To get full disclosure out of the way: Jose Flores is an occasional contributor to Crossfade. Miami's music community is small so it's kind of hard to avoid that incestuousness. You'll probably better recognize, though, the alter ego for which he became best known around town in recent years: Jose El Rey.
For a brief period there, the cheesy, rico suave freestyle king ruled NE 14th Street and its environs. But then Jose Flores had to kill off Jose El Rey, a la David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust. El Rey was getting a little too big for his shiny, Hammer-cut britches.
And anyways, he was distracting everybody from what Jose Flores actually does best: scrappy, classic American three-chord punk rock with big, power-pop hooks.
Flores has been playing music in Miami for exactly half of his life now, including a late '90s run with teen pop-punk sensations Pin Kai
and on-and-off-stints with the Crumbs
. But one of the best was definitely the Getback
, a foursome who earned a cultish following of fans for its high-energy shows and its pared-down but warp-speed take on Ramones-y rock.
Though the band broke up a few years back, it's a misconception that it's stayed that way. The members have scattered geographically but in recent months have been convening to play shows and write new material. It'll see the light of day next year in a group of releases on Boca-based Livid Records
"The record will be out by March of next year and it's actually two releases. It's a full length CD and a seven-inch; both will have goodies," says Livid head Chuck Livid. "The boys and the label are spending a lot of time on this record. We're really putting a lot of effort in making sure this thing surpasses everyone's wildest expectations and it's a really personal record. I'm really proud of Jose for putting his soul into these songs."
Check out this rough mix of a new Getback song, "Halfway Home," in advance of Flores' one-man retrospective gig this Saturday at Sweat Records. There, he'll play selections from across his 16 years of music-making.
Scroll down to read what he had to say about it in a quick interview with Crossfade. A preview: Don't expect to hear Jose El Rey rule the house of sex ever again.
"I'm Kind of a Singer," an Evening With Jose Flores. 8 p.m. Saturday, November 20. Sweat Records, 5501 NE 2nd Ave., Miami. All ages; admission is free. 786-693-9309; sweatrecordsmiami.com
Crossfade: What was your first band ever? Is it ever painful to hear songs you wrote that long ago? Will you be performing any songs by your first band? at your retrospective show?
Jose Flores: My first band was Pretend Milk; we scoffed at the idea of "being in tune." I'm gonna play some songs by my second band, Pin Kai, which was the first band I ever sung in. With both of those bands, we had little to no musical skill and didn't take ourselves very seriously, so there's not much there to be embarrassed about.
The Getback seems to be one of your more popular projects, but you broke up for a while. Why did you decide to get the band back together, and when was that?
I think we were only "broken up" from 2004 to 2005; people kept asking us to play, we kept saying no. We finally agreed, and the show was more packed than any show we had while we were playing every week. That made me realize how much fun I have playing with these guys, and that if we only played like once a year, people would actually go!
Your members live in different places. How do you manage to get together to write new material?
This year I had a tremendous surge in my songwriting. I don't know if it was Jose el Rey withdrawal or what - I must have written like 20 to 30 tunes. I e-mailed them all to the guys; Juan gave me some pointers on lyrics and melodies. We were all in town in June, so I taught them a few. From June until October, I'd get together with Gus Rod and work out the best ones with him. Juan flew in [from New York] a week before recording, and we figured them out as band the week before going into the studio.
Has the new material you've written changed or evolved at all on the new record?
More than half of the new album was written in the last 10 months. The songs are a lot less in your face than our earlier stuff. A lot has happened in the past few years, and I finally got a moment to sit down on the couch and write about it. I used to write a song in like 10 minutes and say, "Alright, that's it," and not look back.
I think working with Otto Von Schirach [in Miami Bass Warriors] taught me to revisit songs, and see what I could improve. The songs mean a lot to me now; it's kind of scary how personal it gets on this record.
How did you hook up with Livid Records for this, and when is it due out?
Chuck worked real close with us on the last Crumbs record. I told him I'd been working on some new songs for the Getback, and he got really excited. He's really into archiving and releasing his favorite bands from South Florida, lucky for us, the Getback is one of those.
What do you think will surprise people the most about your show on Saturday?
I once got a letter from a girl after a Jose el Rey show; she went off. She was appalled that Jose el Rey existed, and really, really thought that I was really like that. It's crazy, right? I thought it was obvious that I was just having fun, at any rate, in the letter she asked me to learn how to play an instrument - which is also weird, like as if I had a producer or something making all the music for me, secretly. I hope she goes. I can pretend that I learned how to play the guitar because of her letter, and she will be surprised.
Finally, is Jose El Rey totally, completely dead? If so, why release his material on iTunes this past week?
Totally, completely dead. I will never get up on stage with a mustache and white shoes again. My goal was to do it for a couple of years or until I got world famous. I didn't get world famous, and I actually felt more anonymous than ever, as everyone knew the fake guy I invented more than me. But, I am really proud of what I did with it: Calle Ocho, ridiculous videos and songs that I really, really like.
Regarding the iTunes, I had to take down the first version of my album from iTunes. I had a song on it that I didn't really have the rights to use, so I took it down. Otto Von Schirach had just started his label, so he put it back up with 12 bonus tracks and now I can get a little extra gas money each month.
Me and Otto have been talking about starting up a new version of the Miami Bass Warriors, but with me, as Jose Flores. We're kicking around some ideas. There will be lots of guitar.