After 10 years of making music in The Big Spank, singer-guitarist Mike Garcia has seen his band go from an ultra-young, semi-serious ska-punk band to a bilingual pop-rock group that risks sanity and starvation to tour the country 11 months out of the year. One thing hasn't changed, though.
"We still have so much fun," Garcia says. "We wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't a great experience, and that's still how it is."
The band's camaraderie on stage and off is what enticed guitarist Javier Sandoval to get out of the dumps and join The Big Spank last year. "I had just broken up with my girlfriend and I was sort of depressed," Sandoval recalls. "I started playing with these guys and I realized ... they're serious musicians, but they don't take themselves seriously on stage at all. As an example, the only time Mike's girlfriend allows him to grind on other girls is during our shows. We interact with the crowd, we feed off the crowd and that's why this is the most fun I've ever had in a band."
About a year ago, The Big Spank boys decided to become full-time musicians. They converted an old school bus and outfitted it with wireless Internet, a sink and cages for their equipment. Garcia admits he was scared when the band set out on its latest tour with just one show booked and five mouths to feed. His determination to make the experience a success lead Garcia to disregard all manner of personal hygiene, to the point that police officers mistook him for a murderous crackhead.
"We were in this sketchy neighborhood in Los Angeles," Garcia explains. "I was walking on the street and these cops asked if they could search me. I said yeah and they asked, 'Are we gonna find a pipe? Are you a crackhead?' I said no, and then they asked me, 'Are you a murderer?' That was rough to be mistaken for a murderer in one of the toughest neighborhoods in L.A."
The Big Spank came home a few months ago to record its third full-length album, Gypsy Rug Burn. The record has a heavy Latin influence from the percussion instruments to the guitar licks, and many of the tracks are sung in Spanish. There's even a metal-merengue song mixed in with the ska, pop and punk elements Spank fans crave.
"When we started, we never used to sing that much in Spanish," Garcia says. "After I spent nine months living in Mexico, I came back with a whole new arsenal of Spanish songs, and I think we'll continue to do more stuff with that Latin flavor."
There's no rest for the weary, as the band plans to hit the road in the next couple months. In the meantime, the efforts of the five Spankers (including Bert Lujan on drums, Retzen Griffith on trombone and Chris Tickner on bass) are worthy of celebration. They'll get to indulge themselves with a hometown CD release party at the Launchpad, Saturday, Dec. 29. Made In Bangladesh, Half-Stache and Bazooka Jill will party hardy at their sides. The show is all-ages and admission is $8.