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Cover 05/22/2013

Is Piñata Protest Ready for Bigger Things?

Photo: Josh Huskin, License: N/A

Josh Huskin

“Our best lineup ever… and probably the last:” Matt Cazares, Álvaro del Norte, Marcus Cazares, and J. J. Martínez

“It might get a bit loud,” Álvaro del Norte tells me, as I proceed to sit in the middle of Piñata Protest’s 8 x 10 rehearsal space at a secret storage room somewhere in the city (don’t ask). It’s Sunday, but the band doesn’t stop.

“You’re in the middle of the storm now,” the singer/accordionist tells me. He’s sporting a Rev. Horton Heat T-shirt. Drummer J. J. Martínez has his arms covered with tattoos (from my position I can only identify the Virgin of Guadalupe); bassist Marcus Cazares has a Voodoo Glow Skulls T-shirt; there’s framed Mexican lotería pictures on the floor and, on the wall, the song list for El Valiente, the new album Piñata Protest will debut Friday at the White Rabbit. When they start playing the waltz-like “Tomorrow, Today” (one of the EP’s key tracks), I have a sudden realization: there’s actually two Piñata Protests.

“This is the best lineup we ever had,” says del Norte, “and probably the last.” He smiles and looks at the others, who smile nervously. But unlike the wild, loud, spontaneous combustion of a Piñata Protest concert, these guys are all business: extremely focused “organized mayhem,” the sound of four guys who’ve been through these songs countless times.

“That’s why we were able to record the album in three days,” says del Norte about El Valiente, produced in Austin by Chris “Frenchie” Smith. “By the time we got to the studio, we got it pretty much down.”

Much more “down” than 2010’s Plethora, which required a “Reloaded” version in 2012.

“We weren’t very happy with the original recording, the sound and the feeling,” said del Norte. “The band was going through some rocky times.”

“Yeah, it needed an update,” said drummer J. J. Martínez, the other survivor of both Plethora sessions.

El Valiente (“The Brave”) is the perfect title for an album that came to life through sheer relentlessness. Due to what del Norte attributes to “substance abuse” and “fights within the band,” Plethora Reloaded could’ve been the end of the quartet.

“But this time everybody is solid and everyone wants the same thing,” he says. “I see [El Valiente] as a first step. It’s a transitional album, but we’ll never change our core sound.”

It took two drummers, two guitarists and four bass players for Piñata to finally be at peace with itself and now they’re ready to take no prisoners. So are Saustex Media and L.A.’s Cósmica Records, which jointly released the album on May 21. SA’s Saustex, the primary label, will handle the physical release while Cósmica (a leading Latin alternative label and management firm with red-hot indie songstress Carla Morrison on board) will take care of the digital and the Latin market, including Mexico.

But the other key member of the new Team Piñata is manager Faith Radle, the person who helped turn Girl in a Coma into a full-fledged international act.

“The band is really ready to make a break and I think this will be the album to do it,” Radle told the Current via email.  She’s been working with the band for about nine months, and the results are there: a solid new album, successful showcases at South by Southwest, and favorable NPR coverage.

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