Rene Lopez
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Rene Lopez

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The best kept secret in music


"A Transcendent Frame of Mind"

The work of an independent artist is something to be appreciated; their music can subdue, it can speak to audiences and it can humble those that choose to listen fervently. The independent musician’s labor for his/her creations is something I love watching and discovering.

The work and labor of Rene Lopez is where I see a considerable difference in how music is created, treated and fed to audiences.

He’s an artist. He’s a songwriter. Rene’s creations are what I reflect as the work of brilliance and genuine self-reflection. From the music, Rene learns more about himself, he reflects, he discovers…and it’s all in his lyrics. From his first band The Authority, to his later workings with Extra Virgin, and to his new solo album “I Know What I See,” Rene transforms his words into musical beauty.

I discovered the art of Rene through my love for the band, Blind Melon. Circa October 1995, the band suffered the loss of lead singer Shannon Hoon...the remaining members pursued other interests years later. Rogers Stevens, Melon guitarist, traveled to New York and met Rene to later form a symbiotic sound that dazed the City music scene. With Stevens, Rene found a system that worked.

“The remaining members of Blind Melon were looking to startup a new band,” Rene explained. “And, I was doing a solo show at a club where the owner was good friends with Rogers, so he told Rogers about me. At my next show Rogers made an appearance. I met up with Blind Melon members Christopher Thorn and Brad Smith in Seattle. It didn’t feel the same as it did with Rogers.”

The short-lived brilliance of Extra Virgin brought Rene Lopez to the front where his unique voice warmed gatherings. Eventually, the band’s demise came to pass. When Extra Virgin graced NYC clubs and taunted ears in CD form, Rene was entering a new stage in a flourishing career as a musician. His lyrics as lead singer were flawless, his voice pure the same.

“It’s really difficult to keep a band together,” Rene says. “My idea of a band is four people all working hard on that project, everyone has the same focus. At first it was really just me and Rogers, later it was tough to keep that energy going. It was hard to keep it up’s just difficult to keep a band together in New York City.”

Once the Extra Virgin era came and went, Rene found the time to pick-up where he left off before Rogers Stevens walked into his life: A solo music career. Within his latest solo album, Rene focuses on life lived, the past, mistakes made and he ritually asks for forgiveness through songwriting. With tracks like “Rip the Badge” and the lullaby soothings of “Crutch,” Rene self-inflicts a type of suffering through his words.

Within Rip the Badge, Rene literally lashes himself:

“There’s no excuse for what I’ve done...I’m a thief, I’m a liar, I’m a selfish son / I’ve become what I despise, I’m weak, I’m a lush, I’m a cheap old toy / I can’t stand my own voice, it tricks, it corrupts my soul / I don’t deserve your praise, I’ve tainted you.”

Why the thoughts of intense reflection? Throughout the history of religion, many devout believers of a holy being or idol would inflict pain on themselves to seek forgiveness and humility. Rene has self-inflicted a type of pain by his own lyrics, but it was welcomed. “I Know What I See” is the medication he needed.

“I was bullshiting myself,” says Rene. “I think it had something to do with my relationship with my wife, my relationship with my friends, my relationship with God...sometimes you lie to yourself. And, I didn’t want to lie to myself anymore.”

All’s not lost with Rene. His latest work represents forward movement in his life. With his recent art, he’s found more of himself. And, putting it all to music is the Crème de Menthe in the coffee. He’s taken the next step to a more flourishing career as a songwriter.

“Rip the Badge is an apology, to myself, to my wife, to my friends,” Rene clarifies. “I don’t have time to bullshit anymore. This is my life long journey, being a songwriter and singer. I’m not doing this anymore for the golden apple. I just want to become a better artist, a better musician”

Still progressing, Rene is heading back to the recording studio with Rogers and former Spacehog bassist and vocalist, Royston Langdon. However, Rene is not taking the front role in the band, he’s now drumming for coins.

“It’s a really good role and it will help me relax. It’s fun to get behind the drums and rock out. When I’m a drummer, it’s almost like I’m a kid again. I’m so absorbed”

With the talents of Rogers and Rene back in force, and the added forte of Royston, the outcome can’t be less than great. According to Rene, the band plans to tour this fall and is already in the pre-stages of recording. It seems the chemistry necessary for sustainable rock success could manifest within Rene’s new ventures.

And I wait patiently.

- By Ryan Alford


I Know What I See - EP Released in 2003
One Man's Year - Full length record released in 2005


Feeling a bit camera shy


There came a time a couple of years back, not too long before the creative jag that eventually resulted in the writing and recording of his debut album ONE MAN’S YEAR, when Rene Lopez went through the awakening that turns a thirty-something boy into a man. “I would get frustrated with myself as an artist, as a musician, as a man who felt like I wasn’t yet a man,” he confesses.

“I wasn’t tapping into my talent, I was being lazy, riding on charm, bitter that I wasn’t as successful as I thought I would be. I felt that I was still acting like a selfish boy. Rock and rollers definitely do that, and it has some appeal. But to me, that appeal kind of wore off after a while. I could still be hungry and I could still write some good-ass songs without being this fucking little boy. I could still do that.”

ONE MAN’S YEAR is an album that transcends categories, as it describes that entire arc of a young artist’s career, from hunger to satisfaction, from self-rejection to self-discovery, from bitterness and disappointment in yourself to the most profound and life-affirming direction home. If Rene’s own life had not almost shattered into pieces when it did, and had he not been rescued by the collision of his muse with his New York-bred instinct for self-determination – this album might not be the attention-getter that it is. Rene’s transformation can be felt in the avatars of himself created for the CD package, which utilizes the mystic visuals of Houston-based artist Angelbert Metoyer.

In that way, ONE MAN’S YEAR reflects its creator, as Rene Lopez is an artist who moves from crunching rockers (the uplifting “Vacation,” the insistent beat that finally turns the grey sky to blue in “Under My Cloud”), to the protagonist’s malignant one-way invitation “Into My World.” Is Rene the protagonist, or is he merely channeling these stories about the incarcerated “Jeanine” (or was she committed?) and his mission-from-Hell promise to pick her up (or pick up her remains?) at the hospital, bearing only a dozen “Dirty Roses.” She makes her final appearance of this trilogy in the closing “Walk Through Walls,” the last great escape. (Rene dedicates this song to his wife, Susie, who just gave birth to their first child in April, Cosimo Alexander Lopez.)

Even in the autobiographical “Roosevelt Was Burning,” there is a claustrophobic itch to break out of a neighborhood where his girl could give him up for Lent. The epical struggle of “North And South” moves to an easy-going salsa groove that gives up Rene’s Latino roots – his father is the same Rene Lopez Sr. of the Bronx who played trumpet with the Ray Barretto Orchestra and Tipica ’73, beloved bands in New York’s Latin community. His son might be the city’s only musician of Puerto Rican descent whose debut album features rock and roll riffs flown in from the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (“Jeanine” and “Only I Know”).

ONE MAN’S YEAR was produced by Rene with Ken Rich at various locations around New York and Brooklyn. Rich and keyboardist-arranger Andrew Sherman work together in a ‘jingle house’ called Fluid Post where the album was mixed; they have frequently traveled to the City of Prague Philharmonic for string arrangements on commercials. An inventory of Rene’s chores on the album includes vocals, drums, percussion, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, National steel guitar, baritone guitar, Clavinet, keyboards, synthesizer, vibes, and Omnichord!

A New Yorker to the core, Rene speaks with a New Yorker’s fierce honesty about his life and the inspirations behind ONE MAN’S YEAR, an album that is the culmination of more than a dozen years of ’shedding in his own bands and others, and numerous studio assignments. There was an album with Extra Virgin, the group he created back in 1998 with Rogers Stevens, former guitarist of Blind Melon. Prior to that, The Authority (who released two private CDs), was the first major group that found Rene moving from behind the drum kit to lead singer, though he’d been singing and writing songs nearly all his life.

Along the way, there was always Wasabi, a fixture on New York’s downtown jam band scene. The kaleidoscopic lineup featured Rene and his former fellow students from the New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, among them John Popper (of Blues Traveler), guitarist Eric Schenkman and the Spin Doctors rhythm section (bassist Mark White, drummer Aaron Comess), and their mentor and teacher, veteran jazzman Arnie Lawrence on alto saxophone.

Holding The Void is a trio with singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur on guitar and Pat Sansone (now with Wilco) on bass, which brought Rene back on drums after eight years of frontman work. (Rene has enjoyed a lengthy and productive friendship with Joseph Arthur, including reciprocal appearances on each other’s recordings and gigs. Insiders may also recognize the City Of Prague Philharmonic from their appearances on Arthur’s Our Shadows Will Remain CD with S