.SoCal Folk Duo Mapache to Unleash a Bevy of New Tunes at Moe’s

The last time I spoke with Sam Blasucci and Clay Finch, the duo behind Mapache (Spanish for raccoon), was the day before their full-length debut dropped, and a few days before they performed at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur. Barely 21 years old at the time, the twosome had just finished a yearlong tour and already had grown a notable fanbase, including the late Neal Casal, Jonathan Richman and Chris Robinson, who invited them to sit in with him during a few of his shows.

“That seems like ages ago,” Finch says. “I think we [sound] totally different now, but who knows?”

Mapache’s 2020 release From Liberty Street does show the duo moving in a slightly different direction from the bright and airy Laurel Canyon-coated folk that fueled their music that came before. While the song “Cowboy” is reminiscent of Sweet Baby James-era James Taylor, the tune “Liberty Street Blues” represents the duo’s musical growth and fearlessness as songwriters. In theory, pairing melodica—from prolific L.A. multi-instrumentalist Farmer Dave Scher—and pedal steel is as unnatural as a fox nesting with a hen, but the ballsy move pays off bigtime. Aside from a few Fleet Foxes-like ethereal harmonies, the song is all instrumental and plays more like a spaghetti western score than a folk tune.  

“[‘Liberty Street Blues’] started as this wordless jam, and we just kept jamming on it,” Finch explains. “It felt complete before we had any words for it, so we kept it that way.”

Whether Mapache’s sound is vastly different now compared to their debut may be in the ears of the beholder, but one thing is for sure, there’s been a lot of personal growth since our first interview a few years back. They sound different now; they exude more confidence, a sign of experience and extended time out on the road, constant promotion and all the other routines that become embedded into the lives of full-time musicians.  

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“We still love a lot of the same stuff—living in California and playing music together,” Blasucci says. “That hasn’t changed, but we’ve seen a lot of what the world can be like, so that’s made us grow up.”

Finch adds, “[Personal growth] happens first, and then musical changes come out of that. Whatever is going on with us comes out in our music—during the pandemic, we tried to play as much as possible and stay busy in the studio.”

After the band’s extensive 2020 tour was canceled, the pair began recording their third LP, 3; the all-covers album was released a couple of weeks ago. From an instrumental, psych-folk interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” to a slower-paced version of Old and in the Way’s “Midnight Moonlight” that glistens with a two-part harmony chorus, 3 is one of the more eclectic cover albums out there.

“We didn’t put much thought into the range of artists we wanted to [cover],” Finch explains. “We took a handful of songs that we are really into and wanted to play together—we also wanted to cover some of our friends’ music—Allah-Las and Little Wings—something more contemporary.”

Mapache also recorded a second album during the pandemic, Roscoe’s Dream, featuring original compositions. Blasucci says the musical arrangements and the record’s overall sound differ from anything the band has previously done. The record—to be released sometime in Spring 2022— is even more meaningful since it is named after Finch’s Boston Terrier. 

“[Roscoe] has been a big part of all of our recording sessions over the last few years,” Finch says. “He’s even on the record.”

Meanwhile, it was only recently that Mapache was able to get out of the studio and back out onto a stage for a live show in front of an audience.

“It felt like there was a lot of excitement [for the audience] to be back at a show,” Blasucci says of their show at Gold Diggers Bar in East Hollywood. “Or maybe we were just so excited and projecting it onto everybody else. There was this high energy in the room, like it was new to be back at a show again, which was nice. It was like getting exercise after not exercising for a long time.” 

“Or eating real food after eating junk food for so long,” says Finch. “It felt really good. It was like, ‘Wow, that’s what I needed.’”

Mapache is readying to embark on a tour—bringing them up to Santa Cruz—that’s structured a bit differently than usual: Each night, the group will open with an all-acoustic set and close with an electric set.

“We like to change the structure of our shows whenever we can,” Finch says.

Mapache plays Moe’s Alley at 8pm Monday, Dec. 13. 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 8pm; $16-20. Proof of vaccination or negative Covid test (taken within 72 hours) and masks required. folkyeah.com.

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Adam Joseph
I am the Managing Editor for Good Times Santa Cruz. For more than 15 years, I've worked as a professional writer, journalist and editor, covering various people, places, music, food and everything in between. My work has appeared in the Monterey County Weekly, Relix Magazine, Gayot.com, 65 Degrees and the Salinas Californian.
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