The Daily Tune sit down with the Jail City Rockers!
We got the opportunity to interview the Bonilla brothers, Gabe and Andrew from Jail City Rockers. They were gracious enough to let me into some of the inner workings of their band, shared a bit of their street philosophy, and I was lucky enough to pry out some of their dirty secrets about band life. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed getting it out of them.
The Daily Tune: So let’s start out with a general icebreaker question, How did you get the name “Jail City Rockers”?
Andrew: Through our love of older music we decided to pick a name from a song by The Jam, to pay homage to them, so we were originally called Thick as Thieves.
Gabe: But we should have done our research first, because we found out there were a lot of bands with that same name. So we went back to the drawing board.
Andrew: So I came up with Jail Time Rockers for my love of The Clash. But then Gabe came up with Jail City Rockers and we just loved the flow that it had.
Gabe: From there we went and researched out that there were no bands with that name, and that’s how we became Jail City Rockers.
The Daily Tune : In what ways do you pull your inspiration from older forms of music, and how does that contribute to your sound?
Andrew: My contribution is on the guitar. I grew up listening to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Eddie Cochran, Dick Dale, Steve Whale, Billy Zoom, Steve Jones, Mick Jones,and Paul Weller. I could honestly keep going but these are the main ones. They always brought style, attitude and raw energy to what they did. In my opinion playing faster isn’t always more aggressive, and that’s what I try to bring to Jail City.
Gabe: It comes from all different places for me. In Jail City I’m the writer/arranger first and drummer second. So when it comes to arrangements I try not to limit myself, I pull from my obsessions in R n B, Ska, Rock n Roll, Oi, Punk Rock, and, 80s Hardcore. When it comes to drumming, it’s bold and aggressive. That’s just my style with pretty much everything I do… music, skateboarding, and even art. In the early days of learning how to play I pulled inspiration from guys like Earl Palmer and Arthur Googy for how to play and keep the beat.
The Daily Tune : Do you have a favorite song that you never get tired of playing?
Andrew: By far it’s “No Politics”. I never get tired of it. Even though some people have completely misunderstood the meaning… It’s about all the different subcultures and their ideals coming together at a show, getting along and not fighting so the clubs don’t get shut down.
In all actuality the song isn’t even about national politics it’s about scene politics. I never get tired of the guitar work or the energy. You can hear the different influences of the 50s rock n roll and punk combined. I love the message behind it, and at the end we use the bridge as the one and only chorus in the song. We just don’t have any other song that sounds like it.
Gabe: My favorite song happens to be a new song we have coming out in April. It’s called “They Won’t Like You Anyway”. I wrote it having the younger generation in mind. We see a lot of the younger kids getting sucked into this world of being fake, trying to be a “rockstar” and feeling like they won’t be accepted if they don’t dress a certain way or hang out with the right people and party with them. I just wanted them to know it’s OK to have a backbone and be yourself.
The Daily Tune : How has being a working class Latino influenced your music?
Andrew: I think it has influenced our mentality and our music. We always had music playing in our home, and Freddy Fender and the oldies were always playing at our family parties. Everyone just wanted to have fun, eat good food, and laugh. Our whole family is blue collar, they work in concrete, landscaping, and construction. When we got together we didn’t want to talk about our jobs and money, we wanted to laugh and have a good time. We didn’t have the most money, but we had the most fun. We try to bring that concept to Jail City.
Gabe: I take pride in where I came from. I was taught if you don’t work, you don’t eat. There are no free handouts in this world and the world doesn’t owe you anything. I’ve experienced blatant racism with a lot of my jobs, driving my car, even skateboarding. So being able to write songs like My World, and Laborer’s Son helps me to express the negative and the positives of growing up in a working class Chicano family.
The Daily Tune : Jail City Rockers got on Punk Rock Bowling! How did you do that? What do you think the secret to success is?
Gabe: As far as Punk Rock Bowling goes…We honestly have no idea! Mark Stern sent us an email in November inviting us to play and of course we said yes! I do know one thing and that is we work hard. We eat, sleep, and breathe Jail City. We are never not working. I think the secret to success is actually loving and caring about making people happy through the live show and our music, so they feel they haven’t wasted their hard earned money coming to see us. A huge part of why we do this is to create a place where you can come and forget your stress, your bad day, your parents, basically anything to just escape the world for a little while.
Andrew: Well put brother, well put.
The Daily Tune : You guys have been playing for a while now. What made you decide to start a band, and make music your life?
Andrew: I’ve been obsessed with the movie “The Buddy Holly” story since I was 5. My Mom bought me a little plastic guitar from the grocery store, so I could put on my own little shows. When I was a teenager I had watched my older brothers teach themselves how to play the guitar and the drums, and then start a band. So I knew it was possible, and I knew it was what I wanted. My first guitar came from the catalog Fingerhut. I hated that thing but my brothers taught me that it’s not what you have, it’s what you do with what you have, and do it with style. I spent hours in my room in front of the mirror performing shows and learning how to play.
Gabe: Music and skateboarding were the only two things I felt that I was good at when I was a kid. When I was in school I felt that I didn’t fit in because I had severe learning disabilities and was in special classes all through school. On top of that I was already looked down on for being a skateboarder. I hated school so bad that I only made it to the ninth grade. After that music and skateboarding became my life.
The Daily Tune : You’ve mentioned skateboarding and I’ve noticed that you have a lot of skateboarding themed tattoos. How has skateboarding influenced your life and your music?
Gabe: One of my favorites quotes is,” When skateboarding is outlawed, only outlaws will skateboard.” That’s how it was when I started skating in the late 80s. We were seriously outlaws and hated by society. There were no skateparks, at least ones that we could afford. We didn’t have money so we hit the streets. It was a criminal act to skateboard so we had to learn real quick how to jump fences and run from the cops on a daily basis. It was almost the same thing to play Punk Rock. This was before the “what MTV called punk” days. You were pretty much an outcast if your were into anything punk. It was nothing like it is now. I think back then, you didn’t think about it, you just did it because you loved it. You were doing things for yourself and what you loved, instead of doing it so people liked you. We were hated and proud, and we still are.
Andrew: I had a skateboard before I had my first real guitar, and the one thing that Gabe taught me, besides running from the cops, is you have to have your own style. Be it in skateboarding or music you need to find your own style.
Gabe: Style is everything. It’s not just about picking up your skateboard or instrument, it’s about picking it up and doing it with style. Some people have style and some don’t. If you don’t, put it down and go do something else. That’s what the older guys taught me when I was young.
The Daily Tune : You’re obviously transplants from another state, how is it playing here in Utah?
Andrew: We love it here! We’ve gotten a lot of support from the Salt Lake all ages scene. The shows are always high energy and full of positivity. They make everything worth it. But in all honesty we’ve gotten little to no support from a lot of the bands and promoters in the Northern Utah scene. But we are so grateful for those that have supported us. You know who you are.
Gabe: I agree! We are so grateful for those who have supported us, but for those that don’t…like I said before…We’re hated and proud.
The Daily Tune : Would you like to tell me about some of that hate? And how do you stay positive with the negativity?
Gabe: Well, hate is a very strong word but there is a very strong dislike towards us, and it’s been shown to us in many ways. We keep our circle pretty tight, and in a scene that thrives off of popularity, competition and people wanting to be rockstars, it’s pretty hard to find loyal friends. We haven’t had much luck in the loyalty area. But when it comes to that, We choose PMA everyday, and rise above it. I draw inspiration for my songs from experiences, so let’s just say I’m grateful for all the material that has been thrown our way.
Andrew: We just kind of blow it off and keep working, but inspiration has come out of it. So there is positive out of every situation and we just rise above it with actions.
And those actions are…We just wrapped up recording our new 5 song E.P. called “They Won’t Like You Anyway” with Kasey Avenue our rhythm guitarist/band Teddy Bear, and Francisco Herrero our very talented new bass player. The new E.P. will be released in April with new music that we’re really excited about. We also have a couple of music videos in production that we will be releasing also in April.
Gabe: And of course We’ll be playing Punk Rock Bowling 2019 on Monday May 27th.
The Daily Tune : Thank you guys for answering all of my questions! Any last words?
Gabe: Just be yourself, stay positive, and eat your oatmeal!
Andrew: Play loud, be creative, and don’t do crack.
hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed getting it out of them.