The Vangoes
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The Vangoes

McAllen, Texas, United States

McAllen, Texas, United States
Rock Hip Hop

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"The Vangoes: Peace, Love, & Inspiration"

Article placed in PDF form online. Please click link to read article located on page 20. Thank you! - Alley Art Movement


"The Vangoes Give Back As Much As They Get"

Six hundred people have “liked” The Vangoes’ Facebook page (as of press time, anyway). That number has translated into more than 100 meals for locals who receive help from the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley.
They started a new campaign this month to raise more money for the Food Bank. Their goal is now 1,000 meals.
Eight members make up The Vangoes, a local band with a sound that mixes hip hop and soul. Giving back to their community seems even more important to them than making feel-good music.
Five years ago, vocalists Shawn Elliot, 33, and Lamar Jones, 31, created the nonprofit F.R.E.S.H. (Finally Realizing Excellence in Showing Honor) program, in which they seek to inspire and motivate young people of the community through music and performance.
“It was a way for us to kind of give back and put some kids who might have been headed in the wrong direction in the right direction using music,” Jones said. “And that seemed to be a real good outlet for them. I know music has played a big part in my life as far as keeping me out of trouble, and the same thing with Shawn.”
They also give back through money, donated items, time and effort to the Boys and Girls Club, the Food Bank and other organizations.
The two front men have tried a few times to start a band, but it didn’t work out.
“I think it’s because I was too passive about who I was allowing to try to be part of the project,” Elliot said, attempting diplomacy.
This time around, he said, he was much pickier about who he chose to be in The Vangoes.
The diverse group includes back-up singers Rachel Udow, 27, and Gina Ramon, 18; guitarist Angel Rodrigiez, 27; bassist Ray Perez, 35; drummer John McClain, 36; and Lily Perez, 19, on keys.
Each musician has different tastes in music, a different background, but they come together to create a cohesive sound.
“Yeah, (considering) age and individual styles, I think we got lucky,” Elliot said.
The songwriting process starts with a riff, a melody or a lyric and every band member’s opinion is heard.
As big as the band already is, Elliot wants to add a horn section soon.
“My thought is, if we’re going to bring back that organic feel to music and try to push that in hip hop, especially, then we might as well go all the way,” he said.
Going “all the way” also means going global — at least, that’s the hope and expectation.
“We’ve always felt as a group … the message and the talent and just what it is that we’re doing, we always felt that it had the potential to do the global thing,” Jones said. “… It’s just a matter of getting it to the right hands or the right ears.”
The Vangoes are trying to live up to their motto: peace, love and inspiration.
“(We’re) trying to bring some type of uplifting, positive, clean message,” Elliot said. “We’re trying to put out feel-good music.”
- Festiva


"Interview with KUTX 98.9 FM in Austin, TX"

Brand new music, stuff we're really excited about...A perfect summer soundtrack - Texas Music Matters / David Brown


"The Vangoes Shine on Debut Album"

Brand new Texas group The Vangoes describe their music as “feel-good hip-hop & soul,” which is an accurate description of their debut album A New Day. The Vangoes incorporate a vocal mixture of rap and melody along with real instruments that channel old school funk and Motown sounds. This group is a breath of fresh air in this genre because the lyrics are decidedly devoid of the needlessly prevalent negative themes and profanity associated with today’s mainstream rap and hip-hop. No need for multiple censored lines and phrases here. The lyrics contain positive and upbeat motifs, without sounding hokey or cliché. It is a relief to hear this genre explored with such an approach. In an era when many art forms feel the need to incorporate cursing and sexual innuendoes to appear hip or relevant, The Vangoes go in the other direction and prove that true artistry flourishes in the absence of such overused vulgarities and tired expletives.

The formatting of A New Day is unique; the album begins with a sound-effect intro that mimics a jukebox and a needle hitting vinyl. This sets the tone for the vintage vibe of the production. We also hear some spoken word and other creative interludes throughout, making it a somewhat atypical recording – not a bad thing in the midst of today’s cookie-cutter productions.

Highlights on the album include the catchy first track, “Hey, Hey,” which is reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers with some added soul. The brass on this tune is dynamically arranged, and slap-back guitar tone gives a nod to ‘60s Stax session guitarist Steve Cropper. “Across the Room,” which also appears on the record in acoustic format, utilizes a musical mixture of soul and reggae. The Vangoes showcase their perfect balance of singing and rapping in this track, making it the most obvious contender for the Billboard singles charts if it gets into the right hands. “Serenade” is a soulful piano ballad that highlights the vocal chops of singer Lamar Jones, introduced on the record in a spoken word interlude by Vangoes rapper Shawn Elliot. “Speed of Light” is a slight departure into heavy rock, but it works. It appears The Vangoes can tackle pretty much any genre efficiently and creatively.

With a talented duo of frontmen and a skillful cluster of musicians, this young and fresh outfit is more than prepared to take their music to the larger market with A New Day. The challenge will be weeding through the wannabes of this genre. Unlike most, The Vangoes actually have the goods; they now need to focus on getting themselves heard by the right people in the business.

(A New Day is released this week and can be found on iTunes.) - Onstage Magazine


"Boys & Girls Club kids learn hip hop from local musicians"

Zack Quaintance
The Monitor

The rapper wants to talk about a music program for teens. The 800 screaming people in the crowd want to hear “Mo Murda.”

“We want Bone,” a Thugs-N-Harmony fan shouts. The others yell in agreement. The DJ cues up a Michael Jackson medley and the people settle down.

Eventually Bone goes on stage and performs “Mo Murda” and other familiar hits at the McAllen Civic Center.

Shawn Elliot, the rapper who opened for the group, promotes his teen program to whoever will listen and to those who won’t. The program is called Finally Realizing Excellence and Seeing Honor. FRESH works with teens and children in the community, helping them produce music. It also instills self-confidence, even if the participants don’t realize it. For kids with musical talent, it’s an alternative to band or choir.

It aims to take shy teens and help them grow through rap, R&B and dance. Things they relate to.

Elliot made underground hip-hop in South Florida for years. He moved to the Rio Grande Valley in March 2008 with his friend and collaborator Lamar Jones, an R&B singer from the Miami area. They came to the area specifically to organize the teen program Elliot tried to talk about. Obviously, they still have a long way to go. In only a year, however, Elliot and Jones have laid the ground work.

And while similar programs are common in larger cities, it’s a different scenario in the Valley. The music program requires money for instruments, recording equipment and experienced instructors. Local groups such as the Boys and Girls Club traditionally can’t afford such programs, organization officials say.

Elliot and Jones have the equipment and the expertise. Now they want a chance to run the program.



PREPARING FOR THE SHOW

For eight weeks, Shawn Elliot and Lamar Jones prepared for a show.

But it wasn’t their show.

Before summer started, the Edinburg Boys and Girls Club hired Elliot and Jones to run their music program. The guys offered to teach dancing, singing and rapping. No experience necessary. They spent the past eight weeks mentoring about three dozen teens and grade school kids. At the end of the summer, they would play a show for the club’s hundreds of members.

The Boys and Girls Club reserved practice space in an all-purpose building across from Austin Elementary School. It had the space they needed. In the morning, the teens practiced dance moves. At lunch time they wrote and recorded songs.

Elliot and Jones outfitted the room with equipment. It’s an all purpose room with generic academic posters hanging on the walls. Sets of textbooks line the shelves. A pair of trophies shines near the back wall, awards from past Boys and Girls Club sports victories. The room is the size of a normal classroom.

Elliot and Jones brought computers with sound-editing software. They provided instruments – drums, guitar and bass. And they built a makeshift recording booth in the corner.

Nick Gauna, a 15-year-old student at Edinburg High School, is a self-described shy guy who never rapped before this summer.

On a recent afternoon, Elliot tweaked beats for a song Nick wrote and recorded. Meanwhile, Nick planned stage moves to go with his lyrics. He picked up a guitar.

As the other teens watched. Gauna got a running start and slid across the floor on his knees, miming a guitar solo. They all laughed and cheered.

Not bad for a shy guy.



STAGE FRIGHT

The day of the show has arrived. Shawn Elliot sits behind the sound equipment on the August afternoon, the temperature higher than 100 degrees.

The show will take place under a pavilion at the Edinburg Municipal Park. About 200 children from the Boys and Girls Club watch. They eat watermelon slices, toss balls and wear bathing suits still wet from water balloon fights.

Nadia Hernandez, a 17-year-old, stands next to Elliot.

“I’m nervous,” she says. He turns to look at her.

“Nervous?” he says. “Don’t be nervous. You shouldn’t be nervous.”

He points to an inflatable jungle gym filled with little ones.

Elliot knows about nerves. In 2006, he lived and worked in Hollywood, Fla., at a recording studio. A stress-induced nervous breakdown caused him to re-evaluate his life.

He wanted to stay in music. He had studied at Orlando’s Full Sail University, which specializes in recording. He also wanted to teach young people. He combined the two and began running a music program at a Florida Boys and Girls Club.

Unknown to Elliot, Lamar Jones also worked as a mentor. Jones and Elliot had met a few years before, and they had formed a creative rapport. Jones was a substitute teacher by day.

In late 2007, Elliot came to the Valley to visit family for Christmas. Less than a month later, he moved to Weslaco with plans to run a music program. Jones and his wife joined Elliot in March 2008, and they have worked to establish the program ever since.

“In the Valley, there are a lot of musically inclined kids - The Monitor Newspaper


"Feel Good Music"

Shawn Elliot, Lamar Jones, Eric Paul Zapata, Vikki Camacho, John Justice, Allen Lingensjo and Stephen Carlos Munoz.
Who are these unique individuals? The Vangoes.
Think of feel good music any which way you want. Everyone has their own interpretation. Now what do you think of “Woodstock meets hip-hop.” Rather interesting don’t you think? Each member comes from a different part of the Rio Grande Valley. I had the pleasure of watching them perform at a “Beats Generation Poetry” event last night in McAllen, Texas.
Their music (from what I saw) nice acoustic guitar breakdowns with Bob Dylan harmonica action, smooth cajon drum beats, catchy rhymes and soulful vocals with a kick.
Although I barely met the band, I decided to type a blog about them for two reasons. I love music and they’re working on a documentary. You read correctly, a documentary. It’s for a great purpose and try to help them anyway you can. It’s for a great purpose and I truly admire their purpose. - Daniel Cantu


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

In a time when negative hip-hop dominates our radios, The Vangoes offer a breath of fresh air by blending hip-hop and soul into a unique, organic, feel good sound. With the versatility of playing everything from a 3 piece acoustic coffee house set to a 8 piece full band performance, The Vangoes know how bring their original flavor to any show. and leave the crowd wanting more.

They recently released their debut album "A New Day" to rave reviews! Onstage Magazine was quoted as saying that their lead single "Across the Room" is an "obvious contender for the Billboard singles charts.” Selling more than 1,000 singles to date, they have proved that hip hop can exist without cursing, vulgarity, or violence and still be relevant.

The Vangoes have played over 50 shows last year alone, performing at numerous festivals including New Years Eve Bash on the 106.9 Mix FM stage, PalmFest on the Budweiser stage, and Onion Fest which draws over 20,000 in attendance each year. They have also been featured on KUTX 98.9FM Texas Music Matters program in Austin, TX, which highlights up and coming bands, as well as morning show Good Day Valley on Fox 2.

More than just a band, they also are active in the community. Recently, they have teamed up with RGV Food Bank in a campaign to raise awareness and donations through events and promotion. To date, they've raised enough money to provide over 1,200 meals to impoverished people in the Rio Grande Valley, TX area.

Without question, The Vangoes have proven to be a band to watch in 2013. With soulful music, incredible drive, and a supportive fan base, they are poised to take their brand of hip hop from coast to coast.