Probably all of us here at Remezcla are huge fans of Los Abandoned, as our Music Editor Isabela pointed out last week. As is, we are incredibly excited about their one-time reunion concert today (Friday the 28th) at L.A.’s Echoplex. I had the opportunity to speak with Lady P. (aka Pilar Díaz) and Vira Lata separately about the band’s breakup, what happened in the ensuing years, and what fans can expect at the reunion show.
Why did the band break up in October of 2007?
Vira Lata: It was a number of things. At the time, we were exhausted and were in the middle of so many things that made it almost impossible for us to continue. The pressure of coming up with a second record and all those things made it really hard on the band. Pilar also wanted to do her own thing and we all respected that.
Lady P.: That’s kind of the reason why I needed to leave the band — because I wanted to diversify. I wanted to see what else was out there for me to do as a musician and as a writer, and hopefully make a living out of it. Unfortunately, you don’t make a lot of money being in a rock band unless you have a number one hit or some other instances of good luck. I’m doing all the things I wanted to experiment with and see how I could challenge myself as a musician, as a writer and as a performer.
The band needed, or at least we thought we needed, 100% of my time. I was willing to give that time if I could do all these other things, but at the time nobody knew if that was the right way to go. It had to end so we could all diversify and take an “artistic vacation,” as Don Verde had a lovely way of putting it. You could be full time in a band, but if you don’t take those artistic vacations with side projects, it’s just like with anything else — you get stuck in a rut. You start to hate what you do and you’re constantly having second thoughts about everything. There’s a reason why bands that have continued to be together for 20 or 30 years — it’s because they have side projects. It really enriches the relationship and the partnership so much more.
Also, record labels, managers, or booking agents don’t want you to stop. You have to be the bigger person and say, “Okay guys, you know what? You want us to keep going but we have to do these certain things for it to keep going, or else it’s going to die.” It got to a point where it had to stop because it was so unhealthy emotionally more than anything. That’s what had to be done and it was abrupt, but it was really necessary so we could keep what little we had left of our friendship, and for us not to go away hating each other. We wanted to make sure that we still liked each other.
How as life been after the breakup of Los Abandoned?
LP: I took a sabbatical trip to Chile. I went back home for four months, wrote and recorded my next solo record. I’ve been working on writing music for commercials and documentaries. I’m also teaching music to at-risk youth – I do that once a week. Giving back to the community is a very important thing for me. I teach music at Covenant House’s music program that Mötley Crew’s Nikki Sixx put together. He hires musicians and I teach piano and songwriting over there. Just last week, I finished last cues for a documentary. It’s an environmental movie about a Buddhist monk that goes on a walking pilgrimage through the Himalayas to teach rural residents about the use of plastic and recycling, and how to get rid of waste properly. It’s a pretty awesome movie, narrated by Darryl Hannah. I’ve also gotten a couple of my own and Los Abandoned songs on the show Parenthood. I’ve written some jingles for some car commercials and was singing the mermaid voices for The Misadventures of Flapjack on Cartoon Network. One of my best friends is the composer for the show so he’d always have me sing on episodes. That was really fun. I did that in 2009, 2010 and a little bit this year but the show’s over now.
VL: I play with Ximena Sariñana, Ceci Bastida, Aparato and some other acts here and there. I’ve been doing some production on my own, and with David [Don Verde]. We produced this band called Love Star and others. Mainly, I’ve been a freelance musician and it’s very comfortable for me to do that. For a while, when I was still in Los Abandoned, that sense of learning new music on the go got lost, because I was more focused on doing our own music. It took me a while to get back in the game, but I enjoy it.
ONE OF THE INTERESTING THINGS GRADUATING
FROM THE ULTIMATE OPENING BAND IS THAT WE
ACTUALLY GET TO BE A HEADLINING ACT.
Tell me about your first (and last) album, Mix Tape.
LP: We made a record with Vapor Records, Neil Young’s label, and called Mix Tape, because that was basically the idea. We wanted to actually create a mix tape, and for each song to be extremely different from the other, but still have our signature sound. There was always this little element that you knew was still the band. Now in my solo project I play [the ukelele] consistently all the time now.
VL: We wanted to be a high-energy outfit. When we were putting Mix Tape together, we realized that there were some songs in there that sounded like “Girlfriend In A Coma” from The Smiths. We had songs that sounded like The Ramones, and we had a song that sounded like a cover version of Madonna. When we recorded it, we approached it that way: songs that aesthetically sounded like some of these bands that we grew up with and that we admire. It turned out to be a really good record. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I’m really, really proud of it, still to this day.
Why did y’all decide to play a reunion show and how did it come about?
VL: It all started by us having a dialogue — back in the beginning of 2010, when the earthquake in Chile happened. Our former booking agent, John Danville, approached us with this idea of doing a benefit for the victims of the earthquake. It was the first time we contacted each other about doing [a reunion]. That’s when we broke the ice after the separation and then we started flirting with that idea. Earlier this year, as Ricky [Garay of Mucho Music] was starting to move out of La Cita, approached us with the concept of resurrecting Los Abandoned for one night only. He had the right idea and the timing was right.
I played Mucho many times and I got to see Ricky quite often. He had the idea and it just popped up and I said, “I’ll do it. Now, you have to convince the others.” So he did! He actually went to everybody in the band individually and asked if they wanted to do this. It was a labor of love. He had the whole idea of resurrecting Los Abandoned for one night only. I think I said to him “it’ll just be one show, we won’t do anything else,” and that’s how it started. It was very drastic. The music is sitting there and it’s calling you like “Hey, play me again!” There’s some sort of nostalgia about it too, going back to a room and trying to learn these songs and interpret them with people that you have so many memories together, that you have so many moments with.
LP: I always had envisioned that we would have some sort of reunion, and it was just a matter of time. In four years, we’ve all grown to be better musicians and had other experiences in life that have given us different attitudes than what we had before. It’s nice for all of us to see each other again. The family bond is still there and I think it’ll go away because we went through so much together. That’s what allowed us to do the reunion concert. Also, the right promoter [Ricky Garay] asked. We were at the right time at the right place. We’d been asked to do a reunion show before by others and either we couldn’t because conflict of schedules, touring, or working on other projects. So it was actually perfect timing.
Plus, Ricky totally gets the band. That’s why it’s going to be really special — he understands the purpose to our shows and why we did music. It wasn’t just to get up there and do music. Though, sometimes it was, but most of the time, there was a purpose behind it; either with a theme show or to create a special atmosphere. He’s calling it The Resurrection of Los Abandoned, and wanted us to do this show for day of the dead.
WE HAD A BIG QUEER FOLLOWING AND THERE WERE A LOT
OF KIDS THAT CAME OUT OF THE CLOSET AND THANKED US
BECAUSE OUR MUSIC HELPED THEM DO THAT.
What can fans expect at the reunion show?
VL: One of the interesting things graduating from being the ultimate opening band is that we actually get to be a headlining act. We’re going to play pretty much everything — not everything we’ve ever written because there are some things that we’re not playing from that. We almost had enough material for a second album. There’ll be things that we used to play once in a while, and some of the numbers from Mix Tape like “State of Affairs” and some other songs that we really liked playing live, but we couldn’t do because we had really short sets. Now we can do that and it’s going to be super fun! Reinventing our own music.
We’re playing a couple of those songs that we didn’t get to play often, and one of them happens to be “Venden Mi Nostalgia,” which I can relate a lot to that song right now especially with this show.
How would you describe Los Abandoned’s legacy?
LP: We had such a dedicated following and obviously they were bummed. Our fans were just as bummed as we were, but they were also really supportive and that helped. One of the things I had said at the final show was, “Well, there’s always the reunion show. We’re not at a funeral. No one’s died here.” I remember saying that because I wanted to make sure that people understood that everything transforms into other things. Things have cycles. I felt that we could definitely have that opportunity as a band because we split up on a very positive note.
We were very honored by [Gustavo Arellano] putting us such on a high pedestal. We worked for so many years and we went through so much just to get the little that we had in the economic sense, but it all paid off when we’d get great write-ups and people telling us that they were influenced by us, or that we helped them get through a breakup, or helped them feel better about themselves. We had a big queer following and there were a lot of kids that came out of the closet and thanked us because our music helped them do that. It was those things that made it all worthwhile when we were all living on sleeping bags on the floor.
LV: The very first time that I noticed — and it really shocked me — was when we set out to do our prom. We went on LATV to promote it and we said, “Come to our prom and come dressed as if you were going to prom” almost in a jokingly way, like we didn’t really mean to do that but we were hoping that people did. The big surprise was when people showed up dressed as if they were going to prom. Many of them hadn’t even had their prom at that point. It was great! All these kids are really dedicated to this band and they really like it. That’s when I realized that we had more than just a fanbase — it was a community of music, culture and diversity. These kids could identify with what we were doing because, at that time, there had been people that had done the Spanish-English thing but never with our approach.
So, what’s in the future for Los Abandoned?
LP: Well, now it’s like having a first date again. We’ll see how it goes after the first date. We’re really excited, and are having a lot of fun at rehearsals. It’s just us which is the most important element.
VL: There’ll probably be another [reunion] in 10 years but we don’t know. There were times that I thought that I didn’t really want one. I thought it was not going to happen. Life is a process and you learn through it. We learned some things, and grew up individually and artistically. Right now, there are no plans to do anything else but this show. We’ve been asked if we’re going to make some new music but we haven’t had the time. We’ve been really busy trying to relearn our old stuff, and to get cracking with new material that we haven’t created isn’t in our plans now. Reuniting and being in the same room with a purpose is there again, so I don’t know where this is all going to take us.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Los Angeles tonight, catch their one time reunion performance at Echoplexx, presented by Mucho Music.