East Los Presents... Union 13

Edward Escoto - Drums/Vocals
Joe Mercado - Guitar/Vocals
Jerry Navarro - Bass
Ben Sandoval - Guitar
Louie Villareal - Drums/Vocals

Just as the Latino community of East Los Angeles is often ignored and misunderstood, unfortunately so are their bands. Obviously this is no reason not to play music. For bands such as Union 13, as well as countless other Latino acts, have been plugging away for years now; but until recently, most `East Los' bands rarely ventured outside the east side with their instruments. The arrogance of many club bookers, record labels and the media in the past has led the public to believe that Latino bands just aren't up to par with the American bands...'no one will be interested,' seemed to be the prevailing opinion. Well, they were certainly wrong; with the recent increase in record sales and sold-out shows by a variety of Latino bands, suddenly the music industry is up in arms about the `rock en espanol' craze, and the Latino rock community is finally getting some of the respect and attention they deserve.

However, there are many Latin Americans who have not grasped the concept of `loud, hard and fast.' One still hears many cries of `Que ruido!'(`what noise!') within the community upon hearing the music of a hardcore band such as East L.A.'s own Union 13, along with musings such as 'why can't they play something more traditional?' But Union 13 are not your typical band. They refuse to be lumped in with the current `rock en espanol' bandwagon, as they have about as much in common with some of these bands as the Dead Kennedys have with Bush.

Still, they are Chicanos, they are hardcore, and they are certainly proud of where they are from, y que? (What of it?) Union 13, all of whom are in their early twenties, has been around for about five years, but chances are strong you've never heard of them. They grew up in the Boyle Heights area of East Los Angeles, California, some of them in the toughest housing projects in the city. Their chosen identity as 'Chicano punkers' helped in avoiding the hardest pitfalls of modern society, and the collective injustice they felt about their displacement into the barrios and its effects (crime, gang violence, hardcore drug use, etc.) were some of the reasons they started the band in the first place. Union 13 lash out at the very society that forced them into that situation; their songs, sung both in English and Spanish, are political, much in the style of some of their favorite punk bands such as Crass, Subhumans and Bad Religion. Union 13's lyrics, which touch on the very dichotomy of being ignored, yet not wanting to be a part of the society that subjugates them, strike a chord in the hearts and minds of any victims of oppression.

Eventually Union 13 did get their chance to play clubs, yet the band held back, preferring instead to play backyards all over East L.A. It was at one of these parties that an Epitaph intern saw Union 13, and brought a videotape of the band back to Epitaph owner Brett Gurewitz. Impressed by what he'd seen, Brett put the band in the studio to record a couple of songs...the first time the band had ever even been inside a recording studio. After the session, Union 13 was promptly signed. Upon hearing the demos, Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen from the band Rancid volunteered their services as producers for Union 13's first record. The result: East Los Presents. This raw 18-song record is full of youthful anger, which is well articulated and cohesive without sounding calculated or contrived. Overall, it is a powerful and thoughtful voice coming from a group of people that deserve to be heard. And for the first time, perhaps the rest of the world will get to hear them--both on record, and perhaps even live. Certainly Union 13 have never traveled the country before, but 1997 looks to be their first opportunity to `get in the van' and share their voice with a much bigger backyard.

Link to Union 13's Official Homepage
Link to Union 13's Label Epitaph Records

Bio/Photo courtesy of Epitaph Records

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