La Santa Cecilia, the Los Angeles Band That Made It
By Frank Rojas 10/22/19
“We write about life, we write about love, we write about deportation and the things that happen.”
That is what lead vocalist Marisol Hernandez had to say about La Santa Cecilia to a crowd at the famed Amoeba Music record store in Hollywood, California.
It has been quite the journey for the local Los Angeles band. La Santa Cecilia has come from singing in the middle of La Placita Olvera to winning a 2014 Grammy for their debut album, Treinta Días (Thirty Days). They dedicated their win that year to the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants that reside in the United States. It was also a monumental moment as the band's accordion player, Pepe Carlos, is also undocumented. They then went on to release their ambitious visual project, Amar Y Vivir, which consisted of live collaboration recordings of cover songs in Mexico City.
Last week the band released their self-titled LP and held an intimate performance at Amoeba Music where they elaborated on the inspiration behind their new record.
“This album is very meaningful to us, very personal. Sometimes you feel like everything is going to hell man and I see it around me, I feel frustrated, impotent, scared, a lot of things. I feel like sometimes when you just have no control over the shit that’s going down you just gotta put your arms up.”
La Santa Cecilia formed in Los Angeles in 2007 and started by singing rancheras and boleros. Members include lead vocalist Marisol “La Marisol” Hernandez, accordionist and requintero Pepe Carlos, percussionist Miguel “Oso” Ramirez, and bassist Alex Bendaña. They are named after the patron saint of musicians which is fitting for a band that takes inspiration from rock, soul, blues, jazz, funk, reggae and other eclectic sounds.
La Santa Cecilia consists of 7 predominant English songs and was produced by Sebastian Krys. The album cover was designed by Humberto Howard and depicts a crow and a cheetah embracing. They are both in trench coats with a snake wrapped around the crow’s neck and the cheetah with its mouth open, illuminating a prismatic rainbow. They are set to the moonlight and the lights of the city from down below.
The process of creating the album came at a time when three of the band’s members all lost their fathers within 18 months. The music is reflective of that sentiment of loss and grief, but also about living and maintaining relationships amid sadness. Their song “A Thousand Times” encapsulates all those emotions with the opening lyrics “I'm standing on the edge of losing everything I’ve worked so hard to build.” The empowering ballad sings about letting go despite the countless hardships one may endure.
But not all the music on La Santa Cecilia’s latest release is somber. Their lead single “Winning” is a humorous but very much real song that chronicles the current social media culture and the oversharing epidemic. In an interview with NPR, the band spoke about the inspiration behind the song:
"Realizing how disconnected and uninspired we felt because of social media. It's so distracting when it comes to being creative. Also it puts you in a position of constantly comparing yourself to other people which isn't healthy for anyone."
The band shared those songs and a couple of new ones in a free intimate performance at the acclaimed Hollywood independent record store, Amoeba Music.
Fans had lined up outside the store for hours before the performance. After the show, the band met with fans, took pictures and signed copies of their album. Their humble onstage persona was the same off stage when meeting with fans.
La Santa Cecilia is the Los Angeles band that made it. Not because of their Grammy win, sold-out concerts, and album releases. It is the message behind their music, the community that has embraced them, and their appreciation for their culture and influences that have made them who they are.
La Santa Cecilia is out now.