Recommended if You Like
Los Straitjackets Dick Dale The Ventures

Genres You Will Love
Rock: Surf Rock Moods: Instrumental Holiday: Rock Moods: Featuring Guitar

By Location
United States - Maine

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Los Pingüinos

West Coast collides with East when you hear Los Pingüinos…

The story starts about 40 years ago when Diego Fedora from Chula Vista, California met Seminole, Texas native Eddie El Minion––while in obligatory service to the State of California as they tell the story. Bassist Raul Julio Franco is the most recent addition––more on Raul and the strange story of Los Pingüinos fat string players later.

Obvious are the direct links to The Ventures, Dick Dale, The Chantays and other So-Cal surfers from the 60s. But in the late 1970s Diego and Eddie made their way to the East Coast and particularly a popular Rhode Island summer destination, Misquamicut Beach.

It was there that Diego plunged heavily into the blues and R&B he heard in the infamous beach clubs like The Wreck and The Neptune and an iconic venue in nearby Westerly, The Knickerbocker. Eddie picked up the blues grooves and developed a heavy foundation from the classic rockers of the time.

Diego talks about what it was like to be a band between waves…

"We were caught in the worst spot as far as any music success goes. We fell in love with surf music back home in Chula Vista in the 70s––and it was dying. This is when The Ventures started doing TV and movie soundtrack tributes. Instrumentals were just not happening. It was before 'retro' surf was cool and way before the alt-music scene made a space for the surf 'waves' we hear now."

So––they kept honing their sound and combining bits and pieces of whatever they were finding along the way. What they never lost was a strong Latin Rock & Roll foundation.

"That comes mostly from Ritchie Valens" says Diego. "Of course lots of the 50s stuff I loved had that cool Latin groove and then it kept going with Herb Alpert and guys like that––eventually Santana, right?” You still hear the Latin influence in tracks like Cancun Sunset, Chupacabra Mascota and Havana Fairlane, inspired by a ride in a 1950s Ford on a trip to Cuba.

But instrumental music just wasn't making the charts on a regular basis. What is was doing––and continues to do––is get people dancing. Eddie El Minion explains…

"What we are––what we've always been really is a dance band. And the cool thing about surf is there aren't too many rules. If we think people will dance to it and we can surf it, we'll give it a shot. If it works cool––if not, there are plenty of great songs out there!"

"Clubs are the best" adds the newest member of Los Pingüinos, bassist Raul Julio Franco. "We've done big shows, but I'd much rather be playing for a tight room with people dancing than walking around on a big stage with the front row 40 feet away."

Bass players are to Los Pingüinos as drummer are to Spinal Tap. The original bassist, Orlando “Lando” Grande had a history of disappearing for indeterminate spells and usually under less than ordinary circumstances. He re-emerged after a nearly 30 year absence just long enough to tour with the band in 2016. You’ll also hear his unique style on the remake of their early composition, Spy Rumble.

The boys found Raul near Baseball City in Florida. A former minor leaguer, Raul was bartending and doing odd jobs around a club when Los Pingüinos came in for a few nights. He put down the bat for good and has been with the band ever since.

“What’s so cool today is that the internet has opened everything up. You don’t need to be a pop star to build a following,” adds Diego. Los Pingüinos has completely avoided the major label chase by building their own Chula Vista Studio East and releasing their new wave of songs on their own label. “We don’t answer to anyone but the people who enjoy surf music and Los Pingüinos.”

Had to ask: Favorite bands today?

The boys had quite a list. “It’s amazing. They’re calling it the 5th Wave now and it’s unbelievable––and all over the world.”

Diego starts the list. “Of course you’ve got to credit Los Straitjackets––amazing. Eddie Angel is one of my all-time favorites. Los Kahunas, The Eliminators, The Dead Rocks, The Bambi Molesters, Sufer Joe, The Space Rangers, The Quiets, Aqualads, Aquavelets, Blue Stingrays––you probably didn’t realize there were so many…”

Eddie jumps in: “Los Ultrasonoros, Lost Acapulco, Sr. Bikini, The Messer Chups––and you’ve got to recognize the guys who kept it going like Jon and Nightriders how Dick Dale kept it all moving and growing and damn––there’s just so many––too many––we’d leave too many people out…”

“And don’t forget Unsteady Freddie! That’s not a band! Freddie is a promoter and a radio host and a YouTube monster who has kept this whole thing going––for years! We owe him a lot!”

Raul adds his two cents: “And remember the originals. The Chantays, The Ventures, The Surfaris, Eddie and the Showmen. All the early stuff you guys turned me on to. Link Wray, The Shadows.”

“And here in the Northeast” Diego jumps back in. “The Fathoms. Frankie Blandino is the best surf guitar player East of Dick Dale. Add in Zombie Beach, Thee Ice Picks––and lots of the Surf Punkers––all keeping it moving.”

Legend has it that it all started with a little known group from South Bay, Los Angeles and an unexpected hit titled Mr. Moto. Dick Dale turned up the volume. The Ventures and The Surfaris took it mainstream.

And now Los Pingüinos and their cohorts are riding the 5th Wave. It should be interesting to hear what comes next.