Joel Guerrero was showing me the practice space his father, Noel Guerrero, helped him construct for Joel’s up-and-coming band, CIVX.
Sound insulation supposedly helps keep the noise contained at the Guerreros’ Cathedral City home, but I was skeptical; after all, CIVX can be loud. For example, Nick Hernandez’s bass literally shook the ground at Coachella during the band’s the Mojave-stage performance.
However, Joel Guerrero, CIVX’s drummer, assured me that the space he and his father constructed is indeed legit. “The neighbors seem to be cool with it and have never called the police during a practice,” he said.
Formed after the dissolution of the band PSSSTOLS, which included Guerrero and two of his CIVX bandmates, CIVX has had a whirlwind six months of existence. The band played its first show—with hardly any material—in January. Mere months later, the band was selected to play at the Tachevah block party in Palm Springs—where the band announced that CIVX play at Coachella’s second weekend.
Nobody was more elated about the good news than Noel Guerrero, himself a well-known local musician.
Noel Guerrero immigrated to Miami from Morelia, Mexico, in the late 1980s. Joel was born in 1988, and the Guerreros settled in the Coachella Valley soon after.
“I came to the United States for a better life,” Noel Guerrero said. “I wanted to get away from everything that holds you down in Mexico.”
Joel Guerrero said life wasn’t always easy for his parents. “Even here, you struggle a lot, and my parents really struggled. But there was a better chance of actually making something of themselves, and it was their dream,” he said.
Noel Guerrero’s music career began in Mexico, and continued in the United States. On top of being a vocalist, Noel can play a “little bit of everything,” he said. He has played in Latin groups such as Los Bukis, Los Temerarios and Los Tigres del Norte. He also plays every Saturday night at Mr. Patron in Cathedral City with Inesperado; he also helps book bands at Mr. Patron.
“I started playing music about when I was 8 years old,” Noel Guerrero said. “I started in a choir when I was 14. When I was 16, I broke out of the choir scene and started my own band. I was in a band that played Quinceañera ceremonies. In Mexican culture, Quinceañera is when a young girl crosses into being a young adult woman. … They hire bands to play; they have a traditional Mariachi band and then a regular band. I also played in other venues in Mexico.”
Grupera, a genre of Mexican folk music, was popular in Mexico through the ’80s, and it influenced Noel’s tastes.
“In every state in Mexico, there are different kinds of genres that appeal to people. Mariachi really appeals to those in Jalisco. Where I grew up, Grupera was really big at the time,” Noel Guerrero said.
When Joel was about 13, Noel decided to teach Joel how to play guitar. One of Joel’s fellow students was his cousin, CIVX bandmate Salvador Gutierrez.
“The reason I started playing music was because of my dad,” Joel Guerrero said. “He started giving me, Sal, and our two other cousins guitar lessons.”
What kind of students were they?
“They gave it their best,” Noel Guerrero said. “We gave it a try, and there were definitely times that it seemed like they didn’t want to play—especially Sal. Sal is a great guitar-player now, but when he started, he just wasn’t into it and didn’t like it. He was 15 years old and into the whole DJ thing. I didn’t see him actually taking it far.”
However, Gutierrez did wind up embracing the instrument.
“My uncle definitely sparked the flame inside of me,” Gutierrez said, “Once I learned how to play my first Ramones song, it allowed me to start learning everything I could by myself. If it weren’t for that little push on the guitar, I would have probably ended up being a DJ and just pressing the ‘play’ button on the iTunes.”
Joel, however, moved on to another instrument.
“Around 14 or 15, I picked up the sticks and took up the drums,” Joel Guerrero said. “My cousins and I wanted to start a band, and we were all playing guitar. My cousin Frank moved to bass; my cousin Nester played guitar and was the vocalist, too; our other cousin Raul already knew how to play guitar; and I just moved to drums. It was natural.
“It’s funny, because the first song I played on the drums was ‘Clocks’ by Coldplay, because it was super-repetitive and easy. At the time, I was into punk music like The Clash, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and The Dead Kennedys. I was listening to that, but of course, I couldn’t play that kind of music. So, I started with Coldplay,” he said, laughing.
Noel Guerrero said he’s proud that he was able to share his love of music with his son.
“It’s one of the best things I could pass on to my son,” Noel Guerrero said. “I’m really satisfied and happy with how far Joel has come. It’s something I value highly as a musician myself. It’s something a musician dreams of, to pass on to their son or daughter.”
Joel said he’s proud of his father, too. “At first, thinking back to playing guitar—I didn’t want to play. I could tell it bummed him out. When I finally started taking the lessons and playing drums, to see how far I’ve come in music is something he’s really happy about and values a lot.”
Joel is especially grateful that his father has been realistic regarding the music industry.
“The one thing I’ve always said to him is the life of a musician is hard,” Noel Guerrero said. “It’s not what you see on TV. You can play a big show and then have little money to eat afterward, or you have to save money for gas if you’re touring—especially if you’re not signed to a big label. It’s a tough life and a tough industry.”
Joel said he values his father’s advice.
“I took it to heart, because it’s the truth,” Joel Guerrero said. “… It’s coming from an actual musician, somebody who lived it, and someone who has done it. I value that over someone saying, ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to make it; it’ll be easy, and you’ll make big bucks.’ I think all of that is bullshit. It can happen, but like my dad was saying, ‘Work hard, and as long as you don’t give up, believe in yourself, and the music, you’ll get somewhere.’
“He’s always told me to love what you do, or there’s no chance.”