Enrique Rumiche tells me he can’t meet until after 10:30 p.m. on a weekday. Rumiche, founder and singer of La Guerrilla, has to bartend at an East Austin cafe. That is his “real” job.
La Guerrilla has six or seven members, depending on the day of the week or availability of the musicians. Rumiche at guitar and vocals, Joseph Loney at drums, Zumbi on the trombone, Fernando Flores on percussion and vocals, and Tony Valdez at the bass. Michelle Alany, who played with The Inheritants, and Rudolph Eccles recently joined. La Guerrilla plays with saxophones and violins and keyboards and their songs are sometimes sung through megaphone. La Guerrilla is a band formed by people with real jobs. Chiropractor’s assistant. University store clerk. Carpenter. Barista. Cook. Barman.
So, in a city where a carpenter moonlights as a musician, how does one stand out?
“Austin is like this mini mecca of music,” Rumiche says. “And there’s so many artists and musicians all over the city that you really have to be appreciative and you have to be different.”
La Guerrilla, known as “la banda del pueblo” or what Rumiche likes to refer to as the “unofficial band of the world,” has its own day in Austin. May 27, 2010, is La Guerrilla Day, for those of you who don’t know. How does such a young band get its own day? They worked their asses off to be memorable and unique.
Rumiche has stuck to his stay-unique philosophy since starting La Guerrilla. Prior to this project, Rumiche was playing with another band, Balistica, at about the same time he graduated from the University of Texas with an economics degree.
Differences tore the band apart and Rumiche moved to Baton Rouge, where he lasted for, oh, about a month. So he came back to Austin and started playing in coffee shops. He experimented with Latin rhythms, trying to escape from the punk rock Balistica played.
He played alone.
It wasn’t until one particular show at The Hideout Theatre, where he asked one of his friends to help him with the beatbox—simply asking her to push play and stop when he told her—that he realized he could do this with other people. So the search began. He met musicians at parties. He met musicians at local cafes and through Craigslist. He met with different groups of people until he found a bunch that understood each other, musically and otherwise.
“La Guerrilla was this collective of musicians that I wanted to work with,” Rumiche says. “I looked for people who could bring something new to the table. I just felt like getting new sounds, you know. Xylophone, accordion, toys. Sounds that don’t even exist.”
Soon after its creation, La Guerrilla began to grow. People packed into coffee shops to see them. They played local gigs and they played in San Antonio. They played in New York and they traveled down south. Most importantly, they try to keep things interesting.
“If something’s been done, it’s been done,” Rumiche says. “You can try to perfect it, but I always like something original and new, something crazy, something wild.”
Rumiche’s a fan of visuals. He loves artists who use visuals to go along with their music, such as The Flaming Lips and Bjork. Rumiche and La Guerrilla like to incorporate this into their shows, as well, which is why Rumiche brings things like masks and balloons for their audience.
“You can create music out of anything, and this world has so much to offer,” he says. “So when it comes to shows, you can just sit down and play. But if you’re not going to give them anything new, which is the point of art, to be vulnerable enough to show it to everybody else, you might as well just rehearse it and not play it in front of other people.”
So La Guerrilla brings helmets and masks to their shows. They get people dancing. Funnily enough, they get a lot of white people dancing. I point this out to Rumiche, who smiles and agrees, but says things have changed.
“Now it’s a lot of brown people that come to our shows,” he says. “I think people in Austin are now seeing us as ‘their band’ a little bit, especially Hispanics. But we don’t wanna be a band for just a particular kind of people, so I’m glad when we see people from different ethnicities enjoying our show.”
What’s most important to Rumiche is that people have a hell of a good time and show it. One of their best shows was one in New York with only six people in the audience. But those six people were showing them love, and that’s when Rumiche loves his job—this job—the most.
“Whenever we go down south, it seems people show us more passion,” he says. “More passion in their dancing, getting in your face. In Austin it happens sometimes, but I think it would be really good to travel and see how other people react to our shows.”
La Guerrilla wants to go international, and they’re working hard for it. Rumiche speaks of wanting to go to Peru, Barcelona, maybe Madrid.
Rumiche mentions their song “High” from their second EP, Adiós Lala Land?, was picked up for an Italian commercial. To him, taking his music out of Austin and out of the U.S. is a big deal. So for Rumiche and the band, branching out of the States also means branching out in style. You can hear it in Adiós Lala Land?, where things take a calmer turn, as opposed to their debut self-titled EP, which was, quite simply, Latin/funk/gypsy party music.
“We called it Adiós Lala Land? because it had to do with evolution and what’s gonna happen with us as musicians, as everything,” Rumiche says. “I wanted to showcase that La Guerrilla isn’t one style of music. As an artist, you don’t want to limit yourself. Take a risk; don’t be fearful.”
La Guerrilla goes through changes every day, which also means being inspired by its own members.
“Michelle and Rudy both come from different worlds,” Rumiche says of the band’s newest members. “Michelle is very gypsy and does a lot of Jewish music, which is something new to me. And Rudy is very ‘70s funk, which adds so much to the rhythm section. It made me pull out my keyboard, try different vocals, do something new.”
This is something Rumiche also applies to their first full-length album, which is currently in the works. He promises surprises and changes in style, and several purely instrumental tracks. So it seems that for La Guerrilla, the main theme of their art is constant reinvention. They bring in new people, even if it’s just for a month, to teach them something new. They play whenever they can, wherever they can. They sing in Spanish; they sing in English. They’ve played Austin’s largest Latino music event, Pachanga Fest, and they’ve partied with Houston’s Los Skarnales. And remember: They have their very own day.
Rumiche is eager to go bigger, and he’s excited because he knows this is only the beginning.
“When I started this, I told everybody, ‘I’m not gonna stop,’” he says. “I’m not gonna stop. I’m gonna keep going ‘til I’m 90 years old and be like, ‘OK, this is the last song, good-bye.’”