Maneja Beto’s new CD for all to laud

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360BETS - By Gis­sela San­tacruz

Tonight, lo­cal Maneja Beto fans will get dibs on the band’s third CD, “Es­cante Call­ing.”

The new al­bum will be re­leased on iTunes to a wider au­di­ence at a later, not yet de­ter­mined date, but au­di­ence mem­bers at the Mo­hawk can buy “Es­cante Call­ing” on the spot.

“It will be the only place to buy for awhile,” says Alex Chavez, the band’s lead vo­cal­ist, gui­tarist and key­board player.

The CD re­lease party also will serve as Chavez’s send­off party. He re­cently re­ceived a fel­low­ship to teach at the In­sti­tute of Latino Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­sity of Notre Dame in In­di­ana. He leaves Austin on Mon­day.

Those who fear this move means a split can rest easy.

“We’re def­i­nitely not break­ing up,” Chavez says. “Ob­vi­ously, this means a lot less live shows, but we’ll still write mu­sic and record to­gether.”

The band that started out as a jam project al­most eight years ago has be­come a suc­cess­ful sta­ple of Austin’s Latino rock scene.

Pa­trick Estrada, (drums), still re­mem­bers be­ing ap­proached by Bobby Garza (per­cus­sion, keys, vo­cals) about join­ing the band back in 2002. The band’s mem­bers, he said, had no idea how to de­scribe the project, or the mu­sic they were play­ing.

“No one un­der­stands us, no one un­der­stands what we do,” Chavez says with a laugh. But as with many jokes, truth lies within, and band mem­bers know it.

Garza re­calls a re­view that gave him a glimpse of how mis­un­der­stood the band was to some peo­ple.

“I re­mem­ber this write up that said ‘They’re in Span­ish, so they’re not for ev­ery­one.’ And I thought, ‘Well, why not?” Garza says. “On my way over here, I was lis­ten­ing to some Por­tuguese mu­sic. I don’t know what they were say­ing, but the mu­sic spoke to me in some other way.”

Chavez says au­di­ences get it. “Lis­ten­ers in the U.S. would be OK with that, he says, “be­cause that mu­sic was from Brazil or Por­tu­gal, and they’d shell out $25 and go watch that at Stubb’s.”

Maneja Beto are a group of Amer­i­can-born Lati­nos who choose to sing in Span­ish. The mu­sic they write has a heavy in­flu­ence in tra­di­tional Mex­i­can song, some­times cumbia, some­times son, and some­times some­thing new al­to­gether. They also in­ject their own in­flu­ences — cov­er­ing most if not all of the in­die/al­ter­na­tive rock spec­trum.

Most nights, when you walk into a Maneja Beto show, you’ll be taken to a place you’ve never been be­fore — and you’ll find that you like it. Or, if you’re al­ready a fan, you’ll walk into a place that is so fa­mil­iar, you want to kick off your shoes. In ei­ther sce­nario, you feel a de­sire to dance. And if nei­ther of those things are ex­pe­ri­enced, you’re as Chavez de­scribes: “We’ve al­ways been con­sis­tently in­con­sis­tent in terms of what we do. It’s an arc of dif­fer­ent things we do and some peo­ple just don’t get it. Some peo­ple en­joy it, some peo­ple don’t.”

The band mem­bers say they hope this new record will change that.

“Of ev­ery­thing we’ve done, this is the most sat­is­fy­ing in a lot ways, at least for me,” Chavez says. “There’s some­thing about it that is palat­able, that can re­ally reach a par­tic­u­lar kind of peo­ple.”

thao Nguyen

Maneja Beto drum­mer Pa­trick Estrada prac­tices be­fore the CD re­lease party at the Mo­hawk tonight. The lo­cal band’s mu­sic is in Span­ish, but its sen­ti­ments bridge lan­guages.

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