Interview with Mandorico’s Jesse Lauricella: an eclectical storm

From Examiner . . .

Mandorico, a punk, reggae, hip-hop and ska band, from Los Angeles, takes its name from a Puerto Rican short story by Rosario Ferré. They could just as easily have called themselves “Split Sybil” after the infamous woman that suffered from multiple-personality disorder.

How else would you describe a band that embraces punk, reggae, hip-hop, rock, Latina and funk? But all it takes is a simple sample of their music to convince you that the band’s split personality works.

They’ve shared the stage with many well-known international artists, including the late Tito Puente, The Wailers, Toots and the Maytals, Ben Harper, UB40, and the Foo Fighters to name a few. Mandorico has made a number of regional network television appearances as well as having their music featured on a variety of national shows.

Founder and frontman Jesse Lauricella and I recently talked about the band and their current tour. Is it coincidental that a six-member band plays a combination of six different genres?

“It is purely coincidental, yeah. When you put together that many musicians, the likelihood of everyone collectively liking the same thing is so low.”

“So I think what it is, you bring people together, and you and I love reggae music – and then second on your list is Afro-Cuban – and second on my list is punk rock. So we all come together with kind of a reggae-rock-Latin theme and then there’s 8 million other ways that’s gonna draw from there.”

Playing so many different styles of music presents certain challenges when it comes to musical balance. Does the band consciously think “We’ve played two reggae songs, now we have to play a rock song,”?

“The answer is, we used to, yes. There was a point in time where we were concerned with kind of keeping up with, ‘OK, we don’t wanna go too far on this end, we don’t wanna go too far on that end. I think lately, that’s been less and less common and less and less of a concern.”

“I think we all sat down and had that discussion that you’re talking about, ‘Gosh, should we consider….’ But everybody said, ‘This is what’s comin’ up, this is what’s relevant, this is what’s coming out of us right now, so let’s write the songs that are coming out of us.”

“I’ve got to admit, I really enjoy the process better, rather than keeping up with the ‘musical Joneses.'”

For Mandorico, it’s been a decade of touring and learning. The band was based in Atlanta for nine years and felt like they were beating their heads against the proverbial wall. Convinced they should “go west young men,” they moved to SoCal to try and succeed there, following in the musical footsteps of Ozomatli, Sublime and others.

“These are the mistakes we feel like we made, those being, we played our cards a little close to our chest. We didn’t go make very big, long runs very often ’cause we were worried about burning markets out, burning ourselves out.”

“I watched a lot of bands that I respected that are kind of grinding it out. I kind of feel that that’s what needs to be done. There’s that leap of faith.”

“You know you can’t keep floating financially and be comfortable and do all the stuff you want to do creatively at the same time. You know, whatever happens, happens. We’re trying to attach no expectations to it.”

“We love playin’ music, writin’ songs. We love bein’ on stage. Let’s just go all in here and see what happens.”

Now that they’ve had time to experience the musical differences between the east coast and the west coast, which one is more music friendly?

Jesse remarked, “You know, I’m still tryin’ to figure that out. I think the east coast is easier to tour because there’s less competition. But, in the west coast it’s a much more music oriented place. It’s much more eclectic, much more open to different styles and genres. That works both for and against you.”

“For you, in the sense that you have an opportunity if you’re doing something a little off the beaten path. Against you in the sense that there’s sixty other bands playing.”

Mandorico is making the most of its fresh start, with regular touring and work on new music. I asked Jesse about the new songs.

“Oh yeah, oh yeah. We’ve been writing a lot. Every song we write and play, we play it stacked up against a set, right? So, we’ll shove the song in the middle of the set.”

“We played Long Beach last week and played a few new songs and we shoved ’em in to the set and we listened to the recording afterwards. It’s a little bit different to our ears, but the show flowed, the song flowed and we were really excited. Every song we’ve ever written is road tested before it’s recorded.”

The boys put on a live show that has to be seen to be believed. Their stage show comes complete with non-stop movement, full-band percussion breaks, back flips, and tight 5-part vocal harmonies, seasoned by a decade of national touring.

“Back flips?” I asked incredulously.

“Well (laughing), we have to have safety meetings now ’cause we’ve got a lot of injuries as a result. We’ve had knocked out teeth, broken instruments.”

“You know, I fell off a stage once in Pensacola I think, six feet off a stage onto my conga. It was brutal man! We get so fired up when we get on stage, it’s hard to rein it all back in.”

In today’s economic environment, that’s a welcome attitude. Because one thing’s for sure, when you go to a Mandorico gig, you’re going to get your money’s worth.

And to sum it all up, Jesse confidently stated, “I’ve never heard anyone say they weren’t entertained at a Mandorico show.”

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