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Bakersfield, California, United States | INDIE

Bakersfield, California, United States | INDIE
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"The Musical Fusion of Velorio"

Victory for Velorio!
Band of local amigos takes musical fusion from cable airwaves & online contests to streets of Bakersfield, picking up new fans all along the way.

By Matt Munoz, Editor Bakotopia / MÁS staff
Photos by Joseph Gomez

There’s something about Velorio.

Since 2006, the Bakersfield-based band of friends continue carving out their own musical Abraxas — combining Latin, rock, blues, and jazz fusion — for fans everywhere.

Enjoying a wave of good prospects on the independent music circuit, the septet of Alvaro Caceres, guitar/vocals; Ben Gomez, bass/vocals; Alex Lopez, percussion; Eric Powers, synth/percussion; Jorge Antonio Urbina, percussion; Jallah Koiyan, drums; and Evan Phillip Ware, keyboards, has always been about allowing fate to take its course.

“For me, this band is about absolute freedom,” said Caceres, 24, from his southwest Bakersfield home, where the band rehearses and regularly congregates with friends.

Collectively, the members of Velorio came together much like a typical jam session — unpredictably.

“Alvaro and I knew each other back in the day,” said Gomez, 28, the band’s co-lead vocalist and bassist. “We were in a band called Maltratos together back in 2005. It was just Alvaro and I.”

As a duo, the two guitarists started out writing numerous songs, and performing regularly at Las Molcajetes Mexican Restaurant in Bakersfield. The two were an immediate hit with patrons.

“We’d pack that place out,” remembered Caceres of the band’s earliest pre-Velorio incarnation.

Like most musicians, Caceres and Gomez also relied on help from local friends like Eric Powers who enjoyed the music.

Powers, 22, was a fan of the project, volunteering to run sound for the group during shows. He made a natural progression to become a full-time member of Velorio on a variety of instruments, including percussion, guitar, and synth.

Gomez is quick to recognize Powers’ skills in the band.

“Eric has always been the engineer for the band, and helps out things in so many ways — sound, recording,” he said.

The evolution of Velorio continues in much the same fashion — friendly alliances.

Velorio percussionist Alex Lopez, 28, who attended Maltrato’s home jam sessions, added some spice to the already potent mix on congas.

“I was playing congas in church,” said Lopez. “I got invited to go play with Ben and Alvaro, and I just joined the band when they were ready to move on.”

After the original Maltratos concept began to fade, the group’s members continued performing very loosely around Bakersfield for a few years, together and with different groups.

This was also a very experimental time for the band, as writing and recording their first four-song demo started getting underway heading into 2006.

Inside their former home on F Street in downtown Bakersfield, the residence — described as a “rock n’ roll flophouse” — became their first recording studio.

Putting their garage band skills to work, Gomez and crew built acoustic barriers using discarded office cubicles courtesy of Kern Schools Credit Union, where Gomez worked.

“We did anything we could with what we had,” laughed Gomez. “Dealing with power outages, computer problems …”

Powers also remembered the trial-by-error process of home recording.

“Sometimes we’d have to scrap the drum tracks, and the conga tracks would get erased on accident,” he said.

After a year of toiling in the black-widow infested garage, the demo was complete.

Those sessions produced four songs — “Maltratos,” “Respirar,” “Hijos del Sol,” and “Cumbia del Marijuanero” — all representative of the Velorio spirit and style.

Helping to polish up some rough edges, engineer Pete Lyman (of Mars Volta fame,) also a friend of Gomez’s, was sought to master the project at his studio, Infrasonic Sound in Los Angeles.

The result is a world soundscape of folkoric guitar, cumbias Amazonicas reminiscent of the “Chicha” pop movement of ’60s Peru, Bay Area Latin rock, and eclectic rhythms of the current roc en español genre.

“It was a huge learning experience put together with all the knowledge we had,” said Caceres.

At the tail end of that same year and into 2007, the band began taking its current shape with new members Urbina, Koiyan and Ware to complete the line-up. The new name, Velorio — referring to a funeral “wake” in Spanish — was inspired by the song “Cruz de Madera” by Norteño singer, Ramon Ayala.

“We were singing the song one night,” said Caceres. “And I think Ben or I said, ‘We should call ourselves Velorio.’”

Like the rest of the band, each member tells a different tale of how they got involved.

“I went to check out Velorio on Cinco de Mayo last year at Fishlips, but when I got there they had finished,” remembered Urbina, 27, of his first encounter with the band. “But I knew I would like them since Ben was my friend.”

Drummer Koiyan, 21, was an in-the-pocket drummer who had also performed in church with Powers during his days at Liberty High in Bakersfield.

“We were the hottest worship band in town,” described Koiyan of how his beats were the obvious choice to bring Velorio’s live shows to life. “I knew how to play jazz, so the Latin thing came easy to me.”

Keyboardist Ware, who along with the rest of the band can switch instruments mid-song if they choose and also a longtime friend of Caceres, had just moved back from Portland, Oregon and became a full-fledged member after hearing a distinct similarity between Velorio and a band he and Caceres had also performed in years before — The Musical Chairs.

“I heard the Velorio songs on MySpace,” he said. “I remembered some of them from when they had just started being written. The sound had really changed a lot.”

With demo in hand, the band started out doing the unconventional — promoting the band in L.A. first rather than Bakersfield. Shows at BB Kings in Universal City were booked, along with some sporadic house parties.

But a pivotal moment in the band’s fresh career came in September 2007 when Latin cable network, mun2 was filming another L.A. band, Los Burbanks, perform at rockero hangout, the Westchester Bar & Grill in Los Angeles.

“'Crash’ a VJ from mun2 was there filming Los Burbanks,” said Caceres. “But she saw us and asked if she could use footage of us for her show ‘The Late Night Shift.’”

Although the televised clip was about as long as the blinking of an ojo, other opportunities materialized for the band — some better than others.

The ill-fated Arka Fest musical festival, which was to host bands from all over the world, was cancelled that October, leaving Velorio, who’d made the line-up, left to play at club Safari Sam’s in Hollywood to make the best of the moment, along with travelling performers in need of a venue.

Wowing the audience once again, Velorio’s name continued to flourish, giving them their biggest opportunity to date — returning to cable TV.

Another Latin-themed cable network, SiTV, courted Velorio to participate in an online/TV contest, “Jammin.”

“Jammin” can best be described as an online battle of the bands, where groups compete for votes from fans to see who would make subsequent cuts. The winner receives $10,000 in cash, a Gibson equipment endorsement, a mentorship with Nacional Records President Tomas Cookman, a trip to the LAMC (Latin Alternative Music Conference,) in New York City, and, of course, national TV fame.

The winner will be announced in early March.

Keyboardist Ware asked filmmaker friends, Ian Mayberry and Richard Javier to film the band performing one afternoon at Replay Lounge in Bakersfield.

Done without a budget, the band was more than thankful for the work put into the short form music video by Mayberry and Javier.

“Those guys did a fantastic job for us,” said Ware. “When we saw it, we were all blown away. Since we kept getting different deadlines from the network, the guys just worked until 3 or 4 in the morning just to get it back to us. Then we found out we had a month to work on it.”

Making it into the final round of judging, thanks to a growing, rabid fan base, the members of Velorio await the next phase of a very promising career. But although riding high at the moment, the band wants fans to know it’s really all about the music, win or lose.

“We’re just trying to get a lot of exposure for the band, but the money will help,” smiled Caceres.

Gomez agrees — almost.

“I hope we make a really good record,” he said. - MAS Magazine

"Local band making a 'nombre' for itself"

Hang out for an evening in Velorio’s stark bachelor pad off California Avenue and eventually the guys will break out their spastic road movie on the Xbox 360.

The unwashed and uncensored Latin jazz-rock septet from Bakersfield, contenders in Latino cable network Sí TV’s band contest “Jammin,” film up each other’s nostrils while touring the Pacific Northwest, freak dance with a convincing drag queen, interview a homeless man and devour Mexican food like beasts.

It’s sort of charming to watch a year-old group of talented high school band geeks capture the punch-drunk nights and early mornings of an act on the climb.

Two cable networks are turned on by Velorio’s kinetic mash of Latin beats, ’60s soul, rock, jazz and the occasional injection of melancholy.

After a public vote online, the bandmates say they’ve risen out of 202 acts to sit among the top 15 (announced Wednesday) on battle-of-the-bands program “Jammin.”

If Velorio makes the top six, the guys will play on TV (the new season starts in July). If they win, the prizes are pretty sweet: $10,000, a Gibson sponsorship, a meeting with a Latin record label executive and mentorship from an established band (past mentors included Joan Jett and Los Lobos). One winning band snagged a show in the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas.

Meanwhile, Telemundo’s sister network mun2 (a take-off on “mundos”) is also giving the band some love.

One of the network’s uninhibited young stars, Crash, filmed a Los Angeles gig for a vignette on up-and-coming bands. The segment will air at midnight Feb. 8 (Saturday morning) on music video show “The mun2 Shift Late Night.”

“I think a lot of people have big misconceptions of local bands,” says Crash, who’s become Velorio’s buddy. “You think: Starting up, kinda sucky, doesn’t have a fan base, maybe. But, no, Velorio kicks butt.”

“Jammin” is on a competing network, but Crash says, “If I can go to Sí TV and say, ‘Dude, seriously, just give it to Velorio,’ I wish I had that power.”

The men are giddy as anime schoolgirls about “Jammin,” but they say they’re not focused on a record deal. They want to grow their fan base, get a few new songs under the belt and work on their own independent label, Uneven Records, says singer-guitarist Alvaro Caceres.

Velorio (Spanish for wake, as in funerals) came together last January. The men met in high school jazz bands or through friends. Before they established Velorio, Caceres and singer-guitarist Benjamin Gomez were writing songs and playing a few acoustic shows together for a year.

Most of them skip from one instrument to another. Mexican-born percussionist Jorge Urbina took up guitar as a child, while keyboardist Eric Powers traded flute in second grade for guitar in junior high.

Latin percussionist Alex Lopez has a special place in his heart for underground jazz-influenced hip-hop; drummer Jallah Koiyan got his start singing in a church choir. A fan of ’60s rock and soul, Evan Ware says he’s been a musician since he could walk.

Gomez, son of a jazz and flamenco guitarist, draws from soul — Rick James, James Brown, Otis Redding — and post-punk.

“Latin music is a very alive music,” he says. “Everyone from the old-school Mexican in the car is not listening to Spanish music, he’s listening to soul. That’s the cross-culture we live in.” His “Hijo del Son” is the lament of a humiliated sinner folded with passages from the Lord’s Prayer.

The song is a result of partying and morbid thoughts: “One day I’ll just be happy when it’s all over and I cease to exist,” he says.


“When I wrote it down, it was after a whole series of intense days that turned into nights and nights that turned into days and I ended up writing on the wall,” Gomez says. “The landlord didn’t appreciate it at the time. We painted over it.” - Bakersfield Californian

"Re: "Local band making a 'nombre' for itself""

In response to the article, "Local band making a ‘nombre’ for itself"

Bakersfield, California. As much as you love this town, it's not the greatest outlet for culture. A majority of people don't seem to appreciate the arts and entertainment. However, there are people in this town, painting, writing, taking photos, making music, etc. It's important that we encourage these artists to keep doing what they do, for the sake of making a credible town. Using their artistic abilities to promote culture, instead of having residents worry about materialistic things which plagues the city of Bakersfield.

I've had the opportunity to have come to Bakersfield and surround myself with artists and enjoy their productivity. Among these artists is the band on the verge of major success, Velorio. I remember 2 years ago going to a tiny make shift recording studio where I would find future band mates Alvaro Caceres, Benjamin Gomez, and Eric Powers writing and recording songs. Jallah Koiyan, was actually one of the first members I met, and his talent at the drums was made apparent to me immediately after meeting him. Jorge Urbina I worked with in the service industry. His love for music was so strong, that one day I remember him being forty minutes late to work because he could not put down his guitar. Irresponsibility? Maybe to some, but to others that can appreciate art, It was one of the most inspiring things I have ever heard. All of the members of Velorio have so much talent, individually speaking. And if anyone has seen them play together, they come alive and their talent flows freely among each other, into a multiculturalism of sound that is beautifully appeasing. In a town wrecked with racial classes not coming together, Velorio brings people from different backgrounds, into one, using their music to do so.

I was very excited to learn that the band was going to be featured in the newspaper, they could use the publicity, but more importantly, people will be able to find out about them and then hopefully identify with the music they are playing. I wasn't expecting the article to be comparable to a Rolling Stones article, but I was hoping it would deeply touch on the band's message and what they hoped to accomplish as musicians.

Unfortunately, the article ranted about how they play Xbox 360 games, watch bad movies, and drink all night and write songs about it the next day. What a terrible misconception. Having spent a lot of time with Velorio, I know that they all have day jobs, practice up to 14 hours a day, and yeah, do unwind with a little bit of video games. How discrediting is it that a staff writer spent all that time with Velorio, and was only able to come up with that about their band. I think it's the duty of the Bakersfield Californian to promote art in Bakersfield. Writing a lethargic, uncharismatic article is really disappointing especially when Velorio is as ambitious as to bring the cultures of Bakersfield together. The goals, hard work and aspirations of Velorio obviously exceed that of the writer of the article. - Bryan Deger


Vive Velorio!
Local Latin prog-rockers hit back with strong follow-up

By Matt Munoz, Bakotopia Editor

Change has been good for Velorio.

Just a year ago, the Bakersfield quintet was being watched on international TV after winning SiTV’s ‘Jammin’ online band battle, and making it to the finals broadcast.

Although the band lost to a group described as another “future pop music casualty”, it was probably better that Velorio took home the consolation prize. We all know what happens to artists who ultimately win those type of competitions…Bye-bye…

Like most new bands making a big impression in high-profile places early in their careers, Velorio took the experience and immediately planned their next moves - write, tour, and record.

Where their ’07 debut EP stuck safely to experimental Latin roots, Velorio’s new offering takes big steps both musically and lyrically.

Starting with the opening track, “Nunca Cambiaras” (Never Change,) to “Lights, Camera, Dissastifaction”, a tune that would make Incubus raise a shot glass, onto “El Velorio”, that harkens memories of Woodstock. From beginning to end - this CD will make you light another.

As the world’s 'rock en espanol' scene seems to be taking a creative siesta by trying to imitate their U.S. idols, Velorio’s music reminds you of why you still wear your old Caifanes T-shirt. You can’t bring back the dead, but you can rest assured that within the armies of bands spinning their wheels – there is hope in the Valle Central.

Take that ‘Vive Latino’!

Bakotopia sat down with the multi-instrumental band that includes: Alvaro Caceres – lead vocals, guitar, trumpet, Ben Gomez – bass, vocals, Eric Powers – keys, vocals, Adrian Nevarez – drums, keys, and Jason Blakely – drums, bass, to find about their latest journey.

B: Velorio has gone through some line-up changes since the last time we spoke. How much has it affected your sound and mindset as an artist trying to make it happen?

Through the addition of Jason and Adrian, who are excellent, trained musicians we have taken our sound to a new musical level.

The musicianship and performance aspects are at a place that we’ve never before accomplished and we look forward to everyone experiencing this.

Jason and Adrian have played together in previous musical endeavors, and as such have a keen ability to play off of one another. This has lent itself to chemistry between everyone that is very explosive when it comes to musical force.

B: I noticed on your website, you did some traveling to Chicago recently. How was the trip?

The audiences were captivated, everyone enjoyed it.

We’re planning another trip back soon. Chicagoans want to hear live music; they seem to thrive on it. Before one of the shows, and armed with headphones and an iPod, a couple of us walked around and had people listen to the album:
25 people followed us back to the show, grabbing others off the streets as we walked. The people who helped us get there were extremely hospitable in every way. Support from Maladictos and Sobre enabled us to play 3 major shows: Fiesta del Sol(a street fair with over a million people in attendance over the course of 4 days), a private and intimate set at Black Gate Studios, and a good old bar show at The Cobra Lounge, a place with 365 days of live music.

In addition, we were interviewed live by Radio Arte, a Latino-owned, bilingual, youth-driven public radio station, as well as a local television show called “Enchufate” soon to be available online.

This trip would not have been possible were it not for our manager Claudia Guerrero with Chicle Atomico. We got nothing but love to and from Chi-town.

B: You’ve been involved with some cool projects on TV (SiTV / Mun2) and on the web. How does it make you feel being a Bakersfield band being watched at times by the whole world?

It freaks Adrian out. It’s nice to see that hard work pays off. We’ve spent the last 2 1/2 years attempting to make what you say a reality. Jason says, “It’s a humbling honor".

We’re flattered that people take the time to hear and really listen to what it is we’re making available. We’ve spent a long time working out parts and perfecting the sound to a point where we’re extremely proud of what has come of it, and are excited to be sharing it with the world.”

B: Velorio’s ‘07 self-titled ep with ‘Maltratos’ was a great representation of your early style. What can fans look forward to with your new disc?

The sound of Velorio has matured quite a bit from the EP, which was recorded in a garage by 3 people. The LP is a culmination of 5 distinct people from different backgrounds, conglomerating into a cohesive collaboration of style and taste, recorded in a professional studio in LA.

B: What were some of the stand out moments recording this record?

We recorded the album at Veneto West with Ronan “Chris” Murphy, a man with several hundred albums under his belt (Tool, Los Lobos, etc).

He’s not just a rock producer; he’s worked on Latin music, pop music, and most notably, world music. He’s traveled the world, and when we scheduled our recording time, it was between two trips to Spain. He’s fantastic and was exactly what we needed.

While recording, we had several points when we were all recording simultaneously: a percussion party, a shaker party, and a pedal party. Magic was in the air and on the floor. The process of Ronan’s recording made it feel like we were hanging out with friends and having a good time. When we were recording, none of us did so alone - there was always two or more of us playing at the same time, which lent to a more solid and together sound.

Ben says it’s necessary in any studio to have the book “This Book Will Change Your Life”. It really will change your life.

B: Your CD release party on August 29 sounds pretty big. What do you have in store for the fans?

A high energy show pumped through a great sound system in an awesome venue that will make you want to dance.

If you enjoy music and like to move your body, this show is where you need to be. We’re very excited to share the stage with Get Up Get Down for their last show in town, with Mento Buru, the pioneers of Latin music in Bakersfield, as well as The Natural Movement, the sickest hip-hop act in town.

Our goal for this release show is to provide a showcase of different genres in town for everyone to see.

B: Any freaky band-bonding rituals?

We can’t tell you; you must be shown.

B: What are your plans for the rest of the year?

After our success in Chicago, we'd love to head back to the east coast, but for the rest of 2009 we’re looking into playing several shows in Baja California - crossing the border is what our music craves. We’ve been talking to several promoters and our manager regarding a west coast tour from Texas to Washington in the spring. We’ll be heading up to the Bay Area soon for some shows in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and surrounding areas. We’re also looking forward to writing more music and getting it recorded for you to hear.

B: Latin rock’s earliest traces go back to Santana’s debut at Woodstock 40 years ago this August. If you could go back in a time machine – how do you think Velorio would do at the same festival?

We would have physically exploded if we played that show with Santana.

Woodstock would have been crazy; completely unfathomable. The people watching would have been tripped out. It would have changed our lives: Alvie probably would have been assassinated, Ben would have gone into a coma, only to wake up in the 80s saying “what happened to music?”

Adrian would have sold the script of “Ghostbusters”, making him an instant millionaire; Eric would have bet one of his friends he could start a religion, write a book and now have movie stars following him; and Jason would've been portrayed in a movie starring Jamie Foxx.

B: Would you try the infamous “brown acid” they warned people not to take at Woodstock 40 years ago?

Wouldn’t you?

On the web: - Bakotopia; Aug 2009


Velorio EP - 2007
Velorio LP - 2009



“A world soundscape of folkloric guitar, cumbias Amazonicas reminiscent of the “Chicha” pop movement of 60's Peru, Bay Area Latin Rock and eclectic rhythms of current roc en espanol genre” - MAS Magazine, Matt Munoz

"As the world’s 'rock en espanol' scene seems to be taking a creative siesta by trying to imitate their U.S. idols, Velorio’s music reminds you of why you still wear your old Caifanes T-shirt. You can’t bring back the dead, but you can rest assured that within the armies of bands spinning their wheels – there is hope in the Valle Central." - Bakotopia Magazine

“Unwashed and uncensored Latin jazz-rock!” - Bakersfield Californian, Shelly Branco


VELORIO was formed in January of 2007. Providence led to the encounter of musicians from their past, whom demonstrate that same passion and ideology for their distinct sound. As the dedication made way to progress, Maltratos was born.
Determined to extend themselves to as many people as possible, more members began to emerge. It was then that the band named Maltratos changed to VELORIO: Explosive Latin percussion motifs and meticulously placed rhythms, with melodies that have sparked interest in a wide audience demographic.
To describe the sound of VELORIO is intrinsically difficult through mere letters. VELORIO is an eclectic amalgamate of lives, manifested through musical styles, cultures, and tastes. Each song is an aspect of its members' collective life, not merely written and composed…every melody is a memory.


VELORIO se formó en Enero del año 2007, por Ben Gomez, Alvaro Caceres y Eric Powers. La prudencia los llevó al encuentro de músicos del pasado, quienes demostraron la misma pasión e ideología por su sonido distinto, tanto como su dedicación hizo camino al progreso y… Maltratos nació.
Determinados a extenderse al toda la mas gente posible, más miembros empezaron a surgir. Fue cuando la banda nombrada Maltratos… cambió a… VELORIO; Y surgieron motivos explosivos percusión latina, junto a su meticuloso ritmo y melodías, provocando así un interés demográfico con una amplia audiencia.
Para describir el sonido de VELORIO, es esencialmente difícil de describirlo en simples palabras, sobre todo VELORIO es (electico) una reunión de elementos del pasado, creando un nuevo estilo y uniendo nuevas vidas, manifestado a través de su estilo musical y cultural. Cada canción, es el aspecto de una vida colectiva de sus miembros, no solamente escritas y creadas sino qué… cada melodía es una memoria.