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By Kara Pound
Tex-Mex rockers fusing zydeco, folk, country, R&B and pretty much every other musical genre you can think of, Los Lobos, has been playing shows, recording albums and writing tunes for well over 40 years. Formed in East Los Angeles in 1973, Los Lobos (Spanish for “the wolves”) gained worldwide stardom in 1987 with a cover of Ritchie Valens’ song, “La Bamba,” for a film of the same name. Old City Life caught up with saxophonist and keyboardist, Steve Berlin, to find out a bit more about the six-piece band, nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. Here’s part of that conversation.
OCL The festival you’re coming down to play is a free community event. Do you have any thoughts on music accessibility within communities?
STEVE BERLIN I think it’s fantastic that there’s a free community show like this. I can tell you it’s a rare thing indeed. Some festivals we’ve done seem like some insanely exclusive bar you can’t get into unless you know or pay someone.
OCL You have a pretty rigorous touring schedule. What’s life like on the road for a six-piece band?
SB It’s what we do, so it is what it is, which is not to say I’m complaining. I have a job most people would kill for, and I truly never forget that. We generally manage to have fun wherever we go –sometimes too much fun.
OCL Your last album, Gates of Gold, was released in 2015. Have you been working on new material?
SB No work at all towards a new record just yet. We don’t have a label anymore, so it’ll have to be just us putting pressure on ourselves to do one. That is not how it [making a record] usually works, so we will see. It seems to be every three years, so I guess we’re due. But it sure doesn’t seem like three years since Gates of Gold.
OCL What else are you up to?
SB I’m busy with a bunch of records I’m producing, which takes up just about all of my non-touring time. I have no idea what the other guys are up to. We actually don’t discuss our non-band activities very much. The other guys are active grandparents, so I reckon that’s what fills their time outside the band.
OCL Do you always play “La Bamba” at your shows?
SB It really depends on the audience. If there are kids and families, we’re pretty sure they’d be disappointed if we didn’t. But I can’t say we are dying to play it every night . . . I’m sure we will play it in St. Augustine, as it’s a free show.