In order to understand what it means to live, breathe, and fully immerse yourself not only into the Orange County music scene but into Chicano culture itself, you have to know OC Hurricanes. You have to fully fathom their genre-bending take of 1960s hazy garage-rock tones, their fast paced R&B feel with the help of blaring saxophone solos embedded in Latin roots of Hispanic style of surf-rock and a vintage fashion sense that’s undeniable to not worship. It’s plain to see that Los Hurricanes are the kings of Orange County—and way beyond.
Forming from a deep craving to prove their hometown and the world wrong, they have shown through the years a profound message that it’s not only the music you play that will rise you to stardom, but the movement you create and how you powerfully connect to a group of people at the end of the day. Having been in the music scene for eleven years, they have slowly but surely climbed the ladder in the music world with opportunities to open for some of the best alternative bands such as The Sonics, Tijuana Panthers, and The Buttertones, in addition to landing a slot at Tropicalia Fest. It’s safe to say that this isn’t just your average group of guys—it’s a design for a beautiful collision of Chicano culture and classic rock n’ roll.
I had the privilege of sitting down with the band in their hometown of Santa Ana at Jesus Salas’s house, pianist of the group, to discuss leaving behind a label in the beginning stages as a group, how one crazy gig at a house show felt like a scene out of a movie, and a little bit of nerves for their upcoming European tour in May.
Los Hurricanes are made up of Felipe “Roach” Sanchez on vocals and guitar, Gibram “G” Chavez on bass, Alex “Little Man” Marcial on drums, Jesus “Wild Man” Salas on keys, Edgar Guadiana on saxophone, and Rafa Heredia on guitar.
How did Los Hurricanes all meet and create what we see today?
G: Roach, Alex, and I were born in Santa Ana and we all pretty much grew up in the same neighborhood. We eventually met through the people we hung out with in the music scene since we all liked the same kind of sound. We eventually all jammed together but we were nothing back then. One year we were doing a Battle of The Bands so we asked Roach to come on board to do it with us as well. We honestly just did it to mess around and do our thing with music. We thought “Well, if we win then maybe we will actually start a band.” Sure enough, we actually won the competition and we decided to really make this something. It’s funny because the girl who was introducing the bands to the audience asked us what our band name was and at the time we didn’t even have one. Then all of a sudden I just responded to her saying The Hurricanes. I think it was super gloomy that day or there was a hurricane happening somewhere so it literally just came to my mind.
Is everyone currently the original members of the band or were there different people at one point?
Roach: There are only three originals today and we had another guy Oscar playing before with us doing the keys. So that happened for awhile and we ended up joining a label in Altadena called Wild Records. As the years went by some members just fell off and we ended up leaving the label. When we left the label it was like we were starting all over again—playing house shows, parties, and bar shows. Around that time our piano player left and we ended up meeting Jesus so he took over on keys. Jesus agreed to join and help us out for awhile and then we also met our saxophone player Eddie. He’s actually in Europe right now but he joined because he just loved our sound so much and wanted to get on board. This didn’t really come together maybe about two and a half years ago.
Rafa: So a few years back there was a rock n’ roll show happening at the Yost in Orange County and one of bands close friends passed away that night unfortunately inside of the bar. So because of that they started playing memorial shows for him and I actually heard of one of the memorial shows when I was in high school happening for this guy at the Yost. We ended up seeing this band called Ghali that night and right after The Hurricanes came on and I remember thinking, “Holy shit, this is amazing. It’s rock n’ roll and it’s in your face but people are dancing”. I just thought it was badass and to be honest I had never seen that before. Roach actually brought me on stage to play guitar for a few songs at one of their shows and I remember thinking that this felt so right. So ever since i’ve been with them and that’s how it started.
Roach: Two and a half years ago is when we actually started to sit down and write music. We were playing a different sound at that time awhile back that was mostly catered to the Rockabilly world.
And that Rockabilly sound wasn’t originally what you guys wanted to accomplish?
Roach: I mean don’t get me wrong we like that music, we grew up with it but it just wasn’t what we wanted to play anymore. We wanted to part ways and grow by ourselves and learn the ropes on our own. We really wanted to figure out from scratch and literally that’s what we did. When Oscar quit the band that was actually motivation for us to push forward because he was really the only one in the band that was more musically inclined then we were. So we pushed ourselves to be better than we were because we felt like so many people didn’t believe in us at the time. So we needed to show them that we still had what it takes to go on without certain members.
Those people that you refer to that didn’t believe in you, were they people in the Orange County music world in general?
G: Not really random people but just people that knew us in the music scene. There wasn’t really room to grow in that community at the time. So we wanted to grow more and people really judged us for that and were like “You’re already pretty good right here, why would you want more? Why would you want to experiment with that?” But that’s exactly what we wanted to do—sometimes humans react negatively about change. Sometimes people get so comfortable that they stay where they are. It’s not like anyone ever talked down on our character or who we are, it was more of us wanting to leave the rockabilly world and try something new.
Roach: We wanted to find out what that was to grow on our own because we really never had the chance to figure out what it was to become a band. Because we did that Battle of the Bands thing I mentioned before and like within that month we got signed to a record label and everything started to happen so quickly. We didn’t get the chance to build our own fanbase, it was always like we were doing what we were told to do. When we wrote songs the label didn’t like the way we played them and wanted us to switch over to their liking. Which was rough because we listen to so much music and we didn’t like just this style of music. But it wasn’t until Jesus came in that we finally had the courage to do our own thing and it started to really pick up the way we wanted it to.
Do you guys feel like that experience with Wild Records helped you to really implement your own sound?
Roach: We learned a lot to be honest, like learning the ropes of the music industry. Especially with what to watch out for in certain people or certain characteristics when it comes to working with others.
G: The label is a traditional rockabilly sound and caters a lot to the rock n’ roll crowd. They were more traditional so we would come in with a song that sounds like what we do now and they would tell us “can you guys be more traditional?” which was always a bust for us. We were with that label for about three years actually.
Roach: I think that’s one of the reasons we’re not with a label right now.
Which leads me to ask if you guys see yourself ever going under a label or do you guys want to stay independent for the most part? I know with some bands going under a label can alter their image or the way they want their sound to be. Would the OC Hurricanes trust someone with that control?
G: We’re down with being independent right now until there’s something that really catches our eye. We are happy with where we are just working for ourselves.
Rafa: I feel like in today’s music industry especially with Spotify and social media it’s easier for bands to be independent.
Roach: What labels do provide for you is the distribution which is the hard part. Like a record store just doesn’t take your own record easily. Unless you’re tight with the owner or know someone who can do that for you. That’s the downside of not being in a label, because they pay for everything as well. But this is why we also have day jobs to put that money towards helping the band.
You guys represent the Hispanic/Latinx culture throughout your music and it comes across in your aesthetic as a band too. Do you think your Latin roots have played a huge part in your sound as a band?
G: Definitely in the way I play for sure.
Roach: Well most of us are dark skin except our saxophone player but he’s also Mexican. So it’s crazy when we got the chance to play with bigger bands, a lot of the Hispanic kids would just either line up or come up to us at random. Because we were the type of band that just walks around the crowd to say hey to everyone you know, so it’s a good feeling to know that a lot of these kids will come up to us. They were just proud to see that we’re brown and speaking Spanish. We go up there and preach good vibes and good times. Anyone can just go up on stage and play music but not a lot of people will use their platform to their advantage to shine some light to the real things that are happening in life that matter the most. We love playing shows but at the same time we go up there with a stance. Whether it’s us taking our Mexican flag and putting it on top of the bass amp or just us speaking Spanish on stage. Anybody who supports the cause, that’s Chicano to me. There’s a saying that, “Chicano is not who you are or your roots, but that you understand the struggle.” So going up there on stage and inspiring those young kids really does mean a lot.
Your sound on the new album GO Maximum! that was just released in January has a 50s rock and roll sound with a touch of inspiration from The Doors as well. The saxophone comes out quite a bit with solos all over the record which is fantastic. Can you guys discuss the process of creating that tone for the record?
G: A lot of the jazz that we listen to has a really rockin’ saxophone in it and we always thought about it but we never thought we had the sound for it. Now that we really found that R&B feel it honestly just fell into place. We got really lucky finding Eddie actually. We tried out a few saxophonists and they were great but Eddie knew exactly what we wanted.
Roach: We all grew up listening to this style of music and we’re heavy into the rockabilly world. We all had pompadours and dressed like we were in the 50s. Eventually we grew up and we got into rock music and other genres. I think that finally we all put that music and different sounds together and made it happen. I’m a huge fan of The Doors, I idolize Jim Morrison. Long story short we just infused everything into this album, especially having The Doors as a huge influence on the keyboards. With the saxophone it came to us because we were creating that soul tone and we were like “we need this ASAP.” We thought if we were going to play R&B music, we would need to have a horn.
What’s usually the creative process behind making or recording an album, is it usually a collective effort or one mastermind behind it?
G: The man with the lyrics is Roach, he pretty much brings the skeleton to life. Then Alex and I bring everything else to the rhythm section, and then you have Rafa and Jesus adding the flavor to it all.
Roach: Yeah it usually starts off with the guitar and lyrics. So I’ll come to a rehearsal and have a song written and then from there will just evolve it until we finally complete it. That’s really how the creative process works for us.
I feel like with each OC Hurricanes track, the lyrics always speak volumes. Are you guys inspired by anything in particular when you write or is it about yourselves most of the time?
Roach: The original album was literally about my past like my last relationship, so that was just songs about that time period in my life. It was also based on the idea of lust and me seeing other couples go through it as well. Getting inspired by the realities of other people’s relationships too. I was able to connect with those relationships I saw and know that I wasn’t alone in how I felt or what I went through personally. Some people seriously call me the Drake of rock n’ roll because of it.
You guys have been in the Orange County music scene for quite sometime now, so that being said do you guys feel like it’s progressed for the better or for worse? And are there any changes you would like to see in it?
Roach: We’ve been around since like 2011, and I only remember that because recently Facebook reminded me, which was so funny. We also feel like we’ve seen the evolution of Orange County. We have experienced the evolution of the music culture and renaissance of Orange County. We saw restaurants go from crappy billiards and dive bars to like hipster restaurants, to playing backyard shows for greaser gangs to now playing for actual promoters. There’s a big demand for the arts right now whether it’s food or music, it’s just changed for the better.
Rafa: I think right now there’s a younger scene that’s evolving more around like punk and surf-punk and you even have a metal scene somewhere so I think it’s pretty great.
G: The only thing that I would change, is I wish everything was all ages. I also wish there wasn’t a catering to one genre specifically and there could just be a bunch of different sounds and bands at one venue that night. If venues could allow all ages because there’s a lot of kids that want music and want to support bands but they can’t even get in.
You guys have played some really great lineups with some awesome artists on the bill. What’s been your personal favorite show you guys have done so far?
Roach: It has to be Sanchez’s pool party for me about three years ago. There was a movie called Project X and honestly that’s what it felt like. It was a huge party and people were literally jumping off the roof, stage diving into the pool and even moshing in the pool. I remember playing and I felt like I was getting electrocuted while I was singing and playing the guitar. We seriously could have died that night. I could legit feel the static on my fingers but I remember thinking “fuck it.” The whole floor was wet and even our instruments were getting wet so it was crazy. I’m never going to forget just being there and the sight of everything going crazy. It honestly felt like a movie to me so that’s why I remember it so fondly.
G: Honestly it would have to be when we had our little tour in Mexico City. The thing with Mexico is that everyone hangs out in their own little clique, so a bunch of teens came but they were in their own circle. But once we got up on stage and started jamming they all came together and I saw that as a beautiful thing. Plus that night I ate shit so bad on stage but I still pulled it off. I legit took one wrong step and I completely went down to the ground but I pulled it off and kept playing so that was awesome. But seeing all those people come together and dancing with one another really just brought me so much joy.
Jesus: I think mine was at Mission Bar here in Orange County. The first time we played there it was so packed and it’s not really the best spot to play at since there’s pool tables and chairs everywhere. There were so many people that night you couldn’t even move and I was seriously swimming in people and sweat. It was one of those times where the whole floor was all wet.
I know you guys have a European tour set to start in April with Belgium as the first stop. This is a huge step for you guys as a band. How are you guys feeling about it and did this take some time for it to get going?
Rafa: I’m scared to be honest, I’ve actually never been out of the country before besides Mexico. So it’s kind of like getting thrown into new territory and non-mexican places. It’s also not like we’re just going to London for a week. We’re making so many stops within a short amount of time that I feel like it’s going to be pretty overwhelming but in the best way possible. My only fear is that I won’t remember most of it.
Roach: I mean I’ve been on a plane before not out of the country like that either. We have a buddy that used to be in the same label we were in and he also left the label as well and went out there to play shows and he really built his network so he goes every year pretty much. He told us that we should be going out there now because at a lot of the shows they would play, they would always send us photos or videos of people either spinning our music from Wild Records or people rocking our shirt or pin. So he told us people actually really like you guys and asked why we’re not making the move out there. We also had a mission that we wanted to conquer home and build a secure fan base here first before anything. We wanted to do it our way where we could conquer our city and country first, and finally we felt like “fuck it, let’s do it. I think it’s time.” Our friend works for an agency now so he really helped out with the booking part of it all and he really hooked us up for it.
What do you think has been the hardest challenge you guys have faced being a chicano based band in Orange County? Or has it been open arms from the community since day one?
Roach: To be honest, I’ve never had any challenges with that. It’s always been fairly easy for us.
Rafa: Not so much a challenge but typically whenever we go out of town or out of state, for some reason people feel like they have to talk to us in Spanish. They will seriously come up to us and try to speak to seem “cool.” I speak the least Spanish in the group so it’s funny. It happens quite a bit actually. A bit more than you would think at shows.
Roach: I mean we do experience that but I always acknowledge it as them trying to consider our Spanish culture at least. In good or bad faith, it’s all good. But nothing too crazy. If anything we get more respect now for sticking up for our roots, you know.
Is there anyone you guys would kill to get on a show bill with? Who’s your dream artist to play with?
Jesus: King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard.
Roach: For me personally, if they ever come back together, I would love to open up for The Last Shadow Puppets. If I ever were to meet Alex Turner and Miles Kane I would be done for life.
Rafa: I’m a huge Green Day fan, so that would be great but they have a more garage rock side project called Foxboro Hot Tubs and I feel like The Hurricanes would be a great opener for them.
Alex: I would have to say Chuckie’s band from Chuck E. Cheese. They are pretty legendary.
Anything else you want to let ALTANGELES know about?
The Hurricanes: We have a 45 record out right now and the digital release will be out as well. These songs are very special, I feel that they capture a different period in our bands growth and it also captures more of a Chicano vibe that we have always wanted to push through the music. But now you can really hear it since this is straight up like a lowrider song. We are also working on a new LP as well, we already have six songs down and we want ten in total. Just keep an eye out and we will be playing an all ages show in Los Angeles at The Redwood Bar when we get back from Europe. So stay tuned for that Los Angeles show!