The Red Pears

Meet The Red Pears, the El Monte Band Playing Coachella 2024

Photo by Robert Nuñez.

While many use the term indie rock to refer to a broader, unpolished sound versus its independent-focused way of life, El Monte, CA, band The Red Pears are the result of what comes with standing by the subculture’s original uncommodified, ‘anyone-can-do-it’ attitude towards their music. Made up of singer and guitarist Henry Vargas, drummer Jose Corona, and bassist Patrick Juarez, they’ve paid their dues playing gigs at everything from pizzerias and tire shops to backyard parties across their hometown that often got shut down by the cops. They hauled t-shirts they’d screen printed at home around in trash bags to give away to their fans after gigs. They’ve also made a lot of sacrifices since forming nine years ago and have taken plenty of risks.

High school friends Vargas and Corona learned to play their instruments by mirroring songs from bands like The Strokes and have recorded a lot of their material, including their latest album Better Late Than Never, out of Jose’s family’s garage. Corona had left school while Vargas quit his full-time job, and Juarez relocated to California from Nevada to be closer. There was also a point not too long ago when Vargas would go on to work graveyard shifts immediately after their shows, the trio tells Remezcla.

“I think what makes us stand out from other bands is the way we grew up and our culture. A lot of the music that was playing around us was punk and heavy metal, and all of that influenced our sound. When people compare us to certain bands, I see it, but at the same time I don’t,” Vargas says. “I feel like we have different life experiences from them. I’m not saying that they didn’t [work hard], but I feel like we had to work a lot harder because of our skin tone.” 

“Sometimes people don’t believe they can do something bigger than where they’re from and their environment,” Corona adds. “I don’t know of any musicians that made it out of El Monte. Nobody that we knew in El Monte was doing what we wanted to do, and it felt impossible, like you had to be from LA or from a different neighborhood to do things. We’ve left a lot behind but it’s what we had to do to make our aspirations become a reality.”

Both millennials and those chronically online are aware of the ongoing talk around an “indie sleaze” revival, and perhaps shudder at the thought of the return of maximalist accessorizing, skinny jeans, and smudged eyeliner, but the El Monte trio’s time capsule-like melodies bring it back to the sound of the Velvet Underground-inspired rock bands that fueled that early 2000s aesthetic. 

Jagged guitars reminiscent of the deeper cuts on the Arctic Monkeys 2006 breakout record Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not ring on “See What I Mean,” while the bite-sized “It’s Alright” winds down to a slow dance-like pace as Vargas’s vocals recede to a woozy croon. Better Late Than Never doesn’t completely scrap the gritty surf meets garage rock heard on 2015’s We Bring Anything to the Table…Except Tables, We Can’t Bring Tables to the Table — which Vargas mentions was created with a lone USB microphone where they simply “recorded how they would normally just play it live” — nor does it stray too far from the raw emotions on display throughout You Thought We Left Because The Door Was Open. Better Late Than Never is as stylistically straight-to-the-point as its predecessors. But it packs a distinct nonchalant charm and offers a mellower, more broken-in sound. 

When people compare us to certain bands, I see it, but at the same time I don’t. I feel like we have different life experiences from them. I’m not saying that they didn’t [work hard], but I feel like we had to work a lot harder because of our skin tone. 

On the new LP, The Red Pears warmed up to keyboards and jazzier undertones (“Once Together”), and Vargas’s vocals ascend to spiky wails on songs like “Tired.” While they enter new terrain, Vargas says that he revisited old voice memos and lyrics that go back to his high school years that ultimately became some of the songs on this new album. “I wanted to keep that mindset and innocence that younger me had, but also feel like I could relate to now,” he says. “It really made me emotional when I first heard it,” notes Juarez, who was a fan of The Red Pears before joining in 2017. “I felt nostalgic and brought me back to being a teenager.”

While white men in music dominated the initial wave of early 2000s indie rock frenzy, the growing renewed interest in all things idie has allowed for bands like The Red Pears to think about their own legacy and relationship to the subculture. This comes as the trio marks their return to this year’s Coachella Festival as one of the few Latine-led alt-rock acts on the bill, along with their upcoming show with Chicano Batman at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles.

“It’s cool to be able to represent something bigger than yourself. At first, we didn’t really think about our skin tone or our culture. We just played. As we’ve grown, we’ve realized how important that is as more people come up to us,” says Corona. 

“Hopefully, we get to open doors for other people and other bands who see us play. If we could set some kind of standard or some kind of blueprint that someone can adapt and surpass, make adjustments to what we’re doing, and do it better than we are… It’s about opening doors and showing other people it’s possible.”