Filmmaker Hector Galán documents the stunning rise of Los Lonely Boys
After producing the landmark documentary Chicano! History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement and, more recently, the slept-on Visiones series, San Angelo native Hector Galán has set his sights on the biggest musical act ever to come out of his hometown.
The Garza brothers - Henry, Jojo, and Ringo - are collectively known as Los Lonely Boys, a blazing West Texas, Latino-rock trio which has bum-rushed the industry and is up for four Grammys this year, including Best New Artist, Best Pop Vocal by a Duo or Group, and Record of the Year. Galán is currently researching and shooting interviews for his Los Lonely Boys documentary and is looking toward a fall 2005 release. We caught up with him in his Austin office to reflect on his favorite band's incredible rise.
Current: How did you meet the boys and what was your initial impression of them?
Hector Galán: A lot of my relatives and I went to go see them to support our San Angelo group, and I was stunned. I was blown away completely when I heard them and I knew at that moment that I wanted to do something with them.
At that point, they had some very diehard fans that knew about them but they were relatively unknown on both a citywide and national level. Slowly but surely with the release of their CD, they just took off. I think the reason why, and it was what I felt when I saw them, is that these guys are the real deal. They're not packaged. They're not created. They're extremely talented as musicians and as writers of their own material.
People just have this sort of connection to them because they sense that. Being that they're honest in what they say and who they are, and they don't pretend, I think people like that. I think at first, the music is hard to define. Some people were calling it derivative and other people were calling it totally original. But if you listen to their music, it truly reflects, I think, the whole Mexican-American experience of a lot of different influences and thatís basically who we are.
Current: In essence, what is the story of the documentary you're working on with them?
HG: The documentary I'm working on, I call it Cotton Fields and Crossroads. That's actually one of their songs, and it's inspired by the cotton fields and crossroads of West Texas. Of course, a lot of their family, and a lot of Mexican-American families have that connection to the cotton field.
I think through the story that we're doing with Los Lonely Boys, is knowing a little bit of the back story, knowing a little bit of the Mexican-American struggle to give the viewer that knowledge of where these kids came from. What were some of the influences that influenced them as Mexican-Americans from West Texas, because if you listen to the music, it's very distinctive. I think that what they're doing is bridging the gap. Here you have today several generations later, a group that's being embraced by mainstream America whereas a few generations back we were separated, and it was from our music to our communities.
Current: What are some of the things to which you attribute to their unbelievable success?
HG: I think their success, of course, a lot of it has to do with their music. Their music is unique but accessible. Right now there's such a void in the rock genre that people are just totally engaged in the audience, as well as the fact that they put on a great show. They know what people like and what they want.
Secondly, I think the fact that here are these three Mexican-American brothers, something that you don't see hardly at all. We've had Santana and Los Lobos but very few in that particular genre, and I think there's just something very unique about that. That is part of that phenomenon, and the fact that theyíre brothers. They're sort of like a throwback in that they're very unique in their Pachuco style and Pachuco influences with their Stacy Adams. It's sort of a tribute to their dad who's part of that Pachuco subculture which was a whole different onda. It's a subculture and the fact that they flaunt that gives them yet another stamp of uniqueness.
HG: I think that's very much part of it. Through their unspoken gestures, they just know where they're going, in terms of when they're performing onstage and so forth, they're just as one. These three brothers are as one. Their harmonizing certainly shows that. They're incredible musicians, taught from their dad, but they add a lot themselves.
I think as brothers it just makes them that whole. Just being with them there's this real magic because they're not only talented onstage, but they're engaging, they're funny. I think what keeps them together is the power that they're family. Talking to the mom, talking to the extended family, they always say that, 'We're familia,' and that's what keeps them strong.
You always hear about bands breaking up and this and that but these guys, they survived and they struggled together in the worst of times. They were very poor and they were playing in places that sometimes wouldn't even pay them, maybe just give them something to eat. So to see the incredible success they're having, and the beautiful thing is that it really doesn't get to their heads. I think it's a reflection of their roots. •
By M. Solis