The B-Side Players make music without borders or boundaries. On Fire In The Youth, their seventh album and first for Concord/Picante, they continue exploring the multifaceted grooves of Latin America and the Caribbean, incorporating the sounds of Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico and Brazil with the funk, rock, jazz and hip-hop rhythms of their homeland. With Latin music currently dominating the charts in most of the world, The B-Side Players are uniquely positioned to bring their uplifting message of unity, brotherhood and dance floor revolution to the people of planet Earth.
The B-Side Players are part of a new movement in popular music, a band that honors the international cross-pollination that has always made music the universal language. They use any beat that catches their ear, regardless of geography or genre, to create a compelling, horndriven, polyrhythmic groove. “The root of all pop music is African,” says Karlos Paez, the band’s lead vocalist, trumpet player and founder. “Our sound acknowledges that fact. That’s why the music is so soulful. We’re playing the ancient beats that came from Africa to create reggae, son, Afro-beat and funk and mixing ‘em all together.”
The band has been laying down their own inimitable global funk since they came together in 1994. Their incendiary live shows made them local legends, while their albums showcased a band with a restless musical intelligence, effortlessly blending genres to fashion their own forward looking, Latin flavored, future-funk.
Fire In The Youth was produced by the band with the help of Quetzal Flores, leader of the Los Angeles band Quetzal, another group with a wide-ranging style based in the Latin American continuum. “Quetzal performed all the guitar tracks on the record,” Paez explains. “His eclectic arrangements helped polish our Latin, Mexican, Cuban, Funk and Rock vibe. He also brought a folkloric feel to some of the tracks with his knowledge of Jarocho (a syncopated Afro/Spanish style from Vera Cruz, Mexico) and bajo sexto ( a 12 string instrument with a sound somewhere between 12-string guitar and acoustic bass.) We recorded the whole record in 10 days, live in the studio, then added the vocals, percussion and horns.”
Like their past recordings, Fire In The Youth captures the band’s scorching musicianship and fierce political energy. The album kicks off with “Alegria”, an earth shaking reggatron groove marked by a strong salsa flava. “(Unplug) This Armageddon” rides a high stepping disco funk backbeat while Paez delivers a sizzling Bob Marley-influenced vocal full of soul and sufferation. The song explores the lives of the people that drift from San Diego, to Tijuana, to Los Angeles in search of a better life. The band suggests a return to the Earth and community as an antidote for the technology that seems to be sucking the soul out of modern life. “Fire In The Youth” combines a subtle trip hop pulse, a hint of reggae, a lush string section and a children’s choir to offer a prayer for the salvation of the next generation. It’s one of the most moving songs the band’s ever recorded.
“In a world where people are afraid to say hello or smile and the media presents fiction as reality, it’s getting harder and harder to tell what’s real from what’s not,” Paez says. “But the young people are always real and demand the truth. Youth all around the world are marching and protesting. The New World Rebellion is a young, fearless movement coming after the oppressors. This song is an anthem to those young people.” A Latin reggae riddim is the foundation of “Crossroads,” an inspiring hymn of rebirth that showcases Andy Krier’s work on piano and organ, Michael Cannon’s inventive drumming and the band’s ability to lay down complex percussion tracks to create a cohesive groove. “Warrior Culture” is a salute to the Native Peoples of the Americas, with a jazzy Latin cadence driven by Damian DeRobbio’s propulsive electric bass. It features cascading horn lines, delicate keyboard work and a vocal from Paez that blends hip-hop phrasing with his innate gift for melody. The tune closes with an extended conversation between the keyboards, percussion and brass. The band also drops a bit of cumbia (“Mascara,”) gritty street samba (“Azucar Natural”) son montuno (“Micaela”) and jarocho (“El Comal”) into the mix.
“We want our sound to continue to grow until we represent the entire range of Latin music,” Paez says forcefully. “This time we added a bit of the Vera Cruz, Mexican jarocho flavor, the Afro-Cuban rhumba flavor, the Brazilian samba flavor and the Southwestern border funk flavor. Our sound was passed on to us by our ancestors along with their great teaching – Unity Is Love. We combine different styles and cultures in our music because that’s the secret behind the harmony of all races, religions and cultures. The dance floor is testimony to our common ground, our common groove.”
Karlos Paez, the man behind the B-Side Players, grew up in a musical family. His father Ezequiel Paez is a world-renowned trombone player and musical arranger who spent 17 years in Los Moonlights from Tijuana and 10 years in La Banda Del Recodo. Paez, Sr. still writes and arranges music for bandas in Mexico. While he was still in grammar school, Karlos heard the music of Bob Marley and started playing guitar and writing songs. He met the musicians that would become the first incarnation of The B-Side Players in an African Drum class at Southwestern Community College in San Diego in 1994. “We were all playing with bands in the local funk and acid jazz scene in the early 90s,” Paez recalls. “When we started playing together, our sound was different because we brought an Afro-Latin edge to the music.”
The B-Side Players are a force to be reckoned with. “We’re proud to be on the frontline of a new musical movement that no longer represents the minority,” Paez says happily. “We now represent the Brown Majority. The surfer, suburban stereotype of California is changing fast; it’s not all bleach blondes any more. It’s nappy, Afro, rice bowled, dirty, dusty, wet, happy struggling people and we’re right there in the struggle with our music.”