San Pedro psicodélico

Border band talks about the difficulty of breaking out of TJ

The proto-punk psicodélico San Pedro El Cortez says, “We definitely moved on from straight-up garage rock.”
  • The proto-punk psicodélico San Pedro El Cortez says, “We definitely moved on from straight-up garage rock.”

“I played All My Friends three times,” says guitarist Aris Chagoya of Tijuana-based San Pedro El Cortez about the annual music fest, which was held in June near Rosarito. “Usually, it was half electronic and half rock. This year it was mostly electronic.”

That is only part of the struggle the four men in San Pedro face as they as they try to carve a niche for their rich “proto-punk psicodélico” sound that was initially inspired by a Black Lips show in Tijuana and later tempered by Kraut-rock bands such as Can and Neu. “We definitely moved on from straight-up garage rock.” Their sonic splendor in the studio and their personal story of struggle as they tried to get their music out inspired a filmmaker to produce Basura, a 2013 documentary that chronicled their story.

"Por El Destino"

Official music video for San Pedro El Cortez, a psychedelic garage rock band from Tijuana, México.

Official music video for San Pedro El Cortez, a psychedelic garage rock band from Tijuana, México.

The problem, says Chagoya, is that the producer withheld the 70-minute video from internet distribution because that would hurt its appreciation at various film festivals. “[The producer] gave us one copy. He hasn’t produced any more. We asked why he didn’t produce copies and he never gave us an answer.”

Chagoya says the struggle to get their music heard is harder because they are from Tijuana.

“It’s a country where the wages are really low. You have to work long hours, six days a week, only make enough for rent, and even then you may have to live with your parents.”

When San Pedro tours they have to rely on other bands for transport.

“When we tour in Mexico we take a bus. We don’t take our amps. Just our guitars.”

And then there’s the fact that indie labels in Mexico are few and don’t have much juice.

“We were signed to Vale Vergas, which [literally] means ‘worth dicks’ but kind of translates to ‘don’t care.’ They are based in Mexico City.

“We said we were signed to them but they never released anything. We have a new record already recorded, but we don’t have a label to release it.”

Chagoya tells the Reader the good news is that the Tijuana scene is thriving, thanks to the Mod Bar, the Moustache Bar, and a new all-ages club on Sixth Avenue called Doce Cincuenta (12–50).

“But it seems like we get more bands coming to play here from L.A. than San Diego,” says Chagoya, “because the media told San Diego that Tijuana is not safe.”

San Pedro El Cortez, which has played at Til-Two and Tower Bar, appear Saturday at Lavender House in Vista with Johny Davila and Piff (Puerto Rico/Long Beach), Nervous Defects (El Centro), and No Martyr (San Diego).

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