For Avenida Music—voted as the Best Local Band by readers of the Independent in the annual Best of Coachella Valley poll—music revolves around family.
The band includes three brothers—and may be the only local group to be the subject of a song by another local band (Frank Eats the Floor). Avenida Music has played all over Southern California for weddings and corporate events, and has a weekly residency at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells.
When I sat down with Josiah Gonzalez (piano/synth), he told me some fascinating stories about the musical journey that led to the formation of Avenida Music.
“The band is composed of two of my brothers (Vincent and Samuel), myself and Sean Poe (also of the Hive Minds),” Josiah Gonzalez said. “My brothers and I have been playing music together since we were 9 years old. My dad scrounged money together to get us lessons and instruments, and we were playing in church or just for fun. We’ve been playing for about 15 years together.
“We all found ourselves back in the Coachella Valley after college and decided we should continue to play. It started as a cover gig for my aunt’s birthday party; she wanted us to play some Beatles tunes. We liked doing it so much that we started playing with friends and playing in garages in 2015. We had no idea what we were doing and were just looking for some gigs playing covers.”
Avenida, like some other local bands, is named after an element of a local neighborhood.
“We spent the first two or three months playing in a garage trying to come up with a name. We couldn’t come up with anything anybody liked,” Josiah Gonzalez said. “We went through 50 or 60 different options no one could agree on. We were originally playing in Cathedral City, and every other street is called Avenida something. We thought, ‘Why not Avenida?’ It stuck.”
While Avenida Music started off playing covers, it is not just a cover band … although when you see “Avenida Music” on the bill, you should expect covers.
“We do have original music. We made an interesting pivot after we picked up Sean,” Josiah Gonzalez said. “We started playing covers and original stuff, but it was hard to differentiate. … When we started making more money as a cover band, we decided we really needed to focus on that. We wrote our five-year plan based on the idea we’d play corporate gigs and weddings. Over the last couple of years, we’ve been writing original stuff—and that’s what we’ve been working on right now in side projects not named Avenida Music. We really try to separate the two to remain consistent in what we do as a band.”
The Gonzalez brothers had no choice but to play music growing up.
“That was predetermined. Literally: Before we were born, our parents decided what instruments we were going to play, and when they were going to have us,” Josiah said. “They knew they wanted a quartet that had a piano, bass, drums and a sax. They ended up with four boys (each) two years apart. … My dad has been a minister for most of his life, and he would do jobs for people, saying, ‘I’ll do your landscaping for free if you teach my son how to play piano.’ That’s how he got all of us lessons. We’d come out of the womb, and two years later, they’d be introducing us to the instrument as if it was propaganda, like, ‘Isn’t the piano great?’ We all ended up playing those instruments, and we all still do play those instruments.
“They didn’t let us quit. I tried to quit piano a couple of times, and my parents said, ‘We’re sorry, but that’s not really an option.’ I’m grateful in retrospect. They made sure to tell me, ‘We work really hard to make to get you these lessons, and this is something you will carry with you for the rest of your life.’”
The Gonzalez brothers’ parents believed music would help instill character.
“I remember being really scared, because they were making me play in a convalescent home. I got really mad and said I didn’t want to be playing in convalescent homes and church events for old ladies,” Josiah said. “I was about 11 or 12, and my dad told me, ‘I didn’t work this hard to get you these lessons so you could go hide in a corner and play by yourself. Your job is to go use this gift you have to help other people.’ To this day, that is one of the things I remember. … It made an impression on me, and it really resonated as to why we still play music today. The reason we play is not for us; whatever we have is to be used to bless other people.”
Josiah Gonzalez said he was surprised to learn Avenida Music had been voted Best Local Band.
“We were blown away when we were nominated and when we won,” he said. “We have a big family; my dad has six brothers and sisters, as well as a lot of cousins. But I think more than anything, we’ve really tried to be as supportive of other musicians as much as possible, and we’re really grateful, because some people reciprocated that and voted for us. … We’re really grateful that people appreciate what we do and the music we do.”
Avenida Music will perform at the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Party at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Copa Nightclub, 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs. Admission is free. For more information on Avenida Music, visit www.littlestreetmusic.com.