For years, El Monte Slim was a character from a Cheech and Chong skit, a used-car salesman. These days El Monte Slim is also a local outfit fronted by the massively bearded Ian Trumbell. Even though they probably won’t talk you into driving an ’82 Ford Escort off the lot, they may very well convince you to drop some ducats on a copy of their new disc, If I Could Just Break Even.
“El Monte Slim came together in 2010 when Joe (Camacho) and I kept running into each other at the same shows and got to talking about putting a rootsy project together,” Trumbell explained. “I’d been playing with a band called the Ghost Town Deputies and was looking for an outlet for some more stripped-down country-leaning tunes I’d been working on, and we got to hammering them out in Joe’s living room.”
Primary influences are cited as being “hard times, shitty jobs, and crappy girlfriends.” Add to this concoction the dynamic duo of Merle Haggard and the Replacements and you have the basic formula for El Monte Slim. Not a pure country outfit, mind you, more of a group that utilizes, according to Trumbell, “simple instrumentation and song structure.”
Or, in his own words, “One less bad rock band, I guess.”
Trumbell leads the band, singing and playing a hollow-bodied electric. Camacho gives the band a traditional country edge with plenty of pedal steel, while Ruben Ramos adds additional old-school authenticity by plucking a stand-up bass. Rounding out the four-piece is drummer Paul Brewin, who still plays with Uncle Joe’s Big Ol’ Driver on occasion. The line-up has now solidified with this rhythm section, which will surely keep the beat, since they are fueled by the one beer left in San Diego that (just barely) doesn’t qualify as canned water.
“It’s hard to find good musicians that will take Natural Light beer and dirty jokes for payment,” Trumbell said.
Live, it is easy to imagine El Monte Slim blending in as the hard-drinking country bar band in an old Smokey and the Bandit film. In fact, one of Trumbell’s most beloved local venues gives them a chance to pursue this visage, minus Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise.
“It’s hard to beat the Casbah as a favorite venue; it has the best sound and it’s always a good mix of music lovers. I especially enjoy playing in the Atari Lounge; it’s like being at a drunk uncle’s backyard BBQ.”