Talk Music: Tejas Brothers more than a Tejano band
Aug. 7, 2013 at 3:07 a.m.
It's no surprise Dave Perez plays with a band of brothers.
Based out of Fort Worth, the Tejas Brothers are known for weaving together the camaraderie of a show - from the musicians to the crowd.
With a past as a Marine and later a jailer, Perez has a trove of stories to tell and songs to sing, his favorite of which is about getting out and living life to the fullest.
Perez caught up with Get Out to talk about his latest album, his start in music and keeping the momentum going strong.
Tejas Brothers have been playing since 2006. How has it grown since then?
We're still a four-piece member band, but we've gone through some lineup changes. I've become the frontman and the songwriter. When we first started, we were doing a lot of covers.
We're doing a lot more original music, and we're being associated with more of a Texas sound - whether blues, country or rock. Before, people thought we were just a Tejano band. Our music is influenced by the Tex-Mex stuff, blues, rock 'n' roll and country.
There's the Texas Tornados with Flaco Jimenez - other than those guys, I don't know anybody else in the country who's doing what we're doing.
You've got this blend of honky-tonk and Tex-Mex. With the lineup you have, would you say that's rare in today's music?
It's rare that you'll find someone playing accordion with someone playing an upright base. The guitar player is rocking a mohawk and looks like he's in a heavy metal band. It doesn't look like it would on paper, but it does.
It's an honor to be seen the way we're seen.
Anyone who comes out to support our music is helping us to be able to do this for a living. It's a very cool feeling to know that we're doing it with this kind of music.
You wouldn't think that someone who loves hardcore country or hardcore rock 'n' roll or someone who grew up on the blues music would want to listen to an accordion, but it's the way it's used. It's a musical buffet: If you don't like the sushi, you can have some chicken-fried steak.
Did you set out to build a band with so many different genres?
I didn't know which direction to go with the songwriting. I would hear a melody and I would get some lyrics in my head, put it on paper and find a rhythm on guitar. If it sounded like a country song when we worked it up, then that's what it was.
Where did you get your start in music?
I played at a Mexican restaurant; when I first started playing, we thought we would just be playing Spanish, Tejano stuff. So that's what I learned - all this conjunto stuff. But then at the Mexican restaurant, you've got white people, Asian people, black people and people who love all different types of music. We didn't know any Willie Nelson or Rick James, but we told them we'd learn it.
Everybody who got a request got their request filled. We'd take home a list of five or six different songs - Willie, Pantera ...
You can hear "Simple Man" on the accordion. It was fun.
So I started liking all kinds of music. I'll listen to classical, pick out a few melodies and try to make it into a chord progression. I like to listen to how other composers in the past, even if it was 200 years ago, to listen to the melodies they heard.
If it has merit, if there's a lot of people who like something, then there's got to be something there that's good.
You guys look like you're having fun. How do you keep up your momentum?
We're not governed by any rules. The rule is to try to have fun and don't get arrested. Don't worry about genres.
If someone is willing to pay a $10 or $15 cover, they're not just taking the time to come out, but they're reaching into their wallets. If people are willing to get dressed up after work, drive and are willing to pay that money they earned, you better entertain them and put on a good show for them - whether it's 2,000 or two.
You know why we're having fun? It's because the crowd makes us feel like we're on Cloud Nine.
The best shows in the world are when the crowd steals it. If we can make them get so on fire and have such a good time, that's the best feeling in the world.
What was it like working with Lloyd Maines on your new record?
It was the first time for the Tejas Brothers as a group to work with him, but I had worked with him on Larry Joe Taylor's previous record. We struck up a friendship there.
He's such a professional, and he's so great at what he does, it puts you at ease. I was intimidated when I first met him. Going into the studio to do our project, I was concerned that I would be nervous and not myself. All that goes away in two minutes with the guy.
A lot of the sound on the new record has to do with the lineup. We have a new drummer and a new guitar player.
I don't want to make it sound that the old drummer and guitarist weren't good, and I don't want to take away from their talent. I have this new well to draw from, new ideas and a new outlook.
The guys who are here now are a little more open to experimenting with more roots-based sounds.
Part of the reason why the record is as good as it came out is because - obviously, Lloyd Maines' production skills - but the arrangements and style had to do with how much more fun I was having on stage. There's nothing like going to work and all your equipment works and you have the A team. There wasn't a weak link in there. Everybody had their own personality and their own skills. That's the way this band's lineup is now.
The new lineup is working well?
Everybody knows their part and they do it. I feel very relaxed and comfortable with this lineup.
The chemistry is very tight, but that doesn't take anything from the other guys. There were a lot of times back in the day when I was concerned with so many different elements: feedback or equipment issues, would they remember their parts. Now I'm freed up to focus 100 percent of the time on the audience.
Do you have a favorite song to perform?
My favorite song would probably be "Live a Little More," the title track on the new record.
The reason that song means to much to me, is so fun to play and is so important to me - I absolutely adore people. Some people love kids; some love ice cream; I love people.
The saddest people to me is that most people don't live life even close to the fullest. They go to work, come home, grab some dinner, take a shower and turn on the TV. They go to sleep and do the same thing over and over. It's sad. There's so much more out there.
There's a lot more reasons to love each other - this would be so much better place if people would find soul mates, best friends. Your best friend could be at the show and you'll never meet them because you didn't go.
Take a little risk, catch a live show, take your nieces and nephews to a ballgame. Live for the little moments - that's what the song is about.
This world is a trap for redundancy and a trap for complacency. We get too used to doing less and less, and I think we need to live a little more and more.
So what's a typical day for you?
Right now I'm talking to you on the phone, I might go have a cool dinner with my wife; she's a teacher, so she's off in the summer. Last night, we went out to dinner with some friends who I worked with at the sheriff's office. I worked as a jailer in the psych ward for three out of the four years I was there, and I was in the Marine Corps before that. I love the camaraderie, and I love people. Now, I'm in a band, and it's another family.
Does your past come through in your songwriting?
I'm not sure. There's certain aspects in performances - "On to Something" - it has a cadence beat, I don't know if being in the Marine Corps inspired that. The first thing they taught me how to do was count to four.
I was a firefighter in the Marines for five years.
Everything I've ever done, I go back to feeling like I'm surrounded by family members. From 1994, right out of high school, I was 17 years old, to 2000, I was reservist. I was activated at the very beginning of my career during the end of Desert Storm. We were at the bases taking places for firefighters who were overseas.