “Houston.”
“We're thankful to all of the people who listen, go to our shows and follow us online. It feels great to make others feel good doing what we love because we're expressing ourselves genuinely,” Chamba said. “We're a product of the diverse, hard-working culture in Houston and we feel that we must do our best to represent the city in every way that we can. We're flattered and humbled to know that people identify us with the city that way.”
Raven Tower, 310 North, hosts Gio Chamba’s “High Rider” viewing party tonight, part of the Critical Mass afterparty. 10 p.m., free.