Justin Melendy and the Bros. Peña
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Justin Melendy and the Bros. Peña

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The best kept secret in music


"'3 Drink Special'"

Justin Melendy & the Bros. Peña - 3 Drink Special Produced by Don Coffey Jr. Some groups shy away from the idea of being labeled a "bar band," but others realize that this is the calling of their particular group and simply run with it. Such is the case with Justin Melendy & the Bros. Peña and 3 Drink Special. If further proof is needed, one need only look at the posterized graphic of a flame-painted Telecaster on the front or the color-inverted bar room scenario depicted on the inner artwork. If more proof is needed, then the five tracks on 3 Drink Special will do it. Justin Melendy has a voice that oozes personality; it's not hard to envision the performer grimacing and sliding around the mic as people hoot and holler in front of him. In fact, the entire performance on this record invokes instant imagery of a live act, probably the precise idea behind this recording. Behind Melendy, the brothers Peña (Tevy on bass and Kicki on, of course, drums) keep the beat going and the pictures a-rattling with a cohesive rhythm section. Unmentioned fifth man Dale "Fuego" Fordham rips all over the place on his guitar, machine-gunning solo licks and strong riffs all over the figurative bar room. Melendy even promises on third track "Hours" that "you'll be cleaning this up for hours," a foreboding thing to say to anyone. Melendy and crew are not all beer and thunder; they take a step outside the door in the breezy "My Baby," a song replete with major guitar chords and exclamations of "yeah, yeah, yeah" punctuating the chorus. This short, guitar-centric set hits hard and will keep the roadhouse rocking; some parts might even shake up the sawdust on the floor. (Self-released) kickipena@comcast.net -C.D. Di Guardia - Performer Mag


Justin Melendy and the Bros. Pena
Justin Melendy, vocals/harp; Estevan Pena, bass; Kicki Pena, drums
With unrelenting energy, Justin Melendy and the Bros. Pena mix classic rock power with an unhinged punk intensity to make them one of the rowdiest bar bands around. Melendy’s uncanny resemblance to a young Steven Tyler probably explains all the high-pitched screaming from female fans. - MetroPulse

"Review of '3 Drink Special'"

Local CD Review
Justin Melendy & the Bros. Peña
Three Drink Special
(Independent Recorders)
Listening to Justin Melendy’s gruff drawl swagger across the sleazy rock landscape of his band’s latest EP, you can imagine his lanky frame strut across the stage, and, when he’s not making eyes at the ladies, contort in air-guitar spasms that only rock music can induce. His likeness to an everyday frat boy in golf shirt and flip-flops ends when he opens that gorgeous mouth more suited to a Calvin Klein model than a skinny kid singer in a rock band. Leaning on the mic stand like it’s a less-drunk friend, Melendy channels an attitude borrowed from the great charismatic vocalists of classic rock—Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Robert Plant. And the good news is his voice actually matches up with the physical presence. He doesn’t scream or croon—hell, the band would kick him into next week if he tried that kind of pansy shit. Because Tevy Peña, KickiPeña and Dale Fordham take seriously their efforts to make lazy, dirty bar rock that goes down as easy as High Life.

Like most bands that work at Independent Recorders, Melendy and the Bros. seem to have benefited from the encouraging and knowledgeable influence of Don Coffey Jr., who produced the five-song disc. The band’s sound is clean but not too clean, like a familiar bathroom stall whose wall bears your favorite graffiti. And, while the JM&BP clearly rock, there’s a sort of hung-over laziness to their approach that says, Sit back and relax. You don’t have to think too hard to enjoy this one. With pleasure.
—Paige M. Travis - Metropulse


Justin Melendy and the Bros. Pena: This ain't no mariachi party

By Steve Wildsmith
of The Daily Times Staff

Things you won't see at a concert by Justin Melendy and the Bros. Pena:

— Band members wearing wide-brimmed sombreros. (Unless it happens to be Cinco de Mayo, perhaps, or there's much alcohol involved.)

— Band members playing instruments like the vihuela (a high-pitched, five-string guitar) or the guitarrón (a small-scaled acoustic bass).

— Flamboyantly embroidered charro suits.

Basically, Justin Melendy and the Bros. Pena are not a mariachi band, drummer Kicki Pena told The Daily Times this week. That's important to point out, because the group's name can sometimes cause confusion.

"The name throws them off a little bit, because I think it conjures up images of a mariachi band or something like that," Pena said. "People sometimes come in, expecting something we're not. My brother and I are half-Mexican, but neither of us looks Mexican, and what they get is rootsy, in-your-face rock 'n' roll.

"We didn't want to get a name that seemed hokey to us. We're all into our adulthood, and we wanted to come across as a serious band, so we didn't want to try to be too hip in coming up with a name. We just do what we do. Sometimes our shows get a little rowdy, but that's fine — we want the whole beer-drinking aura. We want people to come and have a good time."

That's an about-face from the Pena brothers' previous outfit, the goth-rock outfit Pegasi 51. Not that Kicki and his brother, bassist Estevan, were all doom-and-gloom in Pegasi; but when the group decided to call it quits, they wanted to move in a direction that was more true to their roots.

"We played in Pegasi 51 for five years, and when we disbanded in 2001, we took a couple of years off," Pena said. "That band was more of a gothic-tinged thing, and we wanted to go in a more traditional rock direction — sort of country and honky-tonk with a punk edge. We tried to scout around for a front man, and we kind of happened on Justin. He had a good presence and the scratchy voice we were looking for, so he fit right in."

That was back in the summer of 2003; Melendy threw his lot in with the brothers alongside guitarist Shawn Adams. They quickly recorded a six-song, self-titled demo and promptly started touring around the Southeast. Around the same time, former Superdrag drummer-turned-production wizard Don Coffey Jr. had just opened Independent Recorders; with D.T. Fordham (formerly of Skyebone and now a member of Saturday Night Preacher) replacing Adams on the guitar, the quartet cut "3 Drink Special," another EP that perfectly encapsulates the band's gritty roots-rock sound. The band plans on recording with Coffey again in June, this time for a full-length album of new material.

"We've been using that EP for the last two years, and it seems to still be relevant," Pena said. "We've gotten a lot of exposure with that — we recently played in Atlanta and Johnson City. I think we're playing pretty much the sort of rootsy kind of rock that anybody can enjoy. We really like the Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams-type of songwriting, and we try to focus on good lyrics and good vocal delivery.

"That's not to say the music is unimportant. But it sort of lies in the background and anchors it all with a good groove. To us, it's all about good, well-crafted songs, and that's a big part of it."

It's a successful formula that puts Justin Melendy and the Bros. Pena into a category of local bands that can hold their own with any regional or national act that passes through town. Melendy's voice has the right amount of swagger and bravado, and the Bros. Pena (including new guitarist Casey Miller — stage name "Dickie Pena" — replacing Fordham) lays down a full-on rock assault that's reminiscent of the Rolling Stones, circa "Exile on Main Street." Songs like "Come On" and "Hours" play like scratchy rock anthems that should be blasting out of the back speakers of a jacked-up Camaro roaring over East Tennessee backroads on a warm summer night in 1976.

It's a far cry from the brothers Pena's days in Pegasi 51, but evolution is a funny thing. And given the confidence and enthusiasm for which the band plays its particular brand of rock 'n' roll, it's certainly not a bad thing.

"I can't really say that Pegasi was an unfulfilling band — we were really good, and we had a good following," Pena said. "But as I get older, I feel like I've changed a little bit. I felt like we all kind of hit a dead end for a while, and we weren't being really creative. I still love the music and the guys I played with, but you get to a point where you want to try something different.

"We grew up on the kind of music we play now, and it's what we want to explore. And it allows us to get played on the radio and reach more people, because it's palatable to more people than just the punk kids."
- The Daily Times/ Steve WildSmith


2003 - 'Justin Melendy and the Bros. Pena' - 'New Beat Records' - produced by Robert Koons - self titled
2005 - '3 Drink Special' - 'Independent Recorders' - produced by Don Coffey Jr. 'SuperDrag'

We have steady rotation of all of our releases on WUTK 90.3 The Rock and have a podcast through garageband.com that is available through our myspace page.


Feeling a bit camera shy


In the Summer of 2003, Kicki and Estevan Pena ducked into a West Knoxville Cubano themed bar while scouring the city for someone to front their newly formed outfit. They needed someone who could enchant the audience and be an extension of their Rock solid rhythms. Rising above the hum and bustle of the alcohol fueled crowd, they heard a voice that reminded them of what they got into Rock and Roll to begin with. A voice that was full of bravado and swagger, a voice that could correctly channel what they knew they had. Straining their eyes to see through the smoke and seemingly limitless darkness, they expected to find a man who had seen too much. What they found was a nineteen year old kid with curly brown hair and pipes that rivaled Steven Tyler and Mick Jagger's raspy delivery. Belting out his own material with just a guitar, the crowd seemed entranced with the snake charmer. The Bros. knew they had found their frontman.

A few hours later Justin was hired and three weeks later along with guitarist Shawn Adams. They headed into 'New Beat Records' with Robert Koons of 'Past Mistakes' at the controls, and recorded their first demo. This initial 6 song self titled recording captured the fury of a live performance and there was no turning back.

A string of local dates ensued that cemented their fanbase in the SouthEast. Amid all of this, The Bros. caught the attention of Don Coffey Jr. of 'SuperDrag' fame. Don had opened 'Independent Recorders' in the historic 4th and Gill neighborhood of Knoxville and was looking for quality bands to produce and get the name out. By this time, Shawn had left the band and the Bros. approached Dale Fordham of 'Skyebone' to fill in the guitarist's slot. This changed the dynamics of the band and leaned more towards Honky Tonk than the earlier punk influenced arrangements. Without losing momentum, The Bros. entered 'Independent Recorders' with six more songs and with Don Coffey at the helm produced '3 Drink Special'. A collection of tunes celebrating life and liberty with a distinctive cowpunk flare. And here we are in 2006 with new guitarist Dickie Pena. The band is set to enter the 'Independent Recorders' again with Don Coffey Jr. producing, this time a full length. The band is a regular contributor to garageband.com and have received reviews in 'Performer Mag', 'Creative Loafing', 'Nashville Scene' , 'JamBase', 'The Knoxville News Sentinel', 'The Daily Beacon', 'Knoxville night Life and 'MetroPulse'. 'Justin Melendy and the Bros. Pena' always deliver and never disappoint.

Venues Performed:
Manhattan's Bistro - Knoxville TN.
The Downtown Grill and Brewery - Knoxville TN.
ACME Underground - NYC
The SouthGate House - Cincinatti, OH.
Barley's - Knoxville TN.
The Corner Lounge - Knoxville TN.
The Pilot Light - Knoxville TN.
The Mercury Theatre - Knoxville TN.
The Office lounge and Grill - Johnson City, TN.
Fairbanks Roasting Room - Knoxville TN.
Patrick Sullivan's - Knoxville TN.
Candy - Knoxville TN.
Hanna's - Knoxville TN.
The Longbranch Saloon - Knoxville TN.
The Preservation Pub - Knoxville TN.
C.J.'s Landing - Atlanta, GA.
The HideAway- Johnson City TN.
The World Grotto-Knoxville TN.