Desert Hot Springs’ BrosQuitos is going places: Thanks to an indie-rock sound that is as melodic as it is catchy, the band has signed a record deal and will soon be putting out a new record.
During a recent interview at his home in Desert Hot Springs, frontman James Johnson took me into the space where he practices with Max Powell (bass), John Clark (lead guitar) and Hugo Chavez (drummer). It’s a nice spot—but it does not have air conditioning.
“It’s brutal during the summer,” Johnson said.
On the walls are old records by people such as Gordon Lightfoot and Eddie Rabbitt. There’s even a copy of Handel’s Messiah.
“I have Beatles records I will not put up, because they’re from the 1960s, and they’re in really good condition,” Johnson said. “These are some of the records I thought were scratched and couldn’t play anymore. There are some soundtracks for things, like The Amazing Spider-Man, from the first cartoon they ever made. My grandma has gone through each and every one of these records with me, and we sat and listened to them. I got this whole box, and it brought up a lot of nostalgia for me.”
Johnson started the band about four years ago. He conceded that it has not been easy—and that, yes, there has been some drama.
“Our name has been around for about four years,” he said. “We’ve been in and out of members, and that’s something that’s been the story with us. … We feel we have progressed into something that’s going to be decent. I started out in this room and didn’t really have any gear. We didn’t even have a drum set, and now we have two drum sets, and we’re full of gear.
“We started the current formation of the band last year. We realized that the name face of what I was doing was the songwriting—and the way I was writing was something I really wanted to stick to.”
The BrosQuitos have gone through the Tachevah contest twice now—and finished as the runners-up to Brightener this year.
“The first competition we went through was bad,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t bad as far as how the competition went and how they organized it, but for us, it was a major loss. … At the time, we had a lead guitarist who wasn’t working out, and the music was just not harmonizing well with what we were doing. We had to force him and all of that energy into a competition. It was something where we thought we had it all and went into it egotistically—and we lost.
“We went home that night and pretty much reevaluated our careers. We asked ourselves what we really wanted: ‘Do you want to have nights like this every other night?’ We dropped a couple of members after that. One member got engaged and went in that direction, and we went in this direction—and came back again and won second place behind Brightener.”
Johnson offered some words of advice for any musicians who are considering entering Tachevah.
“If you want to get your band into it, you need to make sure you’re ready. It’s going to be something that’s very brutal, anxiety-driven, and you need to make sure your music is ready, unless you want to get offended,” he said. “You can easily just disappear with all of those acts you play those shows with.”
I asked Johnson whether he felt that losing Tachevah—or any other contest—reflected negatively on a band.
“I feel like at times, it can be,” he said. “As much as people are going to get pissed at me for saying that, and saying, ‘It doesn’t matter if you win or lose,’ it does matter. If you lose, you need to re-evaluate what you’re doing and why you lost. In a sense, losing can be better than winning, because you can reprogram yourself to what you need to focus on, and what your drive is. If you win, it could pump your ego too much, and the next time around, you could be too pumped up and ready to go. I think you need to have an equal balance of winning and losing, and that goes both ways. I’m sure Justin Bieber feels like he’s a winner.”
The BrosQuitos recently released a single, “Here or Anywhere,” from the upcoming album.
“We recorded our album at LunchBox Studios with David Franklin. … He has a beautiful studio in the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere,” Johnson said. “Hugo (Chavez), our drummer, got into a horrible fire accident and had to record the album with gauze all over his hands.
“When we release this, it’s going to mean a whole lot to us.”
That aforementioned new album will soon be released on DownPour Records. After talking about the messy breakup that the Yip-Yops have dealt with over the past year after signing with and then breaking from Hood and Associates, Johnson said he feels DownPour is leading his band in the right direction.
“We’ve been taken to Capitol Records, been given tours of Conway Studios twice, and we have a producer from Conway Studios who’s remastering our tracks,” he said. “We’ve been blessed this past year … and they’ve been paying for a lot. It’s a very small label in California. Everyone was a little intimidated when we signed, but I think they’ve all seen the progression afterward.”
For more information on the BrosQuitos, visit www.thebrosquitos.com.