.The Eternal Present of Los Yesterdays

When the needle drops on a Los Yesterdays record, something warm and nostalgic yet entirely new emerges from the wax. Something with a distinctly Chicano sound. That’s because, in singer songwriter “Bad Vic” Benavides’ words, “Los Yesterdays isn’t your average souldies band.” 

This Friday, Los Yesterdays bring their signature cinematic, timeless tunes to the Ritz in San Jose, alongside Miriah Avila, Diamond Ortiz and Jackie Mendez. The way Benavides tells it, Los Yesterdays makes music for fans “anywhere from six and seven years old to seventy.” Listening to their discography is an intergenerational journey through brown-eyed Chicano soul, doo wop, and the unnamable essence of summertime backyard asada gatherings. 

In conversation, Benavides effortlessly flows between enthralling storytelling and gut-busting humor, sharing that he has no formal music training, hates the sound of his own voice and had, in fact, retired from music prior to starting Los Yesterdays. He had spent over three decades in the music scene, spanning various gigs and bands before Gabriel Rowland (composer of Hulu’s This Fool comedy) called about starting a souldies project.

“Rowland likes to call them ‘Art Laboe-dies,” Benavides says with a smile, recalling the band’s garage origins as a two-piece. 

“‘Mr. Yesterday’ kind of set the tone for what Los Yesterdays was going to be. We didn’t have a name, I was broken hearted,” he says, of the band’s first song, adding, “nothing writes a song better than a broken heart.” 

It was that garage energy and sound that would catch the ear of everyone who heard “Mr. Yesterday,” including Tommy Brenneck and Gabriel Roth, who were in the process of bringing together the Chicano focused Riverside-based Daptone imprint Penrose Records.

Rowland’s expert instrumentation and the soaring, heaven-sent vocals of Benevides earned Los Yesterdays an invite to a now legendary Penrose Records summertime barbecue. Benavides recalls getting the instrumental version of “Time,” which would become their first Penrose single, from Rowland just before leaving for the barbecue. Unbeknownst to Rowland, Benavides was writing the lyrics in the 20 minutes it took to get there, debuting them live when they arrived. The rest is history. 

Recently, the music video for the band’s breakout 2021 single, “Nobody’s Clown,” surpassed 10 million views on YouTube. The beautifully shot video stars “El Triste,” the saddest puppet in Los Angeles, created and operated by master puppeteer Cain Carias. “Nobody’s Clown” follows El Triste’s journey of love and loss as he performs on a stage for other puppets, sometimes holding up lyrics on flashcards in a nod to Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Benavides acts as screenwriter for the band’s music videos, giving their videos the same poetic lyricism found in every Los Yesterdays track.

“‘Nobody’s Clown’ is my baby,” Benavides muses. “I knew the song before I sang it.” 

He recalls the “magic moment” the song came together at the infamous Sunset Sound studios where everyone from the Doors, to Led Zeppelin—even the artist formerly known as Prince—all recorded some of their most emblematic records. 

“We created something that’s timeless,” he continues, “I really think that this is going to be an oldie but goodie when we’re gone.” 

That future oldie but goodie led to an unexpected audience of younger fans the band never saw coming. Benavides says the audience at the most recent Los Yesterdays show was “30% under the age of 21.” Parents will come up to him with their kids after shows, saying, “my [kids] turned me onto Los Yesterdays, they are your biggest fans.” 

“There’s nothing that gives my heart greater joy. All of us agree, it’s just the absolute best feeling to have kid fans.”

For their San Jose show, Benavides teases new songs, drum solos and possibly even a visit from El Triste himself. No doubt, fans can expect some gut busting “Bad” Vic Benavides banter between songs. 

“If you cut out the segments of me talking between the songs, you’ve got a comedy show,” he says, laughing. 

Time passes as we chat like two fools catching up at the backyard barrio asada. As I say my goodbyes and let the conversation convert into a file, I drop the needle on their latest 45 A-side, “Who Made You You,” and that signature Los Yesterdays sound washes over the summer evening.

Los Yesterdays

Fri, 8pm, $30

The Ritz, San Jose

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