Los Lonely Boys Mature, Get Goofy On New Rockpango

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Rocks Off suspects the last thing Los Lonely Boys guitarist and singer Henry Garza wanted to do on the day after arriving back in San Angelo from a European tour with Los Lobos was a phone interview.

"We flew into Austin last night, then had a four-hour drive," he says from his home in San Angelo, where we hear sounds of domesticity in the background. "We got here about midnight. So we're just getting back with the families, laying low for a couple of days."

In spite of living in San Angelo, a farming, ranching, and industrial town of 100,000, the band seldom plays its home town.

"When we first started, we played every bar, club, and cantina around here, but we don't have the opportunity to play around here much anymore," says Garza. "We are tinkering with starting some kind of three-day festival and we're hoping to do it around Cinco de Mayo. But that's just a dream for right now, we've got so much going on with the record and touring."

So why has the popular band continued to base itself out of San Angelo rather than a more logical hub like Austin or Dallas? There must be pluses and minuses.

"The greatest plus for us is just being where the dirt calls to you," Garza laughs. "We were born in Snyder, then moved to San Angelo and we're all blue skies, flat country boys. And coming in off the road, we all relish the simpler life, slowing things down. We're not the types to be cool with being tied up in traffic and just all the extra stuff it takes to live in a bigger town.

"Not trying to be strange or anything, but this is just who we are."

Wildly successful from the beginning - the single "Heaven" from 2004 debut album Los Lonely Boys went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts - the band is touring behind the new album Rockpango.

It is already being compared favorably with Los Lobos and features a cross-section of sounds, from the Boys' trademark Texas power-trio blues-rock to quieter, thoughtful melodies and arrangements that take them way outside the boundaries of blues-rock.

"Man, you just mature," Garza explains matter-of-factly. "And we've been lucky enough to make it this long, so we've been around and been exposed to other ideas, and we've been able to learn from people and grow. No one wants to do the same thing over and over."

The band recently passed through a scary phase as Garza's brother and band bassist Jojo Garza had throat surgery.

"We had just finished the first show of a tour and he had some pain, so he went to a doctor and found out he had a growth. It was a rough moment," says Garza. "We kinda limped through that tour, cancelled a few dates and went back to San Angelo.

"Your natural reaction when something like this happens is you expect the worst and you hope for the best. We were so blessed that it wasn't cancerous and that it was able to heal itself after the surgery. We are just truly blessed."

Garza noted that the band was half way through recording Rockpango but really weren't sure they would ever finish it. They laid low in San Angelo six months waiting for Jojo to bounce back, and he did.

"We hadn't put out a new studio album in three years, so we jumped right back on the record as soon as Jojo was good to go," says Garza. "And now we're out here pushing it hard."

According to Garza, the tour is only the three brothers, doing their Texas power-trio thing.

"[Drummer] Ringo has really upped his game the past couple of years. He's added congas to his kit, so we can really mix up our sounds more even though we're still just a simple three-piece."

While the new album certainly shows growth and maturity, Garza admits the band sometimes gets goofy, and "16 Monkeys" is the best current example.

"That was just something we'd been playing around with," he laughs. "During breaks in the studio we were fooling with it and everyone said we had to go ahead and do that one, put it on the album."

Sixteen monkeys ride around on a "chuck wagon" smoking pot and commenting on the scene in this spoken-word, low-rider funk anthem.

16 monkees on a chuck wagon rollin' down the road

They're goin' around town telling' everybody

Let's get stoned

"Funny as that song is, it really just came up from the stuff we see when we're out on the road," Garza explains. "Man, there's a lot of weirdness and goofy stuff going on everywhere. That song is just as true as any of the more serious songs."

With Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real, 8 p.m., Thursday, May 12, House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, 888-402-5837.

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