Photos and Words by HEATHER HARRIS
Real live music, the first in 16 months for most, erupted this week at Maui Sugar Mill Saloon, with the return of the Cruzados, SoCal’s beloved rockers who released their first album in three decades, called She’s Automatic.
The Cruzados insure their reputation as one of L.A.’s most venerable, beloved post-punk bands with the new record, and now have joined forces with the best of the best to humbly step in for fallen band members Chalo Quintana and Marshall Rohner.
The stellar new lineup is Ron Young (Little Caesar) on vocals, Loren Molinare (Little Caesar, The Dogs) and Mark Tremalgia (Little Caesar) on guitars, original member Tony Marsico on bass and Rob Klonel (the Tighty Whiteys) on drums.
The set grooved with vintage and new songs. Expect their rockin’ new release She’s Automatic a few weeks into summer with its guest stars Dave Alvin, John Doe, David Hidalgo, Melanie Vammen, Gia Ciambotti and Steve Berlin amongst others.
“Being penned up with the pandemic at home for a year, I started questioning my mortality,” Marsico said. “I felt like I got shortchanged with the Cruzados. We never got to put out a third album, due to a lot of crazy circumstances that cropped up. I wanted to do the band justice and go out on a high note. That was my goal, and to pay tribute to Chalo and Marshall.”
Material for a new Cruzados release came quickly, Marsico said.
“I wrote a batch of new songs during the pandemic at home,” he said. “I had a lot of frustration and anger that I had to get out of me. Before I knew it, I had an album. There wasn’t any big plan. I just felt motivated to do something more constructive than sit around being miserable about the state of the world.”
She’s Automatic, features 11 songs written or co-written by Marsico, the bassist and co-writer for the Cruzados and a member of precursor the Plugz. The album is set for release on CD this August 13 on Marsico’s imprint Scamco; an LP edition will follow in the fall.
The live album is a collection of hard-hitting rockers on which Marsico is joined by the members of his 1980s L.A. contemporaries Little Caesar. So when the time was right, Marsico turned to singer Young and guitarists Molinare and of Little Caesar, who are active on the L.A. scene and were an LA staple in the late ’80s as a Geffen Records act. Drummer Klonel, who collaborates with Little Caesar, rounded out the group.
“The Little Caesar guys were Chalo’s best friends — they were pals from back in the day,” Marsico said. “I had to find the best guy to be the lead singer. My tastes have changed a little — the influences are blues and rock ’n’ roll. I knew that Ron Young from Little Caesar loved blues, and we got to talking and we hit it off with the same style of music. I knew that he could pull this off and get behind it.
“Loren Molinare was in the great ’70s L.A. band the DoGs, of course, and I loved the DoGs, and Mark Tremaglia is an excellent slide guitarist I’ve been working with for a couple of years now,” Marsico said. “Rob Klonel is a great, solid rock ‘n’ roll drummer. It was really important for me to get someone who hit ’em hard like Chalo. They were a perfect combination of guys, and they had a lot of enthusiasm.”
The new Cruzados have set up shop at Unison Studios in L.A. Bruce Witkin engineers and produces.
“We did it old style — we just set up in a room all together, like we used to do records before they started putting everybody in isolation booths and all that crap,” Marsico said. “We got the band together and rehearsed, and we went into the studio a week later. Before we knew it, we had the album. All live, no click tracks. We all played in our own little area, with our masks on. Set up, play, cut the songs, boom. It felt great to rock with a bunch of like-minded guys. With our special guests, half of them came to the studio, and half recorded their parts at home.”
Check out the Cruzados’ ‘She’s Automatic’ here, courtesy Frontline Videos: