By Tracy Dietlin
This column is all about local musicians that play in more than one band concurrently. Each week we will focus on one of these super-humans that are able to divide their talents amongst several bands. This week’s champion is Armando “Mondo” Flores, who currently performs in the bands Blasting Echo, Courtney Chambers, 5th Town, and the SunDrug Project.
CVW: How old were you when you started playing music and what instrument did you start with bass or drums?
Flores: “Truth be told, I started on the trumpet in the 6th grade. Begged my parents to BUY me the trumpet (wisely, they didn’t), played it for about 3 months, totally sucked and gave up. I didn’t try to play another instrument until I was 18. My girlfriend at the time had an old, imitation Fender bass in her room and I wanted to be cool… so I picked it up. It’s been downhill ever since.”
CVW: What was your first band?
Flores: “1st band was Menhaden. It was me, Tim McMullen, and Chris Lawrence. We didn’t even have a singer. We played a generator party out in the grape vineyards where Sun City Palm Desert is now. But it was cool, cuz we were in a band!”
CVW: Please list all the bands you have been in?
Flores: “Oi… let’s see: Lung Cookie, Ebin Barnett, The Barflys, Se7en4, B Movie Superstars, Rebecca Caldwell, Half Astro, The Pedestrians, Wyte Gye, Blasting Echo, Courtney Chambers, Machin, Kelley Derrickson, SunDrug, 5th Town. I’m sure there’s a couple I’ve forgotten, but these are the ones that really stand out.”
CVW: Which instrument do you prefer?
Flores: “Depends on my mood. Drums are good after you’ve had a bad day. Bass is good for sexy times.”
CVW: How do you juggle playing in so many bands?
Flores: “I think if you really love doing something, you’ll find the time. But it’s tough when you have a family. I’ve ruined more than one relationship playing in multiple bands. Honestly, it’s a labor of love. I’m grateful to have a VERY understanding wife who supports me and my musical proclivities.”
CVW: Is there one band that’s your favorite?
Flores: “That’s like asking which of your kids is your favorite. They all have a special place in my heart and all are unique in their own way.”
CVW: You’ve been playing music for many years now. How do you feel the business has changed over the years for the better? For the worse?
Flores: “Truthfully, I never had a head for the ‘business’ end of music. I’ve definitely tried, but my few experiences were bittersweet. I learned a whole lot about what NOT to do, though. Nowadays, the internet and social media has made being a musician a bit more of a personal experience. There’s no real need to rely on the big labels. If you’re savvy enough and play your cards right, you can make a decent living being an artist while also being your own manager/producer. Having good people in your corner doesn’t hurt.”
CVW: What has been your favorite performance moment of your career?
Flores: “The 1st Tachevah concert with The Pedestrians. We were well rehearsed, knew how to put on a show, and we came out swinging! I hate to say we may have upstaged the next couple of acts… but I think we upstaged the next couple of acts. It was awesome!!!”
CVW: Favorite venue to play?
Flores: “Any venue where the sound man is competent.”
CVW: Have you toured outside CA?
Flores: “Yeah. Lung Cookie was lucky enough to do a few weeks on the Vans Warped Tour in ’99. It was a super cool experience and I got to see quite a bit of the States… learned a lot, too.”
CVW: Favorite bands growing up?
Flores: “James Brown, Queen, The Bee Gees, Billy Idol, The Police, Erik B & Rakim, Public Enemy, NWA, Depeche Mode, RHCP, Tool, Primus, Helmet, NIN… and a whole bunch more.”
CVW: Bands you listen to now?
Flores: “Pretty much the same shit, I’m an old dog. No new tricks. However, I’m really digging Zappa, Snarky Puppy, Royal Blood, and Vulfpeck these days.”
CVW: Favorite local bands?
Flores: “I feel like a dick for saying this, but I’m a BIG homebody and don’t get out too often. Honestly, I think it’s how I’m able to perform with so many acts. Cuz if I’m not playing or rehearsing, I’d better be home with the wife and kids… there must always be balance in the Force. But, I’ve always loved watching my little brother’s band, Se7en4, perform! When they’re on, they’re ON!!! I think they are playing in Feb at The Hood… GO CHECK ‘EM OUT!!!”
CVW: Favorite major producer?
Flores: “I dunno. Some producers are good for certain things. If it was a rock act, I’d love to work with Rick Rubin.; R&B or funk, maybe Mark Ronson or George Clinton. The weird shit I’ve played with Rob Peterson in SunDrug, Steve Albini. Truth be told, just send someone who’s got talent, will challenge me as a musician, is genuine, has their heart into what I’m doing, and isn’t a dick. Don’t be a dick.”
CVW: Who is your bass hero?
Flores: “Conventional wisdom and everyone who knows me will say, Les Claypool. But Flea and Eric Avery were big influences on me, same with Steve Harris, and of course, James Jamerson. Gotta give props to Motown!”
CVW: Drum hero?
Flores: “In this category, there’s just too many. Most of my drum heroes are the guys I played bass with in the above bands. I was able to learn a little something from their styles and nuances, and pick up a little something from each of them including, Tim McMullen, Rob Peterson, Steve Hall, Marcus Bush, Dominic Jimenez and Troy Whitford. Each of these drummers has been a positive influence on me and contributed to how I approach the drums. And not one of them is a slouch… alright, maybe one or two.” (said with a chuckle)
CVW: Who do you most respect in the music business?
Flores: “I respect any musician who can make their living making music.”
CVW: Who would you want to see in concert that you haven’t seen yet?
Flores: “Sad I never got to see James Brown in concert. Still kicking myself on that one!”
CVW: What band would you most like to open for?
Flores: “I think you mean, which band would I like to have open for me?”
CVW: What band do you listen to that people would be the most surprised to hear?
Flores: “If you missed it the 1st time, I’ll say it again, The Bee Gees. Catchy lyrics, deceptively hard bass lines, funky guitars, and really tight pants with very high voices!!! And giant teeth!!!”
CVW: What would people be the most surprised to know about you?
Flores: “Hmm… I guess that I’ve always wanted to be a producer. I know there will come that day when I will not be able to perform anymore. So naturally you’d want to still have your hands in the cookie jar. I’ve always loved working with a wide variety of artists who have different styles and I love being behind the board in a studio. ‘Ideas, ideas, ideas… try this, oops… that sucked, let’s try something else.’ Must be the nerd in me. Plus, I’ve had just enough formal music training to be dangerous, all while making your average music professor cringe in horror. It’s a dream, really.”