One year after winning the chance to play at the Tachevah block party in Palm Springs, Tribesmen continue to gain notoriety throughout the Coachella Valley.
The group came together through jam sessions scheduled with the intention of forming an actual band. Alec Corral (guitar), Leslie Romero (bass) and Freddy Jimenez (drums) played a distorted style of rock ’n’ roll that Corral compared to that of the White Stripes.
Wilber Pacheco (guitar) was in another band at the time that Tribesmen formed, but soon became interested in what the three members were doing.
“I went to one of their band practices, and they were just going to play rock stuff,” Pacheco said. “I was like, ‘I’ll just hang out,’ and then (Corral) starts playing in this awesome tone. I was like, ‘Holy shit, dude! Does the offer still stand to be in this band?’”
Tribesmen doesn’t have a vocalist, and the band doesn’t plan on adding one any time soon; they originally intended to have a vocalist, but were unable to find one and decided to instead make instrumental music—something that few bands have managed to make work, outside of Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Red Sparowes and a few other groups. However, none of those groups were among their influences.
“We make the songs more along the lines of cinematic scores,” Corral said.
Pacheco explained further why the band doesn’t have a singer.
“We’re very specific,” Pacheco said. “… To be honest, I think (a singer) makes or breaks a band. I’ve heard some really sick (in a good way) intros before, and I think, ‘Oh, this band is going to be sick, I can tell!’ Then the lead singer starts singing, and I’m like, ‘Oh, never mind.’
“I’d rather be criticized at first because people aren’t used to it. We got a lot of criticism after our first shows, and people asked us, ‘Why don’t you have a singer?’ Now, people get it, or they’re starting to get it.”
Corral said the members of Tribesmen don’t necessarily think of themselves as musicians.
“We don’t know all these notes, time, key and all that stuff,” Corral said. “We just play whatever sounds good to us. If it sounds good, we’ll keep playing it and keeping it going.”
Their songwriting process tends to be rather complex.
“When we’re creating songs, we jam for two hours just on random stuff,” Pacheco said. “Either a small clip or just 10 seconds can make us stop and go, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa! What was that you just played?’ We’ll just play that, and then we’ll work off of that for the next week or so, trying to make that into a song.”
All of this takes place in a Coachella practice space that has no air conditioning or heat.
“We’re working on it, though,” Corral said. “We’re working on adding more guitar pedals, and an A/C unit to help us out.”
Of course, the heat didn’t stop the band from holding an after-party at their practice space after playing The Hue Music and Arts Festival in Coachella last year.
“It was really hot,” Pacheco said. “I don’t know why, but we felt really compelled to have an after-party in our band room. More people than we expected came through. We had probably like 50 or 60 people; 30 of us were in the band room, and the rest were outside.”
When the band won the chance to play at the first Tachevah block party last year, the members were elated and nervous at the same time. They enjoy having a few alcoholic beverages before they perform, but one of the members of the band Passion Pit had just been through rehab—and the backstage area was an alcohol-free zone.
“They specifically said no beer in the green room or anywhere,” Corral said. “We were just in the green room chilling, just dry as fuck.”
The nervousness led to a bit of paranoia about their equipment.
“Nothing was going to mess up,” Pacheco said. “I opened up my amp and made sure there were no loose screws. I made sure everything was working, and I bought a bunch of new cables.”
Corral said his uncle helped ease their fears.
“As soon as he heard (about the show), he asked me if I needed anything. I didn’t ask him for anything, but when it came down to the wire, I asked him for some new cables. I bought a new amp at time—a tube amp instead of a solid state. We didn’t want to fail to impress.”
However, once they took the stage, the band members felt like they belonged, Corral said.
“It was an amazing experience,” Corral said. “As soon as we got onstage to set up our equipment and heard our sound, we went back in the green room, and we’re like, ‘You know what? We’re not going to play to a bunch of people, because we’re opening.’ As soon as we came back on, there were loads of people everywhere.”
Tribesmen went on to play several local shows in the past year, as well as gigs in Los Angeles and San Francisco. A local show with the Sweedish band Truckfighters last fall wound up being particularly helpful.
“They gave us some good advice, along with touring advice,” Pacheco said. “The drummer, Poncho, bought one of our band shirts, and he was wearing it while he was playing the show! I was like, ‘The drummer from Truckfighters is wearing our shirt!’”
The band is hoping to play at the Tachevah block party again this year, and are one of the 10 finalists. (Cathedral City’s CIVX was selected to perform by judges after the March 12 battle-of-the-bands showcase; Tribesmen will play at the second showcase, on March 26.) They submitted a music video that they recorded recently for their song “Alpine.”
“Last year, Bolin Jue from the Town Troubles filmed our video, and we thank him so much,” Pacheco said. “This year, we couldn’t ask Bolin again, because he did it for us last year, and his band didn’t win, so I felt bad. Freddy and I know this guy named Manuel, and we decided to hit him up to make us a music video. Our good friend, Ken Foto, let us use his studio at the Coachella Valley Art Center.”
Corral said they were happy with the end result
“After we saw Manuel’s work, we were sold,” Corral said. “He did a good job with us. He had a good camera, good editing, and all of that. It was entirely last minute, and we told him, ‘We leave it in your hands; whatever you want to do, and we’ll do it.’ He said all he needed was a projector and a warehouse, and we couldn’t find a warehouse, but props to Ken Foto for letting us use his studio.”
As for the future, the Pacheco and Corral said they have a surprise for their fans that they will reveal within the next year, but they wouldn’t elaborate. They did say they’ve begun work on recording a full length album.
“We’ve been having some issues with recording,” Pacheco said. “We’re trying to do it ourselves and then send it out to get mastered. We’re having trouble getting the timing on the metronome. ‘Alpine’ was the first song that we were recording, so, fortunately, it was ready by the deadline to enter Tachevah.”
Corral said the band is continuing to work on new material.
“Definitely more songs,” Corral said. “Vocals, maybe: We’ve been talking about little oohs and aahs and some spoken-word stuff, but only on some songs, and we’re going to drown them in reverb to hide our ugly voices. We don’t want to sound too poppy.”
Tribesmen will join other Tachevah finalists at a show at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 26, at the Hard Rock Palm Springs, 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. The show is free.