.Los Darks Aspires to Kickstart a Latinx Rock Renaissance

The trio is committed to igniting Santa Cruz County's underground Latin rock scene

Sure, there have been some amazing local Latinx rock bands—most recently, La Plebe and Los Dryheavers come to mind—and the now-defunct Appleton Grill in Watsonville once served as the local spot to see the best in underground Latinx rock. But the scene for such bands has never quite come together in Santa Cruz County. 

Now one local group is trying to turn that around, one show at a time. 

“We wanted to do this to say, ‘Hey, when you hear Latin American bands, you need to go see them because that’s what’s really going on,’” says Denny Joints, guitar player and one of the singers for local group Los Darks. “We see it every weekend. This is the real Santa Cruz music.” 

The “this” he’s talking about is a Spanish-language-centric show Joints helped organize for Sept. 3 at Urbani Cellar in Santa Cruz. Along with Los Darks, it will feature Latin ska band La Maldita Cruda (from San Jose), Santa Cruz Latin-infused surf-psychobilly-rock trio Fulminante and local rock act Death Department. 

“We wanted to do this to show we support everyone,” says Pepe Bárrio, Los Darks’ lead singer. 

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Bárrio grew up in a musical environment, hailing from Puebla, Mexico–the same city as Alex Lora, lead singer for one of the largest Mexican rock bands of all time, El Tri. It’s his deep roots that anchor his writing. 

“Where I grew up was a very intense city, very violent,” he says. “But a lot of support from friends and family.” 

Bassist Salome Cruz says the bands are already active here, but they need more exposure.

“We want to get more people into the scene,” she says. “I would like to bridge the gap between punk and rock, especially in Spanish. Like Fulminante, they’re amazing and a great example.” 

Fulminante released their self-titled debut album in 2018; they continued to play live even during the pandemic, joining a number of other artists for the SoFA Music Festival livestream. However, a series of setbacks and medical issues put the three-piece on a 10-month hiatus from September of last year until July. 

However, Fulminante says they’re back and ready to blend genres and simmer in the sauce of rock ’n’ roll once again.

“Our friend Sophie says [our shows] are one of the only places you’ll hear a Manu Chao cover with a Dramarama cover,” jokes singer and drummer Josue Monroy. “And that’s just us. There’s a core–a certain vibe–to the music, but it’s also pretty diverse.” 

“Growing up, that was the soundtrack to my house,” agrees Fulminante singer and guitar player Brenda Martinez. “It was oldies, Mexican music, blues, hip hop, everything.” 

Despite this, both Martinez and Monroy agree the Spanish-language music scene is severely lacking in Santa Cruz. 

“When I was growing up, Santa Cruz never catered to these bands,” Monroy says. “We’d always go to San Jose or house shows in Watsonville. Santa Cruz always felt musically segregated in that way.” 

So when they were asked by Los Darks to play the show at Urbani Cellar, it was an opportunity they knew they had to take.

“Even though it’s easier to access other types of music, when it comes to actual shows things tend to stay within certain scenes,” explains Monroy. “And that means you’re perpetuating the same thing.” 

“There are people out there who want a Latin scene,” Martinez agrees. “And it can be an eclectic scene, not just rock or punk in español.” 

It’s this type of mentality that also drives Los Darks, who draw their inspiration from—and even cover—classic Latin songs and traditional styles. Yet at the end of the day, they are rockers through and through. 

“We just want to play our favorite music the way we want to play it,” Joints says. “Pop music we can feel good about.” 

Los Darks plays Saturday, Sept. 3 at 8pm. $10. Urbani Cellar, 140 Encinal St., Santa Cruz. urbanicellar.com.


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