Here’s a little tip for all you music journalists: Learn how to say the name of the band before you meet them. Yep, it’s actually pronounced “oon-loco” –not the very American ‘un’. Fortunately, the band was forgiving.
The fact is, for all the rage and pain that Ũnloco, from Austin, Texas, pour out on the stage, these guys don’t have to pull the superior rock star act, even when their interviewer is tragically English-speaking and mildly stupid.
“It’s an honor to play the stage,” says lead singer Joey Duenas. “To see your name written with names like [he puts on a big, deep voice] OZZY OSBOURNE. KORN. DISTURBED. And then at the very bottom [now he makes a tiny voice]: Ũnloco! But we’re on the bill! That’s rad!”
With their harmonies, melody, and a range and variety of real singing, Ũnloco’s sound can stretch across a diverse number of festivals—not just super-aggressive music like Ozzfest.
“We go to some cities,” says Marc Serrano, guitar, “and they stand there [postures like a bad-ass with arms crossed] and are like, ‘show me what you got.’”
“You’ve got Ozzy, who’s like the godfather of metal,” says Joey, counting them off on his fingers. “You’ve got KORN who changed the genre ten years ago. You have Disturbed who took that genre to a new level of their own. The second stage doesn’t have the respect, so we have to work hard for it.”
“The new bands are trying to make a name for themselves so they’ll be playing harder, putting on a better show, make an impression—out for blood!” says Marc.
Since the March 2003 release of their sophomore album Becoming i [Maverick] Ũnloco have attained coveted slots on A-list tours with Papa Roach, the “Music As A Weapon II” tour with Disturbed, Taproot and Chevelle, and most recently, Ozzfest 2003. During off-days on the Ozzfest tour, the band will also be participating in several dates with Disturbed in smaller venues, making the most of their down time while allowing them to play and cultivate more fans. And Ũnloco’s consistent touring schedule and radio success are paying off. They are currently pushing their new single “Empty”, the follow-up to their hit “Failure”, which has already been getting spins at rock radio across the US.
While Ũnloco is relatively new to the Ozzfest crowd, they’ve been at it for years and have paid their share of dues. Lead singer Joey had to come face to face with the fact that he was partying too hard when he lost his voice –and was unsure if it would return.
“I was trying to cut his throat,” kids drummer Pedro Navarrete.
Joey, however, gets serious—but just for a moment. “It was one of those things—too much excess. A lot of booze and a lot of smoking. After a couple of years it takes its toll. I got pretty scared. I mean, what would I do if I couldn’t perform anymore?”
He says he now limits how much he drinks, and he’s given up smoking completely. “I stick to clear vodka and started shootin’ up!” he laughs.
Ũnloco, which means “singular lunatic,” says Pedro, adding, “The four of us make a complete maniacal entity.” This band definitely does not have a singular sound, to be sure. To listen to the passion of Joey’s vocals in their hit single, “Empty,” for instance, or the cool hooks and undeniably catchy chorus, there is much going on beneath the surface. “We’re not just total heavy, total growly,” Pedro says, “Sometimes you don’t just want to hear thump-thump-thump.”
“We’re like one of those cereal variety packs,” laughs lead singer Joey. With an Ozzfest second stage billing and their hit “Bruises” on the Matrix soundtrack, you’d think that this band might sit back, relax, and enjoy the success. Nuh-uh.
“’Bruises’ has done pretty good, but it takes a lot to connect with everyone,” says Pedro, who’s clearly the liveliest personality in the band. “Only a certain type of people will see The Matrix and catch our song on the soundtrack. Sometimes, you just need to get across every medium. But it has boosted us quite a bit.”
When asked whether they prefer playing small clubs to playing festivals, Pedro says, “We prefer playing.” At the same time, Joey says, “However. Whenever. Doesn’t matter. Both have their own thing going on.”
The band says they’ve been enjoying the perks of their modest success to date: a full rider on Ozzfest with catering, booze, vans and lots of pretty girls. But having fans has its price, and Joey admits that it feels kind of weird when the fans feel like they own him. He’s seen it in person, and especially on his website bulletin boards when die-hards blow off the newbies.
“We get on the message board and it’s like, ‘hey, yo—we appreciate all the love, but don’t be so mean!’”
Pedro does a reenactment in a girlish voice: “Those guys are so cute!’ ‘Get off the boards, you groupie!’ ‘I love Joey cuz he’s so sexy!’ [he does mean voice here] ‘Well ya know there’s also Victor, Marc and Pedro!’”
“They get really insane sometimes,” says Joey, who’s had about ten different stalking situations since the record came out.
“It’s really weird to know that people know where you are and where you live. It’s one thing to say, ‘hey, come over to my house and hang out,’ and another to say [sternly] ‘where do you live? What’s your number?’ and then they get upset if I won’t tell them.”
“People are really delusional sometimes,” says Pedro, explaining that sometimes they’ll “think they’re our friends or get real shady and tell lies to our crew to get our phone numbers and emails.”
“My philosophy is that if I want you in my life, I will bring you into it,” says Joey. “If I want you to call me, I’ll give my number to you.”
For a moment, Joey looks clearly bothered by this, and then suddenly a whole different expression washes over his face. “We love our fans. Our fans are the greatest people in the world. We’ll bleed for them. We’ll give ‘em a liver if they need a liver [here the band jokes that their livers are probably no good]. Whatever they want. But they have to remember that he’s got a fiancée [pointing to bassist Victor Escareno] and lives in solitude, he’s got his own thing going on in Dallas [points to Marc], I’ve got my own thing going on.”
“We all have families and everyday lives,” says Pedro. “We need to get away when we’re off the road.”
“We watched Ozzy get in a limo and people are just screaming and yelling at him, ‘Ozzy! Look this way!’ It’s no wonder the guy doesn’t leave his house or go out in public. People are like, ‘they’re rock stars! I can’t believe they won’t go out and talk to the crowd!’ and I’m like, ‘Dude, they would get mobbed.’”
But just because these guys want to preserve the last vestiges of a personal life when they can doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them at shows. Pedro wants everyone to know that the band loves to meet their fans.
“Come up anytime and say ‘hi.’ Get to know us. We can be up there looking mean and throwing down like nobody’s business, but we’re totally approachable, down to Earth and we like to drink with everybody.”
“Just don’t throw anything at us,” says Joey. “We’ll throw it back.”