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Listening to Y La Bamba is like taking a journey along the path of their lyrics. Lead singer Luz Elena Mendoza gracefully picks you up in one syllable and drops you off at the next, lilting and heading towards colorful refrains.
When Y La Bamba touched down in the WERS studio, they were vibrant, quick to smile, and gracious as they made their way through sound check. Lead singer Luz Elena Mendoza had a quiet confidence from the beginning. When she opened her mouth for the first song of the session, “Oh February” her voice became warm, confident, and wise. This was the first track from their new EP Oh February – alternating between haunting and upbeat, the song became entrancing. Further into the song, listeners were rewarded with intricate percussion and an upbeat tempo created by Mendoza and her fellow vocalist and guitarist, Edward Cameron.
“Oh February” is the first and title-track on the band’s new EP – serving as a “bookend” companion to the last song, “Oh February: Mad as We Are”. The EP was recorded in December of 2012, and is comprised of songs the band had been working on for the past year and a half. Mendoza elaborated on the inspiration for these ‘bookends’, saying, “They’re inspired by a lot of things, but there’s this book called Light Boxes [by Shane Jones] I read that everyone should read! It’s about a town being against the month of February… It’s not entirely about that though. I was inspired during the time I was reading it and what I got out of it personally.”
Up next was their second song, “Juniper” from their 2010 album, Lupon. The band mixed things up a bit, departing from the subtle studio version, and instead opening with a rousing accordion solo played by Eric Schrepel. There was also entertaining lyrical play between Mendoza and vocalist Ben Meyercord, who exchanged lines such as, “I am a sea/ (that feeds the wind)/ I am the rain/ (which trickles in)/ I am the cause that is dangerous.”
The third and last of the song of the session was the fast-paced “Viudo Encabronada” from their 2012 album, Court the Storm. The lyrics of “Encabronada” are completely in Spanish, as are half of the songs on Court the Storm. Mendoza explained that both of her parents are Mexican and she “grew up listening to Mexican music, and a lot of music from Latin America – just Latin music. And that’s how it translated.” In fact, their band name, “Y La Bamba” comes from the Latin American dance “La Bamba”. Delving deeper into this, Mendoza admits, “There’s also my cat, Bamba, which I named six years ago who became some sort of a musical moniker… but I was not thinking anything would come of it.”
But many things have indeed come of it, including an incredibly successful tour opening for The Lumineers, which featured the Boston House of Blues as one of the last stops. Y La Bamba has been accompanied The Lumineers for a little under a year now. “We’ve seen the whole progression,” explains Mendoza, “and at first they were like ‘Come an play with us for these shows!’… and then the whole year we were just like, ‘Holy crap’. It’s been crazy. It’s been a blessing to be part of that experience.”