LOS ANGELES -- When the Latin Playboys take the stage in Seattle on Wednesday night (March 24) for the kickoff of their first-ever tour, a mystery that has long puzzled the band will finally be solved.
The members of the experimental-rock foursome -- Los Lobos members David Hidalgo and Louie Perez and producer/musicians Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake -- will finally get to see who's been paying attention to them these last few years.
The Los Angeles-based Latin Playboys -- whose second album, Dose, was released earlier this month -- have been wondering who their fans are for some time now. That question became a major topic of conversation as the members of the quartet sat in a rehearsal studio last week, practicing for their first road trip as a band.
"We have no idea who likes us," Perez said.
"There's definitely a huge curiosity," Froom added. "We're anxious to see who these people are."
During a brief rehearsal break, the Latin Playboys lounged on couches at Third Encore studios; singer/songwriter/violinist Lisa Germano, who will be their opening act on the tour, sat alongside them. The multi-studio facility caters to a variety of high-profile musicians. On that particular day, Gavin Rossdale, frontman for the Brit-grunge act Bush, roamed the hallways looking carefree .
The casually dressed Latin Playboys joked among themselves as they recounted anecdotes about making Dose and about readying their idiosyncratic sound for the stage.
At one point, Perez made a fictional claim that the Latin Playboys were the only male band asked to play the Lilith Fair. "When I met Sarah McLachlan, I said, 'Sorry we couldn't play the tour,' " Perez quipped, though his straight face made his alleged apology to the founder of the woman-centric summer tour seem real.
The Latin Playboys came together as an avant-garde, lo-fi side project for singer/guitarist Hidalgo and singer/drummer Perez after the production team of Froom and Blake oversaw Los Lobos' 1992 album, Kiko. But the positive reaction to the Playboys' 1994 debut album encouraged them to work together again.
With its decidedly urban vibe, Dose delivers grainy but rich music that manages to cut across many borders at once. Adding to its accessibility, Perez -- via his vivid, image-heavy lyrics -- tells simple stories drawn from everyday life.
From the instrumental opener, "Fiesta Erotica"
(RealAudio excerpt), to the mix of spoken-word and percussion in the title track
(RealAudio excerpt) to the cooly funky "Cuca's Blues," Dose is a banquet of sounds, incorporating rock, jazz and soul with a variety of ethnic styles. Some unconventional "music" also finds its way in, such as the car engine that churns under Latin horns on "Ironsides" (RealAudio excerpt).
"There's a feel to it -- I think you can feel the freedom in it," Hildago said of the Playboys' sound. "To me, it's just fun music. It's always going somewhere and you don't know where it's headed."
Though Dose only took about 20 days to complete, the 20 days were spread out over two years, due to the Playboys' various other projects. Still, nearly three weeks is long for the Playboys, who put together their self-titled first album in just 12 days.
"To see it go from where it started -- with four-track demos and transferring them over to the 24-tracks and making them something else -- that was cool," Hildago said.
"People said to me, 'How do you think you can do that again? You can't do what you did again,' " Perez recalled, referring to the offhand way they recorded their debut album. "But we did."
Most of the basic ideas on Dose originated with Hidalgo, who then introduced the ideas to Perez. "Dave and I go through a thing where we kind of identify what's going to be a Playboys thing [and] what's going to be a Los Lobos song," Perez said.
"Latin Playboys songs are freakier," Hidalgo said.
Perez and Hidalgo will return their focus to Los Lobos when the famed East Los Angeles roots-rock band releases its next album this summer. But for now, they're clearly into being Latin Playboys.
The four Playboys admit they're nervous about their first-ever tour, yet they speculate that their sound's elasticity will work to their advantage onstage.
"There's some flexibility in a lot of it," Froom said. "Some of it's good a little screwed up."
Latin Playboys Tour Dates:
March 24; Seattle, Wash.; Aro Space
March 25; Portland, Ore.; Aladdin
March 27; Santa Cruz, Calif.; Catalyst
March 28; San Francisco, Calif.; Bimbo's 365 Club
March 30; Solana Beach, Calif.; Belly Up Tavern
March 31; Santa Ana, Calif., The Galaxy Theater
April 1; Los Angeles, Calif.; Hollywood Athletic Club
April 9; Austin, Texas; La Zona Rosa
April 10; Dallas, Texas; Gypsy Tea Room
April 13; Washington, D.C., 9:30 Club
April 14; Philadelphia, Pa., Theatre of Living Arts
April 15; New York, N.Y., Tramps
April 16; Boston, Mass., Paradise Rock Club
April 17; Northampton, Mass., Pearl Street
April 18; Winooski, Vt., Higher Ground
April 21; Toronto, Ontario, Lee's Palace
April 22; Detroit, Mich., Majestic Theatre
April 23; Chicago, Ill., Park West
April 24; Minneapolis, Minn., First Avenue
April 27; Boulder, Colo.; Fox Theatre