Left Alone has been kicking around the LA punk scene since 1996. Over the years they have released 5 records, 4 EPs, been featured on a number of compilations, and played countless shows worldwide. The band just released a new EP called Hate The Day in March and are finishing up an upcoming full-length.
We had a chance to catch up with Elvis Cortez from the band. We had a great discussion about his musical upbringing, touring with the Transplants, the compilation he helped to helm, and breeding bulldogs.
Let’s start at the beginning, when did the music bug originally bite you?
Well, I think music first got me back when I was a lil kid and my dad would play music around the house and in his truck. He would listen to a lot of old school stuff. Tons of cowboy stuff like Antonio Aguilar, Vicente Fernandez, basically mariachi traditional stuff with a strong singer. I remember that most of the songs were broken hearted stuff lyrically. That’s when I first kind of “got music”. Oh and on a trip to Mexico he played Kenny Rogers The Gambler and till this day I listen to that!
How did you get into punk and ska?
My parents broke up so I think I found an escape in music and Punk gave that to me, starting from Nirvana’s Nevermind then finding out about Exploited, Rancid, the Clash then OPIVY then Specials it just all connected. Back then it was really an effort to find punk stuff, because it was before the internet, and in Wilmington I think we had like 5 kids who listened to punk so in the beginning it was hard. Then we started going to shows, I started the band then I opened the PCH club, my first venue, then it was on….
You are one of the longest running bands on Hellcat Records, how did you get involved with the label?
I had been sending demos for years and got rejected a few times but then in 2004 we were the BBQ band on Warped Tour and Tim was there with Lars and the Bastards and I think he got to see us cause we started talking a lil but then I didn’t see him again till I ran into him at a Give ‘Em The Boot CD release show at the Knitting Factory in LA later that year. We had lunch and that’s when he asked to join. That was my goal from day one and it felt great after years of working. Finally it happened.
What has the experience been like working with Tim Armstrong? I am sure he is a guy who you can learn a lot from.
Yea Tim is rad as a person. Friend and musician he is always so busy with music it’s crazy. I have learned tons from just watching and being around him. It’s really cool to see someone like him appreciate everything and be so humble.
Are you still a touring member of the Transplants?
Yes. I can’t wait to hit the road with them on the Rancid/Transplants tour. That’s going to be so fun.
Left Alone has seen a number of lineup changes over the years. Who is currently playing in the band with you?
Well Jimmy Jam has been with us since 2010 and Ben joined a year later. These guys are super solid and great musicians and friends so I think the line-up will stay together for a long time.
Tell me a bit about the new EP and the new record.
The EP was something we put together for the Japan tour in March 2013 from the session off the new record. We recorded over 20 tracks so we had enough to use on the EP. It had been a minute since we had released an EP or album so we put in 4 tracks that was going to show a little of what the new record would be like and people love it! The new record is being mixed and will either have a late 2013 release or early 2014 depending on tour schedules.
Left Alone has released 5 records since 2002 as well as a number of EPs. How has your songwriting evolved over the years?
It has definitely evolved. I think the songs are stronger and each has its own vibe. I have more of a patient view on songs and I’ll work on one for months just till it feels right. I would say they are more produced but not in a studio let’s add effects and sound like ‘what’s going on now’ way, the songs are more crafted I would say.
How did you approach the writing for this new record?
This new record has been in the works for a few years. I wrote about 50 songs but some would not fit the vibe so I would use those for solo stuff. I’ve been through a lot since the last one. I got married, scaled down on drinking. I’ve just been really focused on the songs. I have absorbed what’s been happening to me and around me and lyrically that’s what fueled it.
What are the band’s plans for touring? I believe you just came back from some shows in Japan
Yea, we hit Japan in March then went out with Voodoo Glow Skulls on the “Dale La Bota Tour” (means Give ‘Em The Boot in Spanish) thru the US. Transplants tour till August then back with Left Alone for an east coast run. Maybe after that Europe. We just wanna release the record and hit the road as much as possible.
You also released a new compilation through Smelvis and Hellcat called Dale La Bota. Tell me how this came to fruition.
Left Alone comes from a really big underground scene of bands in the Los Angeles/South Bay/OC area that is really ska oriented. There are so many bands that are great I wanted to help them get to bigger markets. Though most don’t tour, I figured this would be a great way and after Tim came to one of my shows at Alpine Village, he was into the whole scene that was going on. I brought up the idea and he was really into it. I am really glad because I hope some of these bands start touring soon.
There is a very large Latino punk scene that is relatively unknown outside the city of Los Angeles. Talk about the scene to those who may be unfamiliar. Who are some of the major bands and players in the scene?
Well the scene is huge and I’ll break it down like this… the OG bands from the scene would be Left Alone, Viernes 13, Los Creepers, Los Kung Fu Monkeys, Chencha Berrinches 15 letras(Rip) and a few more I can’t remember. These bands are kinda the first wave, if you will, all sounding completely different but started in the backyards and moved into the LA clubs like the Roxy, Knitting Factory, and House Of Blues. Then bands like Matamoska, JLB, Red Store Bums, ONK, La Pobreska, La Infinita, South Central Skankers, Roncovaccoco, Defied, Raskahuele came out and that became kinda like the 2nd wave. Though both waves still play together there is a bit of a difference. Now it’s like 100s of bands shows every weekend and it goes off. I see it as the early 90’s Gilman St days with Rancid, Green Day, Swingin Utters, NOFX. It’s just that most of these bands don’t tour and it’s a bummer. I have signed a few and will be signing more to help them get more exposure. I think the potential is there to break some of these bands to bigger markets. I have seen our scene influence other states and bands are popping up all across the US with the LA Ska/Punk sound. Some call it ska-core, I think its ska-punk just LA style, big horn sections, packed shows, and a great vibe. Some bands play the 2-tone vibe, others rock reggae, others bust more traditional ska, others straight go hardcore punk. The compilation is a great example of the scene. I will be releasing one every year to help out.
Tell me one thing about you that no one would ever expect
Umm…I breed English and Olde English Bulldogs when I am off tour. Peep www.rockandrollbulldogs.com. I am vegetarian and I quit drinking. Yup, crazy huh?