Los Mocosos are a San Francisco barrio rock band in the great tradition of War, Santana and Malo. And like those earlier bands, Los Mocosos are now breaking out of the inner city and, apparently, intending to take over the world - one garage at a time. The band’s name says a lot about them. “We like to translate it as The Little Latin Rascals,” Happy explains. “Like a bunch of mischievous kids, creating havoc.” It fits, since this is a band that came about almost by accident, the result of a bit of studio mischief.
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Shades of Brown is the band’s second album, and from the opening bell, they let you know what’s hit you. “Llegaron Los Mocosos,” the first track, essentially comes right out and says, we’ve shown up to party. Latin, funk, even a touch of Jamaican ska, all blend together in a musical melting pot of sweaty horns, stinging guitar, and a rock solid rhythm section. “We used to tell people Los Mocosos was like Tower of Power meets Tito Puente,” Happy says. He could just as easily have added names like the Fania All-Stars and Earth Wind & Fire to that mix, too. The new record, for example, includes a tribute to the late Tito Puente, which convincingly mixes slow salsa with funky horn breaks.
The music on Shades of Brown reflects the reality of the barrio. “We wanted to say that we’re all in the same boat,” is how Happy explains it. “That’s what a barrio is all about. It’s not about being Latino. Our barrio includes old Irish, Asian immigrants, dotcom kids... It’s not a ghetto, it’s more like a fertile garden, a place for people who are just starting off.” Shorty Ramos, the band’s Hawaiian-born, Harley-riding, Italo-Puerto Rican tattoo artist and sax player, hears the sounds of the barrio in the album’s title track. “It makes me feel good,” he says. “It makes people feel good. We represent our people but it’s not a race thing - we have all different nationalities in the group. We’re just priod to be what we are.”
The band moves between musical styles so effortlessly because, as singer Manny Martinez notes, that mix of influences actually defines who they are. “The core of the band is Latino, and there’s a lot of that in us, but we were brought up here in the States with rock and funk and other stuff. We just put everything we know musically into this one thing.”
The days of classic Latin rock and funk seem to be long gone, but Los Mocosos may be poised to do something about that. “We have as much energy as any rock band,” says trombonist Victor Castro. Latin music and R&B are as popular as ever, and “Los Mocosos lets us put both together.” The resulting combination is hard to resist. “And of course it’s about having fun too,” adds Manny Martinez. “When you can actually do what’s in your heart and not just what people want you to do, it’s a lot more fun.”
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