Artist Spotlight: Los Lobos at Anthology

Monday, April 9, 2012 15:47
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By Michelle Dederko |

Over three decades of American rock, Mexican folk music, and an organized chaos of English and Spanish lyrics have elevated Grammy-award winning band Los Lobos above any flash trends in the music industry. They just keep rockin’ to their own beat.

Los Lobos have proven a lasting power that not many can tout. Since 1973, original members Louie Perez, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano and Cougar Estrada have balanced a diverse range of styles. Once Steve Berlin joined in 1984, the band continued to put out a steady stream of hit records with few alterations.

Their newest album, Tin Can Trust, gave Lobos fans the first collection of original material in four years. To record it, the group headed back to their roots in East L.A. With songs spanning the likes of rock n’ roll, blues, two Spanish-language tracks and one Grateful Dead cover, it’s a true-to-Lobos mix of obvious talents.

The band stops through San Diego to perform at Anthology on Thursday, April 19th for a standing room only show at 9:30pm. We talked with saxophonist/keyboardist Steve Berlin while on tour about the new album, how Los Lobos has stayed in the game for so long, and what fans can expect at the show.

On producing the new record, Tin Can Trust

We had a couple of options. We weren’t sure if we were going to use our record label or produce it ourselves. After some careful deliberation, we realized none of us really had the energy or the resources to pull off what we needed to do to make that work. So we went in search of a record company that we could get along with and would be accommodating artistically since we’re used to having literally no interference when we produce our records. We found Shout! Factory and they were willing to do everything that we asked. So we were off making that record which took a little more than a year. The salient difference in this record was that all the records we had done before were done at our guitar player’ Cesar’s studio in his house and he had moved since our last record. So we looked around and found a pretty amazing studio in East LA right by where the guys grew up. So it made for an interesting take—going back to the studio and going back to the old neighborhood influenced the writing and the performing, as you might imagine. So all of that got us to a place where we made this record.

On the inspiration for Tin Can Trust–

I won’t say it’s really about anything specifically, but the theme of the record is going back home. And being back in East LA was kind of reminder of how far the guys have come and I think in some respects, seeing what people were still dealing with on a daily basis, which was absolutely no fun whatsoever.  You know when you make music for a while, you have to remind yourself that a lot of people don’t get to do that and you’re really lucky. You can’t be cavalier about it.

Steve’s favorite tracks–

I think “The Lady and the Rose.” It was one of the last ones that went on the record that just sort of came out of nowhere, kind of surprising. I don’t know how we pulled it off. It was certainly unexpected and that’s usually where the best songs come from.

On touring in 2012–

It’s certainly harder, and certainly not any cheaper. Some of the venues that were really supportive in the beginnings are now under enormous pressures to make money and survive. Now, social media is as important of a skill as being a good guitar player. It’s an indispensable ingredient to survival now. Stuff like that has certainly changed since we started. And the other side of that now is that I think both fans and bands have a clearer understanding of each other.

On what to expect at the show (Anthology, April 19th)–

It’s an all acoustic show, and we’ve done acoustic shows in the past but they’ve been focused on folklore and the Latin side of Los Lobos. Now we’ve sort of gone back and retro-fitted some non-Latin material. Every night, we’ve tried to do something we’ve never done before. And so far it seems like the audience has been very responsive to that. They get to see something more or less creative right in front of them. Overall, it’s a very enjoyable evening of music. You don’t walk out of there with your ears ringing like some shows we’ve done, so that in and of itself is pretty cool.

On the band’s longevity–

It’s all about just showing up. We figured that out a long time ago.  People remind us about how long we’ve been together and somebody has the records to prove it. It’s crazy.

Catch Los Lobos live at Anthology on Thursday, April 19th. Get tickets and details at




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