INTERVIEW: LOS CHICOSFRONTMAN, RAFA SUNEN

Los Chicos’s lead singer, Rafa Sunen, spoke to The Upside News the day after his band’s magnificent support slot at Radio Birdman’s only Adelaide show and he was still excited by the reception the band received.

Having seen the show, I was also still buzzing about the band’s amazing performance and was keen to thank him for putting on one of the most energetic and powerful shows in recent memory!

We spoke at some length about the band’s history, their influences, and of their connection with Australia and Australian audiences…

 

The Upside News: First of all – congratulations on last night’s show! That was the first time I had seen your band and you guys blew me away! It was a fantastic atmosphere during your set…

Rafa Sunen: Thank you.

TUN: Is that the usual response you get from a crowd?

RS: Well, yeah…[Laughs]…kind of! Usually. Well, it’s really the only way we know how to play so, most of the time, yeah, we get good reactions.

Sometimes, you know, it can be colder, but I don’t think that ever has a lot to do with our attitude. Sometimes it’s the sound of the venue [that doesn’t] go with the effort, or stuff like that, but all of the time we try and give it our two hundred percent.

TUN: Well that was what you gave last night. Everyone was having a really good time and that obviously was the effect you guys were looking for – just conveying your joy for music?

RS: Yeah, yeah. That crowd yesterday was just amazing! When we got to the venue we could already tell, because the venue is so cool.

You know, sometimes if the venue is cool, and the people are there, then you can tell from the beginning that it is going to be great fun. When you have good sound on the stage, good sound in the venue…and the size of the stage was just perfect for us.

We’ve been doing this for eighteen years so we really know what kind of stage we can work out on in our own way, so we kind of felt it was going to be a good gig.

We can do everything [right] and all that, but it’s up to the people that come…and the people from here – and we hadn’t played in Adelaide before – well, they were just amazing!

All of you were really great, I experienced great joy playing yesterday night!

TUN: And Adelaide can be pretty cool and indifferent sometimes to support acts, we don’t always give them that level of support, but you guys won the crowd over almost immediately. It was fantastic to witness.

RS: That’s great to hear!

TUN: Your band has a bit of a history with Radio Birdman, don’t you? You’ve worked with them before?

RS: Yeah, we played with them in London a few years ago when they went over to Europe to play and we got asked by our record label who were putting up the show, they asked us if we wanted to play with them, and of course we wanted to.

The guys from [Radio Birdman] knew about us because we had played before with The New Christs.

We had put up a show for them in Madrid. It was the last day of their tour and they had a day off, but we were really keen so we spoke to them and said, ‘No, no! You can play for one last show!’

And no promoter, no money, so pretty good deal! So, they did it, and we got on really well and from then on they knew about us, so we played again, in Australia, with them. And Deniz Tek came to see us as well, so we all met there.

So yeah, it’s been pretty surreal for us, but it has been pretty natural, everything that has happened.

TUN: It says a lot about Birdman, that they are willing to put a band on who can pretty much upstage them – because you certainly went close to doing that last night, that’s for sure!

Now, I’m a new convert to the band, so what do I need to know? I mean you’ve had eighteen years in the business – can you tell us how the band came together, what your original influences were, and why you chose the direction you did?

RS: Well, yes, we started eighteen years ago and the guys that have always been in the band are the twin brothers [guitarists Gerardo and Antonio Urchaga] and myself. We’ve changed bass player and drummer a couple of times, but always because they had to do…like our previous bass player, well, he had two kids and so he didn’t feel like playing that much anymore, and stuff like that…

TUN: Life gets in the way…

RS: And we’ve always tried to keep the band together as much as we can, and the guys we are playing with now, in Spain, well they’ve been with us now for seven years.

We had a problem with our drummer – he had a baby…oh, that’s not a problem! [Laughs] But he had a baby so he couldn’t come, so we got him replaced with Lluis [Fuzzhound]. He plays guitar in Midnight Woolf, and that’s the guy you saw yesterday. He’s our guy in Australia, but he’s not our drummer, our official drummer – but he’s a Chico anyway.

What I mean is, it was the twin brothers and me that started it all. We would come across each other at tons of gigs in Spain, in Madrid. And we would talk music, you know, talk about the MC5, The Stooges…and then we started to talk about Neil Young. So I said, ‘Come on, you like this stuff, we should get into something together and do some stuff.’

So we all said we would do that, but we were pretty drunk that night.

Then the next morning, I woke up and I went, ‘Oh no! I did this typical thing.’ You know, say you’re going to make a band together? And then it never happens?

But then, we did it  – two days after that. We started to play, and it’s been great since then. We get on really well. We’ve become friends by playing in the band, we weren’t friends before.

TUN: So actually, that was really the first time you really spoke about it? Just two days before forming the band?

RS: Yeah, yeah…we were just very lucky. You know, eighteen years, it’s a really long time, and we now really know how each other is and, I don’t know…it’s an easy band to play [with].

TUN: Well, you’re such a tight unit now, it shows. That joy you have in playing together really comes through…

RS: Yeah, I think so.

And you asked me about influences as well. Well, we thought we wanted to be like sort of Radio Birdman, and the MC5, The Stooges and some other more punk rock and roll stuff that we were listening to, like Nine Pound Hammer, and bands from Crypt and obviously some [other?] bands as well. We also liked The Pogues and a lot of country music.

So we said, ‘OK let’s try and do one song from, I don’t know, say something in Spanish from The Bullys. And we wouldn’t be able to do it. It would just turn out like something completely different, so we just said, ‘Let’s do what we can do’, so that, more or less, gave us our own style – which is a big mix of a lot of influences because we listen to tons of music.

TUN: You could hear all of those influences come through in the songs you played last night.

 I noticed, too, that the cover of your new album, By Medical Prescription, has a parody of a Dr. Feelgood album cover on the front. Were they one of your musical heroes too?

RS: Yeah, they are a huge influence on us. They’re another band that we all share, that all members within our band like. We’ve always listened to a lot of Dr. Feelgood.

We take a lot from the attitude of those pub rock bands, and we’ve played in tons of pubs just about everywhere.

It’s the kind of show we like to put out. It’s a bar band show. It’s like being in a bar and having a good time altogether, the band and the audience, you know?

TUN: And you’ve played with a few of those original pub rockers over the years. I noticed on your bio that you have supported the likes of Eddie & The Hot Rods, Roy Loney and Paul Collins’ Beat, and acts like that. They’re all in that classic pub rock mould. Those shows must have all been fantastic experiences?

RS: Yeah, of course! We like to think that we are part of that philosophy of playing. We played a show with Roy Loney and it was great – he was mad! It was a lot of fun. [Laughs] He was really nice. He couldn’t stop moving, man! [Laughs]

TUN: Even more crazy than Anton Newcombe? I see that you have played with the Brian Jonestown Massacre as well, and he’s got a reputation for being a bit crazy!

RS: Yes!

And we had Paul Collins play on one of our records. He did some backing vocals for that. He’s a good friend of ours.

TUN: So, you’ve been to Australia five times now. What is it that keeps bringing you back?

RS: What brought us back this time?

TUN: Five tours of Australia – that’s quite a few. You obviously must enjoy the place?

RS: Yeah. Well what happened was that we met Johnny Casino, from Asteroid B-614 [I think he meant Asteroid B-612?] in Spain and we played together.

He was doing this band called The Egos, with Macka [John McKeering] from The Onyas, and Link [Lindsay McLennan] from The Meanies, and himself. We got on really well and [Johnny] was the guy who said, ‘You should come to Australia to play.’

We thought, ‘We want to, but that is never going to happen’, but it did happen.

He got in contact with us and he arranged everything. So it’s really thanks to him that we started this whole Australian thing. That was four tours ago, so we’ve been coming here for five times now.

And Wally Kempton, from The Meanies, he thought about us supporting Radio Birdman and he said, ‘Do you think this could happen?’

We said. ‘Well we hope so. It would be great. Maybe we should get in contact with John Needham of Citadel Records and see if it could happen?’

They said yes [when we asked], and that they wanted us to play with them, so we were really happy, man. It was like a big party when we found out!

So that’s the way it worked and so we’ve worked a few gigs of our own around their tour schedule.

TUN: I noticed last night that you did not have your new album on sale at the venue? Is it available in Australia yet?

RS: Yes! In fact, Wally from The Meanies is the one who is putting it out on his record label. This must be the first record on that label? Or maybe the second? It is called Cheersquad Records – and you can get the record online and that’s an Australian edition, just for Australia.

So, it’s already out, and I hope it will be available in all the good record stores! [Laughs]

TUN: The Upside has reviewed it already, and we gave it a pretty good rap!

Now, Tuesday night at The Grace Emily…will you be playing pretty much the same set or will you ramp it up even further?

RS: It will be like the things we did, but we always like to change the set.

First time we came, there was this guy who is now a friend of ours, called Myles Gallagher – he plays drums in Wrong Turn –  and he saw us once in Melbourne and he liked the gig so he came to another gig. Then he saw us play in Sydney, and then again – so he saw us four times – and he told us that the best thing was, and he was very surprised, was that the setlist was different at every gig.

So we like to change stuff around. It will be the same vibe but we like to keep it interesting for us so it will be a different set.

TUN: The Grace is a fairly, small intimate venue. I reckon it will be packed out.

RS: Oh, that venue looks like a lot of fun!

TUN: I’ve seen a lot of great bands there. The vibe, because of its intimacy, is terrific…

RS: Yeah. It’s like what I told you about when we got into The Gov yesterday and we could feel that it would be a good gig to play, it doesn’t have to be a big place to feel like that, and when we got into The Grace Emily Hotel we felt the same.

It’s like, ‘Wow! This stage is just beautiful! And the room…I mean, you can feel it! Those walls, they just scream fun!

TUN: And you’ve got the Madonna looking down at you from the back of the stage…

RS: [Laughs] Yeah! And we have plenty of pictures of bullfighters! [Laughs] That will get us moving!

TUN: Thanks for your time, Rafa. I hope that Adelaide gets out to see you tomorrow night, because you guys put on one of the best shows I’ve seen and they shouldn’t miss it…

RS: Thank you!

TUN: In fact, I was saying today that it is very rare that a support act outdoes the main act and I was trying to wrack my brains to remember the last time I felt that happened in Adelaide. I had to go right back to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins blowing Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds off stage…

RS: Wow! Thank you, man. Thank you so much!

 

 

Los Chicos play The Grace Emily Hotel on Tuesday October 2. Doors open at 7:00pm.

Their new album My Medical Prescription is out now on Cheersquad Records & Tapes.

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