The Red Pears have a thing for authenticity.
Since 2014, Henry Vargas (vocals and guitar), Jose Corona (drums), and Patrick Juarez (bass) have been steadily pounding it out at packed house parties, backyard shows, and DIY venues around Southern California. Along the way, they’ve earned a reputation for intimate and intense performances, organically growing into one of the region’s most exciting live acts, playing SXSW, Tropicalia, and Coachella. Their brand of fiery garage rock is influenced by ‘90s alternative, grunge, and the early 2000s work of The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, and Arctic Monkeys, but impressively manages to carve out its own unique identity based on honesty, humor, and hard work.
The Red Pears also have a thing for long album titles.
Their self-released 2015 debut is titled We Bring Anything to the Table…Except Tables We Can’t Bring Tables to the Tables. It was followed by 2018’s For Today, for Tomorrow, for What Is, for What Could’ve Been. Both were recorded by the band at Corona’s family home which is also a neighborhood daycare center. In October they released their third full-length. It’s called You Thought We Left Because the Door Was Open but We Were Waiting Outside. It’s also The Red Pears’ first album made in a proper studio setting but, despite the upgrades, they remained committed to keeping it real.
“We wanted it to sound how it would sound live,” Vargas told SPIN over the phone ahead of a November show at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. “I didn’t want it to sound any different than we already sounded. I just wanted it to be captured better.”
And You Thought We Left delivers.
The album is a lean, funny, compelling eight-song collection that smartly leaves listeners wanting more. It was recorded in a fevered five-day period at Sonic Ranch in the bordertown of Tornillo, Texas, with producers Kenny Tye and Manuel Calderon (El Cosmophonico). The resulting tracks are warm and raw. Songs like “Not in the Cards” and “Twisted Colours” are an excellent representation of the true essence of the band, in part because the band opted not to use any of the legendary studio’s fancy vintage gear. Instead, they relied on their own instruments like Vargas’ $200 Squire Telecaster and Corona’s well-worn drum kit. Even the all-acrylic instrument set up in the video for lead single “House of Mirrors,” directed by Justin La Turno, was purchased then quickly returned after the shoot. “That gear always worked for us,” said Vargas “So we never tried to improve or go for something more expensive.”
The Red Pears definitely have a thing for their hometown. El Monte is a diverse, low-key community of roughly 120,000 near the northeast corner of Los Angeles County. The video for “House of Mirrors” was shot at Vargas and Corona’s alma mater, Mountain View High School. It’s not far from the former site of the El Monte Legion Stadium, a massive high school sports complex that became an important early R&B, doo-wop, and rock venue. It’s where syndicated radio DJ Art Laboe promoted racially integrated shows by acts like Ritchie Valens, Ike & Tina, Johnny Otis, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and the Grateful Dead. It was immortalized in The Penguins’ (“Earth Angel”) 1963 oddity “Memories of El Monte,” written and produced by a pre-Mothers of Invention Frank Zappa.
Now The Red Pears are regularly playing venues where just a few years ago they were seeing their heroes. This fall they completed a big tour including two sold-out nights supporting Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing at L.A.’s Wiltern Theater, where, as high school students they shared wristbands to sneak onto the floor to catch Arctic Monkeys touring on their album AM. The irony of this is not lost on the band who approached these shows, and their entire career, with a trademark humility. When asked if there was anything they’d like to share with their fans, the band’s message is full of gratitude: “Thank you so much for being here, for taking the time to be here,” said Vargas. “You could have been anywhere in the world, but you’re here at our show. You’re working and you’re spending your hard-earned money to be here, and it means a lot, you know?”