Five to six years ago, local indie-pop quartet The Brosquitos was on a tear.
The group played at venues from Schmidy’s Tavern (R.I.P.) to the Hard Rock Palm Springs; they played at festivals including Tachevah, the National Date Festival, and the 111 Music Fest. Debut album Vinyl Image had a stellar release show at the Indio Performing Arts Center; Brosquitos’ CDs and shirts could be found in many places around the valley—my house included.
Then came lineup changes and band-name changes. (We won’t talk much here about Sleeping Habits or Rival Alaska.) In recent years, the group, composed in its heyday of James Johnson, John Anthony Clark, Max Powell and Hugo Chavez, has been pretty quiet … until now.
First at the Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival, and then at the Indio International Tamale Festival, the quartet was back, using the name Brosquitos, with new takes on their old music, as well as some of the stuff that came from their time under different names. I met with the band after their performance at the Tamale Festival, and we talked about what led to this renaissance—including the re-release of Vinyl Image.
“We just got hit up to play a show,” Powell said. “We haven’t done it in a few years, so we gave it a shot. We practiced a couple of times; it didn’t sound terrible, so we decided to do a couple shows.”
Added Clark: “I think we all just wanted to do music again. James brought me back in … and after that, we just got together and started practicing for our first gig.”
The band members said they aren’t content with merely playing old Brosquitos songs as well as they did before.
“It’s just one of those things where you’ve got to practice constantly and build up the muscle memory that you used to have,” Chavez said. “It’s about learning to play the songs better than you did before, now that you’re older and more experienced in your instrument.”
Clark said the band members are content with reliving the Brosquitos days of old for now—but that 2022 will bring changes.
“We’re going to start writing new music and then start performing that stuff—under a new name probably, too,” he said. “I also wasn’t familiar with their new music (that fellow band members made under other names), so we revisited the old songs.”
Powell said he and his fellow Brosquitos have enjoyed the nostalgia of playing the older songs.
“We’ve been playing together since we were 15 years old, and now we’re all around 25,” he said. “It’s good to go back to the good old days, finish out the year strong, and then develop what we can past that.”
Vinyl Image—11 tracks of catchy, indie-pop goodness that have the power to stay in one’s head for five years, apparently—was removed from streaming services once the band changed its name in 2018. The group re-released the album on Dec. 12 with some newer production techniques and mastering—and Brosquitos are apparently not yet finished tinkering with it.
“We’re using a different type of audio engineering software, and it has a really cool feature on it that allows us to kind of dive in a little more without stems, and overall master a whole track,” Johnson said. “We think that it’s a good push to have a remastered old album, and still redo it with some sort of freshness. We want something new to work with, because we’ve all educated ourselves with music far beyond where we were when we were 14 and 15.”
Added Chavez: “We all developed different skills during quarantine that we all bring to the table now. When it comes down to remastering these tracks, we said, ‘OK, let’s see what we all learned and what we can put together.’”
While the first run of The Brosquitos ended sadly and abruptly, Johnson promised this era will be different.
“This time, It’s not going to go away,” said Johnson. “… There’s a whole thing that I don’t even want to get into right now, let alone the band splitting up and all that during that time. (Vinyl Image) has been kept away. We’re going to try our best to kind of not redo but remaster, and try our best to make it as relative as we can.”
Added Chavez: “It’s not so much a phase; it’s more about just capturing the energy again.”
As for that new music to come, likely under a different name: What should fans expect?
“We’re still going to keep playing the old songs, but we’re just trying to make stuff that fits us now—how we are as musicians and just as people,” Clark said.
Added Johnson: “What bands, besides the one-hit wonders, want to stick to one album? It’s super-limiting to our creativity. We want to be ready to go beyond that. We have an itch to be back and start trying something. That’s what we’re learning right now, to see where we can meet in the middle with our old technique and our new.”
A new mindset is coming along with the new music, Chavez said.
“It’s more for the music this time,” he said. “We’re doing this for fun, but we’re also doing this to get somewhere.”
Added Johnson: “It was good that we had all of that happen with us, both bad and good. … We’re ready to come back and really be in it for what it’s for. Anything we can do with it now, we’ll be happy. Before, we were pretty burnt out.”