Pinata Protest- Interview
Don’t you love those times when you check out a band that’s going to be opening for one of your favorites, and end up delightfully and surprisingly just as into them as the headliner? In my case, this was Piñata Protest on the lineup for the Mariachi el Bronx club show (that ended up being the Aggrolites when a few members of MEB had to quarantine) at Punk Rock Bowling 2021. And how could I not end up obsessed? These guys fuse my 3 great loves (punk music, the Spanish language, and Mexican/hispanic culture) into an explosive, innovative, accordion-led musical experience!
Recently, Richie Brown (bass) was kind enough to give Mable Syndrome some of his time and answer questions ranging from his band’s future plans, the San Antonio music scene and touring as a new Dad.
Mable Syndrome: My experience with your band starts with PRB, so let’s start there: is it as fun and epic for the bands as it is for the fans? Have you guys played other large festivals, and if so, which have been your favorites? Finally, what would you say are the biggest differences between playing a festival vs a smaller venue as part of a tour?
Richie: prb this past year was different, more so because Covid caused the shutdown and we hadn’t played many shows since it started. So yes this year it was something special for sure! We’ve played several festivals from large family friendly festivals to PRB and other folk punk type festivals like Muddyroots. They’re all fun to me and unique in their own so it’s hard to say which ones are my favorites. The smaller shows are always my favorite on the road because they seem to be a little more rowdy. I like that. On the road though the biggest differences are the fans. Usually fans come to our venue shows knowing they’re coming to see us. At festivals we get lots of first timers and it’s always fun hearing their reaction and making new friends.
MS: Was this year Piñata Protest’s first time playing PRB?
RB: No, I think the band has played PRB a total of 3 times. I joined the band in 2016 I believe. So I’ve played the last two times the band was invited.
MS: I live in a punk rock dead zone that virtually no one tours in. This year’s PRB was especially epic for me due to my not having seen live shows (besides livestreams) for more than a year and then getting to see so many favorite bands all at once. Was this also one of your first performances after COVID forced about a year off? And if not, tell me about where, when and how it felt once you did start performing again.
RB:We’ve played a few shows since Covid forced everyone to take a year off. Everyone was trying to figure out how to make social distance shows safe. I remember one of our homies Yo put the first social distancing shows together. It was a drive-in type show. Everyone was asked to stay in their own group/cars they came with and stay in our around their vehicles. It was different for sure.. we had people honking and flashing lights instead of moshing.
MS: I saw you play in Houston last November with The Casualties and couldn’t help but notice how intensely into the show the crowd was and how so many knew and were singing along to every song. How much does crowd energy like that affect you guys when you play?
RB:idk I don’t want to come off cliche about it but to me that’s what i feed off of, that energy. We love that shit. Like I said the rowdy shows are my favorite, much like the one at TripleSix in Houston.
MS: One of my favorite characteristics of Piñata Protest is that you sing in probably just as much Spanish as English. The show I saw in Houston would have had a much more bilingual audience than say, the shows you played in places like Eugene, Oregon or Salt Lake City. Do you guys tweak your set list to reflect your audience at all?
RB:No, it’s usually set ahead of time. Same set throughout the tour unless we get a request. Everyone’s got to learn a little Spanish at some point. Why not at a Pp show?🤷🏻♂️
MS: One more question about your last tour: you were on the road about a month and a half, and you personally had to leave behind your partner, a toddler and a days old baby (Again, congratulations to you both on the birth of your second angelito!!). Only sharing as much as you feel comfortable, of course, but what did you do to stay connected to your family while away? What could you do to cope when you were especially missing them? And does anyone else in your band have to leave a family behind when you tour?
RB: We talked daily, I’d send text messages whenever I was thinking of my family or if something reminded me of them, and vice versa, FaceTime helped also.. uh yeah just communication. When I couldn’t chat on those late nights I’d just look at photos and videos I have saved and cried, ha. Everyone’s got someone back home to look forward to, whether if it’s a significant or Chihuahuas.
MS: With songs like “Texas lindo y querido” and various mentions of life in a border state, you convey a strong sense of love/pride for your home state. Again, I’m from a totally different region of the US, so please explain to us outsiders what you love so much about San Antonio and Texas overall.
RB:I don’t know Texas is beautiful and rich in culture something you have to experience to truly understand why we love it like we do. I’ve lived here my whole life, it’s home to me. Also, I really don’t like talking about how amazing San Antonio is because there are so many people moving here now, we try to keep it on the DL. 😉
MS: You guys have 2 full-length albums out, and released the most recent one, “El Valiente” just in 2020. Does 2022 see you guys looking to record again, or are you going to make up on lost time touring?
RB:our latest album was “Necio Nights”, but yes to both! We have been recording and kicking song ideas around since the pandemic. We released one new song recently called “taking this ride”. We’re currently in the process of recording a new song titled “shepherd the sheep” and will be working on another called “I’ll never know,” which will feature me on upright bass. We’re planning on releasing these as we complete them.
As far as touring, we have a short Texas tour with our San Antonio friends, Fea, Garret T. Capps, Thurman Love, and we’ve also invited our friends from NYC Ratas En Zelo on this one. We’re all looking forward to this tour, these shows should be SUPER FUN! We’re also playing Moonrunners Festival in Chicago next month. We’re still booking shows and have a few we haven’t announced.
MS: Speaking of the “El Valiente” album, you guys covered Vicente Fernández’ (QEPD) legendary “Volver, volver.” Seriously, bold! Who is the Fernández fan, and did you guys worry at all about covering a song that some would consider untouchable? And have you played it live since he passed last month? Was the crowd reaction different at all?
RB: I can say we’re all fans but as far as playing something some would consider untouchable, I wouldn’t know. The bands rendition of that song was recorded before I was a part of the band. But to me I’ve always considered it a way for the band to pay respect to one of the bands influences. We haven’t had any shows since his passing so we haven’t had a chance to play it live yet. I’m sure it’ll be emotional.
MS: One more songwriting question: I’ve always wanted to ask this to bilingual bands (and totally recognize that this is perhaps more appropriately addressed to your singer and not the bass player): do some songs just come to you guys in Spanish and others in English, or how does that process work? Have you ever worked on one in one language and have it end up totally working out in the other?
RB: I don’t know what goes on in Alvi’s head when it comes to song writing. He probably just watches funny chihuahua gifs and meme’s and uses that as inspiration. That’s the only logical thing I can think of. Idk..
Last question! On the Mable Syndrome podcast, Kristen and Jessica like to ask the people they interview their opinion of which women are killing it in any aspect of the punk scene. Do you have anyone you’d like to give a shout out?
RB: Yeah for sure! FEA from San Antonio, Ratas en Zelo from NYC, Las Fokin Biches from Mexico, Bridge City Sinners from Portland ..check them out.
Thanks again, Richie, for your time. Cuídate and hope to see you guys in concert soon!