Aug. 5—Who the heck is Metalachi?
Also, what the heck is Metalachi?
It's simple, really — they're a surprisingly prolific Los Angeles mariachi band that exclusively covers '80s metal tracks. This is something they do very, very well.
A person has to have a sense of humor to fuse the two genres, and Metalachi wears this self-awareness on their sleeve, stepping on stage in tights, neon wigs, Kiss-inspired face-paint and rock and roll attitude to match.
The gimmick wouldn't be as valuable if it weren't for their musical talent, especially as the five band members pull from a vast catalogue of '80s rock, only to twist it into something odd and effective.
On her way to Houston for their upcoming show is violinist "Queen" Kyla Vera, trying to focus on the road while speaking over the phone with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. On Aug. 13, they'll perform at The Lincoln Theatre.
"We just pick songs that we like and then try it out," Vera said about adapting songs. "If it works, it works. If it doesn't, we scrap it. It's just experimental trial and error, because a lot of times in your head it's gonna work a lot better than it does in person."
The band hardly slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic, opting instead to just book as many outdoor concerts as possible. Beginning this year, they've acclimated back into their typical schedule of booking a burst of tour dates on a rotation of roughly every other month.
They're currently working their way through the West, starting with New Mexico and Texas, then traveling up through Colorado and into Wyoming before heading back down to a string of dates in Arizona.
Before continuing on, let's just acknowledge the elephant in the room — how does a metal mariachi band come to be?
"You know, we just add the the Mexican elements into all of our covers. We mix them with some mariachi music, and we do mix in things like Selena or popular Mexican songs into some of our stuff."
Vera's been playing violin her entire life, working across multiples musical styles while refusing to identify with one in particular, be it jazz, classical or fiddle playing.
"I don't have a favorite," she said. "I get bored if I do the same thing within a few days in a row."
Metalachi keeps busy, and, as a cover band, they have to pay careful attention to keeping things fresh in their setlist. It's fairly simple to learn a new song and work it into whatever concert they're preparing for, but typically they enter each show with a strict setlist to adhere to.
That is, until the rest of the guys switch it up on Vera at the last minute.
"We always switch it up. We are constantly changing little parts here and there, and most of my solos are not written," Vega said. "I just change them all the time to whatever I want. We just tweak things here and there, and we're constantly updating and upgrading. We add new songs regularly."
Metalachi has undergone constant lineup changes since their inception. Vera joined the band six years ago, and the current lineup has only played together for two months.
"No, the majority of the original band quit or was fired within a couple of months," she said. "The original lineup were the most famous, but honestly, most of them didn't stay very long."
The longest-standing member of the group is their guitarist, Pace Halen, who's performed for the majority of the band's run, about 10 out of the band's 13-year existence.
The fluidity of the group isn't as bad as it seems. Newer perspectives have aided in the fine tuning of the Metalachi's sound.
In the past, several of the members leaned more in the direction of metal and rock-inspired playing, having less experience with mariachi music, in particular. Now, the group has a deeper background in Mexican music, and is more apt to do a song just in a significantly different musical style.
Some popular artists they cover are Bon Jovi, Guns and Roses, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, all played by Vega, Halen, Kiko Cane on bass, El Pollo Cholo on Trumpet and vocalist Victor El Brujo Wichmann.
"Everyone's had a very different background, even though they've all played Latin music, mariachi music and stuff," Vega said. "It definitely changes with each person. I think that's great, it's evolution.
"When you're a cover band, there's only so many ways you can cover a song, but then when you add in new people with new takes, then it breathes new life into it. It's a whole new song."
The audience, come time for their Cheyenne performance, shouldn't take the theatrics too seriously. Vera wants to look into the crowd at The Lincoln and see people drinking, dancing and enjoying the party.
Metalachi will be supported by local mariachi troupe Mariachi 307, as well as local metal band Dystopioid.
Will Carpenter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's Arts and Entertainment/Features Reporter. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 307-633-3135. Follow him on Twitter @will_carp_.