Xavier Omar Otero
Lenguas Largas on stage at Club Congress, Saturday Aug. 5. From left: Ricky Shimo, Tommy Melchionda, Isaac Reyes, and Mark Beef (behind the drums).
Fresh from a tour of Japan that took them to Tokyo, Ashikaga, Tokushima, Osaka and Kyoto, Lenguas Largas played their first show back at Club Congress Saturday Night with Zen Mother (from Seattle, Washington) and Phoenix’s Vatican Ratlines. It was a well-attended congregation of the devout.
In Spanish the band’s name refers to a gossip whose talk is mostly horseshit. Having said that, more people should be talking shit about Lenguas Largas. The truth: Lenguas are a badass genre crossing amalgamation delivered with punk-rock sneer. Absorbing the cross-cultural communication that overlaps two worlds—psychedelic, norteño, indie, rock en Español, soul—Lenguas Largas’ sound reflects life in the borderland.
Born in Nogales, frontman Isaac Reyes tells us that "he grew up on the Arizona side. Two streets north of the border. [Guitarist] Ricky Shimo grew up on the Mexican side. I got into punk through skateboarding.” Saving their lunch money to buy comic books and Thrasher
Reyes’ and Shimo’s musical interbreeding began while they were in junior high. A friend's older brother opened a record store in Nogales, AZ called Roca Rola. Most days after class the pals would walk first to Instrumentos Musicales (a branch of Tucson’s venerable Chicago Store). They were poor kids with no coin.
“We would play every guitar in the store until they kicked us out for not buying anything.” Then they’d head to Roca Rola for another music fix. Reyes reflects wistfully, “We would hang out there everyday listening to everything they played ... people from both sides of the border would hang out there.”
Fast forward. So how did these young punks from Nogales end up touring Japan? Reyes explains: “The reason we toured Japan ... was to tour Japan!
“Everything in Japan was amazing," he continues. "Everywhere you look you see cool, rad shit. Besides the food and culture, the raddest thing in Japan is the way everyone in the music scene respects each other. The sense of community is very strong regardless of musical style.”
A four piece, stripped down and built for speed, Lenguas Largas—bassist Tommy Melchionda and drummer Brian Bollt along with Shimo and Reyes—toured the latter half of July with Southern California’s White Night and “a shit load of rad Japanese bands.” The Fadeaways, Number Two, Genza, Car 10, Broken Mountain, Gold Soda, Sanhose and Sk8nicks.
Music knows no bounds. Reyes swells with pride recalling a moment on tour when Sanhose gave props by covering a song by his former band, the “criminally underrated” Shark Pants. “My mind was blown. I was very honored that a punk from Nogales had influenced rockers in Japan enough for them to cover a song of mine.”
Prior to departing for Japan, Lenguas recorded six tunes that landed on a split tape with White Night, Number Two and Sanhose (released on Japanese label I Hate Smoke Records). The band’s recorded output defies most points of reference.
Reyes: “We don't like to write or sound like something we've already done. We listen to lots of different music. We filter and interpret sounds and they come out the way they come out.”
So, what's ahead for Lenguas? “We have a few shows sprinkled through the next couple of months, Reyes says.” But, the band’s focus will be on recording. “We bought a bunch of gear. So now we can go crazy writing and recording new shit.”
More, they were asked to return to Japan for another tour. “Once we have a new record we'll start putting that together,” Reyes says.
When Lenguas Largas took the stage they looked on edge. No pretense or artifice. They don’t care about making any scene. They don’t seem to care about much else other than making music, it would seem. And so it was at Club Congress. They were there to get a job done. And that job was, simply, to rock.