Coming from a place where creative options were limited made local band Prayers want to push for something new and all their own. Their sound, best described as "cholo goth," has filled a space and created a voice for a generation of Americans. Their recent single, "Mexica," specifically addresses the relationship between Mexican Americans and their significance in our country, especially during this difficult election.
DiscoverSD sat down with rising stars Rafael Reyes (also known as Leafar Seyer) and Dave Parley at Por Vida in Barrio Logan to discuss their history with San Diego, how they've achieved success and why relying on themselves became a smart business strategy.
DSD: How did the two of you meet?
RR: I was in a band called Vampire, and I met David at one of our shows. We were breaking up the band, and David's roommate was our bass player. David had never seen us perform and since it was our last show, he decided to come and show support. He saw me on stage performing, and he came after and introduced himself and said he was smitten by me. He said, 'Yo - you are the value in this band. You are holding this whole band together. I would love for you to give me the opportunity to show you what I'm doing.'
DSD: When did it take off for you guys?
RR: January of last year. It was right around when Travis Barker discovered us and helped out on the "Young Gods" EP. But, to be honest, it was more than that. We had a huge momentum before he had reached out to us. We had a lot of people wanting to work with us. It wasn't who is more popular or who can give us the biggest check - it was like who can we connect and vibe out with. That's when the magic really happens. If we can't vibe, the song is going to be s***. If the chemistry connects, it will be magic. That's what's gotten us so far, we try to keep it honest. When you're doing what you love, the money will just appear.
DSD: How did you get to working with Travis Barker and Skinhead Rob?
RR: They direct messaged me on Instagram. Travis was like, 'Hey I don't know if you know who I am - I'm Travis Barker.' And I'm like, 'Of course, dude, I'm from San Diego. I know exactly who you are.' He was like, 'I really like what you guys are doing and love what you stand for. I would love to get in the studio with you guys and see if we could connect on something.' And we did. We went to the studio and connected instantly, and we recorded the song "Young Gods" in an hour, and the rest of the EP we created in just one week of hanging out.
DSD: You live in L.A. now, but are in San Diego often. What's the difference between the two cities to you?
RR: In L.A. we are very well-known. It's different going out and doing things than it is here. Here, I can go incognito and sort of just get that hometown hero 'I'm proud of you' thing. I come from a really bad background, and I think that's one of the reasons people are so excited to see us win, because they know my story. It gives people hope that come from the type of background as me like, 'F*** if he did, I can do it, too.' I believe anyone can do what they want but the cream also does rise to the top. I like being here to be casual, but honestly, I don't do much when I am here. I go to my family's restaurant, you might see me at a movie, but I experienced a lot of hate from some big business, San Diego music venue owners. I have a lot of love for San Diego and I always will, but I really don't spend much time here anymore.
DSD: Who inspires your music and creative videos?
RR: David Lynch. And Dave Parley. And Leafar Seyer. I'm slowly leaning towards just Dave and I [for inspiration]. The chemistry that Dave and I have, that's where I spend more time looking. I used to look a lot at environment, sound, film, music for inspiration when I was younger, but now I look within.
DSD: Your sound is so different compared to other music that has come out of San Diego. How did your sound come about?
RR: I believe it comes from a place of need and desire to do something that felt like, unattainable. I had to fight to be able to make music. Just like David did. David comes from Tijuana, and at the time we were both growing up, the resources were scarce. David was making his own drum set to play music. I come from this neighborhood where music is not even an option. I had to grow up, become a man, and make it happen because as a kid, it wasn't available. I would always do the things closest to music: performance art, that comes from my imagination. Painting, sure all I need is a pad and some paint. People looked for trained voices... I didn't have a trained voice. We both never went to school for music, and we didn't have rules. I think that led us to our own sound.
DSD: Why have you remained independent instead of signing to a label?
RR: We have decided to stay independent despite offers because we want to do this on our own. We don't want to depend on anyone else. Even though it's a bit harder, we can just hire the people who know how to help us rather than own what we're doing. Instead of us working for someone, they help and work for us. I just got us our first license in a video game myself. We don't have to cut the check with a record label - it just goes to David and me. It's because we interact like with you, or anyone. There is no middle man. Our goal is to remove the curtain between us and our business and our audience. We want to be very hands-on. It makes it harder to be a creative, but at the same time, it's part of the process.
DSD: How did you go from opening Pokez restaurant here in San Diego and then becoming a musician?
RR: When I opened up my restaurant, I had first worked as a dishwasher, a busser, a cook and so on. I then opened the restaurant, Pokez, at 18. That's why I like doing the music management the way I do. I should know everyone's job so I can know, 'Hey, you aren't doing that right' or reward them if they are doing a good job. How am I going to know unless I try it? I think growing up that way, having to hustle and also being in gangs has given me this mentality. Being in a gang was a curse and a blessing. It taught me to be independent. In the gang world, you want to know what's behind that curtain because if you don't know, that is what gets you killed? My education comes from being in the streets and therapy. I spent a lot of time with therapists. Some of my friends ask me, 'Why do you speak so white?' I'm like, 'Do I speak white? I guess I do.' I speak like the therapists I had to be two-steps ahead of because if I didn't say it the right way or what they wanted to hear, I'd need more help. I learned how to manipulate and learn everything I could. I took that and used it for music, too.
DSD: What's the message behind your new single, "Mexica?"
RR: I thought, maybe I should use my voice because we are in a platform to do something about the injustices. I wanted people to look at things - the injustices done to the indigenous people of America, the Mexicans - differently. I feel that there are cycles embedded in societies. I agree with certain things like America was built on immigrants, but I love America, and I'm not racist, I went to a white school. I have only dated white women. I have tons of white friends. I was colonized. A person like me really doesn't deal with politics of this stuff. I really am in my own head, in my own mind and am an introvert. To me, it's always been about self-exploration. Then, this dialogue happened and got thrust on me, and I start thinking about things in America and how people think. Mexicans have an individual identity too. We are not all the same, we can't be placed into one bucket or type. We forget that we have a rich history, here too. We generalize ourselves. I hate generalizing, so with this song, I tried to do something that wasn't like f*** Trump or anything like that. I wanted people to hear this and feel empowered. I want other Mexicans to not feel like they have to be a landscaper, dishwasher or whatever these "cheap labor" careers and identities are.
DSD: What are you doing with the other new music you've been working on?
RR: We are keeping it close, for now. We have no end date in site for the EP. We just fired management, so we are holding onto everything and we aren't in a hurry to get it out there. We may add more, but for now its six songs and they'll be out when we feel it's right.
Source: Discover SD