Los Burbanks

For this "5 and Dime" interview, I chatted on the phone with Los Burbanks' bassist and vocalist German Briseno, as well as lead guitarist Jay Smith. It was an unseasonably warm November day in New Jersey. Los Burbanks had just ended their tour in Chicago, and were about half way through Idaho on the long van ride back home to a rainy and damp Seattle.

Introduce your bandmates in Los Burbanks and tell me how your band got started.

German: I'm German Briseno, the bass guitarist and vocalist for Los Burbanks. Jay Smith is our lead guitarist, and Ben Greisheiber is our drummer. The band started out with different members in 1999, but Jay and I have been playing together for about five years. Ben started with us in the beginning of 2006. Now, the right musicians are in place and we'll try to keep it going.

At your website, www.losburbanks.com, and your MySpace page, www.myspace.com/losburbanks, music fans can hear your sound. I'd like you to describe your sound and tell me how the band's live performance differs from your record "Snake."

German: Los Burbanks is high-energy rock and roll, with vocals in both English and Spanish. We're a mixture of Red Hot Chili Peppers, 311, and classic rock. The three-piece format of Los Burbanks gives everybody his own space. Those dynamics work well onstage; both travel and the decision-making process is a lot easier. Ben didn't drum on the CD and he adds so much more energy to our live set. We're more aggressive live, we take more risks, and of course there's a little more improvisation. We try to keep it fresh so that people don't know what to expect.

Where can music fans purchase your CD? Also, how difficult is it getting a record made and heard in today's music industry?

German: CDUniverse, amazon.com, iTunes, and retail outlets like F.Y.E. and Borders sell the CD. We list all of the spots on our MySpace page. It's more difficult to get a record heard than to get a record made. It's all a matter of getting yourself planted in the right situation, where you have the opportunity to take advantage and run with it. After you get the record done, you have to get out there and tour behind it. You have to get in the van and go and go and go. Your name has to stay up so everybody hears about you. Los Burbanks tries to play everywhere and as much as possible. It can be hard, but if this is what you love doing, you've got to get out there on the road and do it right.

How's the fan reaction been on tour? Does your unique style of music receive any bias because some lyrics are sung in Spanish, or because you're a Seattle band that doesn't play grunge?

German: The fan reaction always differs from place to place, but we're really encouraged by what we saw on this tour. The people who have seen us are really responding to our music. It encourages us to keep on going and to get ready to do it all again in the spring of 2007. Some places are less receptive than others to our material that is sung in Spanish. For the most part, people get excited hearing things in another language. We tend to tailor our set to the audience we're playing in front of anyway. The grunge scene has been dead for years. The fact that we come from Seattle works to our advantage because people now know it's a music town. They get curious when they come out to see what we have. Everybody hears bands differently. I'm sure Jay's heavy guitar has people thinking they hear a grunge influence at times, but we're more influenced by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Corrosion of Conformity, and classic rockers like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. I moved to Seattle from Mexico City about eight years ago, and the Mexican bands I grew up with definitely had an influence on my songwriting. The fact that I wasn't exposed to Black Sabbath or Nirvana makes our band's formula even more unique.

What's going to be the biggest challenge for Los Burbanks as we approach 2007?

German: We have to get on a bigger tour and try to reach more audiences.
We know how to get out on the road and tour, but now we have to reach as many people as possible. Getting into touring situations that offer greater exposure and getting back into the studio to put down new songs will be our goals for 2007.

The Los Burbanks song "Odd Little Nightmare" speaks about a recurring bad dream of fans at a music club turning to dust. It's an ironic segue into my final question where I ask you to share your thoughts on the life and legacy of Dimebag Darrell.

Jay: His impact on me was more attitude-wise than technique-wise. I was never so driven to practice as much as he was. I was sloppy, more of a rhythm guy, and I didn't start to play solos until much later in my development. In the world of heavy music there's only a few guys who sound like themselves. Dime was one of the jewels in the crown. Everybody loved the guy and nobody had a bad story about him. He played heavy, brutal music but he was so light-hearted. He was a real sharing guy, and he made other people feel real important. He made touring fun for all of the bands he played with. It was always a gas at a Pantera show to see who they'd drag up onstage from the opening bands. There isn't enough camaraderie going on between rock bands. It's so competitive and everybody strives so hard. I think more people should try to foster a positive vibe like the example Dimebag set. When I heard about his death, I was saddened. But it inspired me to start changing my own attitude about life and music.

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