Circa is a long way from the Smell, the all-ages Los Angeles punk club that has become internationally famous as the focal point of the city’s noisier musical acts. Nonetheless, one of its mainstays, four-piece Abe Vigoda, found themselves standing awkwardly in front of a sparsely populated and confused crowd at the Toronto mega club during an stint last fall as Diplo’s opening act.
“The Canadian shows were booked at dance clubs that normally don’t have bands play,” recalls guitar player Juan Velazquez. “Circa was really fucking weird. Like, they really didn’t like us. There were people there who weren’t expecting to see anybody else other than Diplo.”
Short bursts of aggressive noise pop with an eclectic undercurrent of world-music rhythms are hardly standard mega-club fare. But since Abe Vigoda released its critically acclaimed Skeleton album last year the band has increasingly found itself playing higher profile gigs, and Velazquez admits he sometimes worries about the reception. “I feel like we’re not the easiest band to like right away,” he says.
During an opening gig for Vampire Weekend in Los Angeles, for example, a friend jokingly started heckling the band. Thinking it was a close-minded indie pop jock, Velazquez became entangled in a three-minute verbal spat and wound up red faced when he realized it was ruse. “I do a lot of stupid things when there’s down time on stage and I have a microphone,” he laughs. “I kind of try to stop because I usually say really fucking dumb things the band gets upset about.”
Fortunately when Abe Vigoda takes the stage at the El Mocambo on Wed, Jul 22 as part of their first headlining tour of North America, the crowd is likely to be more familiar with the band’s tropical punk repertoire, which they’ve extended to more overtly pop territory on their five-track Reviver EP.
Velazquez, 23, has known singer Michael Vidal, bassist David Reichardt and drummer Reggie Guerrero since high school. Never comfortable in the West Hollywood gay scene, Velazqez, a Chino, California native, gravitated toward the noisy distorted sounds coming out of the Smell from bands such as Miko Miko and No Age.
During a Washington, DC stop on the Diplo tour, he got the chance to meet one of his musical icons: Husker Du’s Bob Mould, one of a few openly-gay figures in the punk scene of the past 30 years. Velazquez says he identifies strongly with Mould, whose personal politics and lifestyle was never obvious in Husker Du’s music.
“Some people only like bands because it’s a gay band or it’s a feminist band and think ‘I have to like it.’ But for me that’s never a selling point,” says Velasquez. “I felt some sort of shared experience thing [with Mould]. I thought that was really cool and I kind of looked up to him.
“You can still be political without being political in lyrics or by what you choose to do, who you choose to associate yourself with and the shows you decide to play or not to play.”