During this year's Upstream Music Fest, I made a good decision (for a change). I'd been hearing and reading positive things about Tres Leches from trustworthy sources, but I'd never seen them perform. As I entered Central Saloon, the Seattle trio was in full-on infectious spasm mode, making ye olde rock and roll sound like it had been guzzling from the fountain of youth. Former Stranger music editor and Tacocat frontwoman Emily Nokes was posted up in the front row, a solid endorsement in itself. High five to trustworthy sources—and to the band: Alaia D'Alessandro, Ulises Mariscal, and Zander Yates.
With wild songs that gleefully twist rock conventions while maintaining hooks amid the encroaching chaos, Tres Leches recall Pixies' 1987 debut EP, Come On Pilgrim, when they still radiated danger, before their descent into normcore alt-rock-hood. As it happens, Tres Leches—who call their music "dark basement"—had never heard that record, but after I mentioned it in my Slog review of their Upstream set, they now appreciate it.
One thing that makes Tres Leches stand out onstage—besides songs that reanimate your moribund passion for rock—is that all three members switch off on guitar, bass, and drums. This versatility keeps things varied and interesting. "It really works, because it's not about any kind of parameters or qualifications to play an instrument, but a genuine interest in hearing what the others have to say, which encourages each of us to input," the band said in an e-mail interview (they answered questions collectively).
"A lot of times, we'll remind each other, 'I think you should just play what feels good to you.' And we'll even be open to switching instruments in the middle of writing a song if someone is feeling like they can't reach a point where they can express themselves. Experimenting, leaving space to listen to each other, and creating different art forms is what's keeping us creating more music together."
Tres Leches are currently working on their first album, following an eponymous 2016 EP and a 2018 single, "No Llores" / "What Are You Doing" (the latter tune has hit potential). The band members said their "creative process has stayed consistent, but our process naturally leads us to write between genres, so the audience is going to hear something different from our EP."
Tres Leches have been recording with KEXP engineer Kevin Suggs, who enabled the group to "focus on our output in the moment of recording by providing us with a clear representation of ourselves. Recording with an engineer is almost like trying to dress yourself in front of a mirror. If that mirror is a fun-house mirror, it could be cool, but you don't get a sense of what you really look like. Suggs wasn't a fun-house mirror, although he offered some great adjustments we didn't think of. Maybe he's the mirror from Snow White?"
Ultimately, Tres Leches want to inspire people to "create in any way that helps the world become a better place to live"—like their heroes in the bands Los Dug Dug's, Os Mutantes, and the Clash have done for them.