In an industry abounding with glitz, glam, and suffocating egos, humility and approachability are two values that are often forgotten. Perhaps it’s because the fabricated pop star or rock god never seemed to personify these down-to-earth values, but what happens when the rule book (written by no one & Co.) is thrown out the window? What happens when these values become the undeniable force that attracts others to us, metamorphosing into our strongest, most secret weapon?
To find this in music today, you need go no further than indie / alternative band, The Red Pears. A crew that found each other during those beautifully awkward high school years in their hometown of El Monte, CA, the group’s intertwined pasts are evidently present in their nostalgia-laden, homegrown sound. Originally founded in 2014 by Henry Vargas (guitar and vocals) and Jose Corona (drums), later joined by the duos’ close friend, Patrick Juarez (bass), The Red Pears have achieved what many bands merely dream of.
From impromptu garage practices to dirty backyard house shows, The Red Pears began making a name for themselves the old fashion way: real. human. connection. That’s right folks, the art of empathetic interaction is not dead and it’s the vehicle on which The Red Pears went from obscurity to playing Coachella in 2019, well that and of course really dope music.
Beginning with their breakout album, ‘We Bring Anything to the Table… Except Tables We Can’t Bring Tables to the Table’ featuring fan favorite “Daylight / Moonlight,” what began as a baby band project grew legs longer than they had ever imagined. So they began touring, all over California and the U.S., playing legendary venues and festivals, proving to everyone that one doesn’t need a major label or an ego the size of Mount Everest to move people through music.
Four years post their first release and following a slew of live performances, plus their 2018 sophomore album For Today, for Tomorrow, for What Is. for What Could’ve Been, The Red Pears return with EP ‘Alicia,’ a fitting dedication to the women that shaped the people they are today. The album is named after Jose and Henry’s mom, both of whom happen to share the name Alicia, and sonically features that same laid back, alternative sound which left the world smitten with the trio to begin with.
We had the chance to catch up with Henry, Jose, & Patrick on everything from The Red Pear’s serendipitous formation, lessons learned on along the way, and the abounding collection of character building values that their mothers instilled in them.
You three go waaaay back, can you tell us about how you all became connected with one another?
JC: I met Henry in High School. I was in a band, and he was in a band. And his band came over to practice with us one day. And I heard Henry’s voice, and his style of playing, and I just connected with it. I knew what to do with it instantly. I actually wanted him to join the band I was in haha I hit him up on Facebook, and asked if he wanted to make music, and he was down. And that’s how we first started together.
HV: What he said. 🙂
PJ: I met them at a backyard show with my brother in 2016. I was a big fan of the music and wanted to get to them know more. I would go to them after their performance to ask them if I was playing the guitar chords correctly and that’s how I met them.
How does being so home rooted and connected to each other’s past affect the dynamic of the band?
JC: It just keeps us humble. And grateful. Our families are big influencers in who we are. Just the lessons they’ve taught us, the morals and values they’ve instilled in us, the advice they’ve given us. And we all relate to that.
PJ: Yeah, especially because we all have Mexican roots. We all have similar backgrounds. Being around them feels like being around family.
HV: I think it helps a lot in what we do. Our parents both knowing each other and getting along plays a big part in what we do. We want to strive to do better and I feel that the reason we are the way we are is because of them. I don’t think there is anyone in the band that feels like they are higher than the other. Everyone is equal. But yeah I believe that everything starts at home.
What was the inspiration behind your band name?
HV: Jose and I were thinking about band names and we couldn’t figure out a good name. I remember going home thinking about good band names and my dad had asked me to get something from the trunk of his car. I opened the trunk got what he needed and in the trunk there was also a English-Spanish Dictionary that contained two Pears one was in Spanish saying Pera and the other one in English saying Pear and I remember thinking a pair or pears and at that time Jose and I were a two piece band so I was like “Yo what about The Pears?” But then the name was taken so we were like what about adding a color and Jose’s and I favorite color is Red so we went with that.
JC: All the cool two piece bands have a color haha The White Stripes, The Black Keys. So we liked The Red Pears. We didn’t even think they existed. So that made it even cooler. But it turns out they’re a thing. That’s cool too haha
Do each of you personally enjoy pears or does another fruit have your heart?
JC: I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite haha I’ve always been more into Bananas, Watermelon, Cantaloupe. I don’t really eat pears.
PJ: I like any fruit with Tajin.
HV: Yeah I enjoy Pears but I don’t have a favorite fruit.
What music shaped each of your tastes as children? Are these influences present in The Read Pears’ sound today?
JC: I listened to a lot of hip hop as a kid. I wanted to be a rapper at first. My dad is a big fan of the The Beatles and John Lennon. And I got into that. It meant a bit more because it was music that I can share with my dad, you know? There’s a special connection there. And I feel it every time I listen to their music. And there was all the Spanish music that my parents would play around the house. I think they are. Maybe subconsciously and it might not be super obvious. But I think it’s always going to be in the back of my head.
HV: Damn honestly growing up first generation with Mexican parents my influences varied from Corridos, Cumbia, Rock En Español, but then going to school I met friends that were into rock and then I started finding out about Alternative rock etc I would say subconsciously those influences are present we may not hear it but I’d like to think that they are there.
PJ: Growing up my dad and oldest brother would listen to classic rock/ metal. My sister would listen to hip hop/ rap. My mom would always be playing cumbias. I could kinda hear some of those influences.
Your music is made on all multi-level equipment, regardless of brand name – can you tell us about this / is there a reason behind it?
JC: I think we worked with what we had. I remember spending school loans on cymbals. And everyone didn’t like that haha That was really the first nicest piece of gear I’ve owned. But I think it comes down to the artist. A good brush doesn’t make a painter good, you know? It comes down to the dedication and creativity of the artist. Yeah an expensive instrument can help, but anyone can own that. A person’s mentality and personality and character is unique. And an instrument just helps express that. Using cheap gear has helped us, and it’s who we are, so we’ve just stuck with it.
HV: I don’t think using cheap gear was intentional. It was either playing with cheap gear or not playing at all. During the time I was working jobs and paying rent and I remember getting my first good check and heading to a Sam Ash and trying to buy a solid state amp but it was worth $500, on top of that I would still have to buy pedals and that would be $100-$200 for each pedal. That would have only left me with $50 for the next two weeks. So I ended up buying a Line 6 and a Squier telecaster so that I wouldn’t be too broke haha . The reason for the line 6 was because of the integrated FX.
PJ: I just use whatever is provided. Bass isn’t my first instrument that I learned so I’m not picky with it.
Your latest EP, Alicia, is dedicated to your mothers and the positive values they instilled in each of you. If you can, what do each of you think is the most important lesson they taught you?
JC: My mom is a very important person in my life. She taught me that it was okay to be myself, and she taught me to always be humble and appreciative. And to always be respectful and courteous. No matter who was in front of you, no matter what they looked like, or where they’re from. She’s always been a very caring and emotional person. And that would honestly embarrass me as a kid haha But she would do it out of love you know? I remember her arguing for me at places, because I didn’t have the guts to argue for myself. Or her always cheering at events, no matter how crazy she looked. She’s always been very supportive. And she’s never been one to care about what others think of her. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to really admire and respect that about her. She’s a very strong person, and she wears her love and her passion and her emotions on her sleeves. And I’ve picked that up from her. She gave me the courage to do that. She’s a reason why I am the way I am. She’s sacrificed a lot for me, and I just want to be able to make her feel like all those sacrifices were worth it. I just want to make her proud.
HV: Some of the most important lessons/advices that my mom has given me are to be patient, to keep my head up high, to always keep my feet on the ground, to give time some time, to be grateful l/thankful but I feel like the most important was to be humble. Growing up in low income household has opened my eyes more and I hope to one day be able to give my kids the same advice/ lessons that mom has given me. School don’t teach you that so I’m forever grateful for that.
PJ: My mom has always been supportive in what I do and one of the things I remember the most was when I didn’t know what to do after high school and she told me to do whatever I wanted to do as long as I was happy. I love you mom (Ana)
How do you stay rooted in these values while traversing the music industry?
JC: Well I guess we’ve never really cared about things like that. We’ve always been ourselves. We create what we want to create, dress how we want to dress, talk how we talk, and just be who we genuinely are. And we really had to figure things out on our own at first. From playing at bars to playing at house parties. We’ve always had ourselves and our families. And that hasn’t changed.
HV:I feel like it all ties back to the way we were raised. Having our families implant the similar ideas have always kept us the same. Don’t get me wrong the industry could be a bad thing but I feel like it’s different with the people we have as our team. We are still Independent and something that is always cool to me is that we could play a Sold Out show but at the end of the night I’m coming back home to my parents place and I wouldn’t have it any other way. A big shoutout to Gil/Cosmica for also having the same beliefs as us and for believing in us.
PJ: Yeah I could relate to what they said 🙂
From your adolescent days spent in El Monte to performing at Coachella in 2019, can you point to any specific lessons you’ve learned or experiences you’ve had along the way that like-minded musicians might need to hear?
The Red Pears:
Not giving up is important. Communication is important. Honesty is important. Dedication is important. Trial and error is important. Forgiving is important. Following your gut is important. Having the will to grow is important. You’re not always going to be right, and that’s okay. You might be nervous and scared, but you have to go through with it. Stay humble and be thankful. No matter how hard things get or whatever road you fall off of, or whatever your age is, if you have the passion for it, and you’re willing to truly go all in, and risk everything, regardless of what people say, you’ll find a way. It’s only a matter of time.
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photos / Tuff Cookie
story / Jessica Thomas