It's easy to get entangled in formulaic ideas of success—to get too caught up in how many friends populate your band's MySpace page, too obsessed over what label's gonna hand over a record deal. But the group that bid for a Strangercrombie music profile couldn't give a shit about getting their mugs wheat-pasted on billboards. They're a loose crew of drinking buddies called El Mombre who hit the auction because the proceeds go to a charity—and to have a little fun.
These dudes—employees of Fortune 500 companies, from what I can decipher—are committed to a singular ideal: hanging out once a week to play music together. In their year together under this moniker they've never recorded a demo nor booked a show, and only missed their weekly commitment twice. (That dedication also extends toward Monopolowa, a "highly underrated Austrian copy of a Polish vodka," Mombre member Jamie explains. Monopolowa is the key ingredient of the mascot Green Dragon cocktail—which I could define further, having taken a shot of it one boozy evening at Jamie's Fremont bachelor pad, but no one needs to get arrested here.)
To enter the world of El Mombre is to enter a universe of inside jokes. The name itself is a play on hombre, mom jokes, and Harvey's, the Mombre bar of choice run by an hombre named John and his "mombre" Audrey—rumored to be a Canadian hockey player who'll kick your ass for swearing.
On a recent Wednesday night, Jamie, Ed, Zak, Dan, JP, Adam, Chris, and Chris are wrapped around a small bar near Jamie's kitchen. Every hour is 4:20 and the room is buzzing with music, belching, mom jokes, and the admission that a certain Mombre's crown jewels are devoid of foreskin. Meanwhile, Jamie's cat Speedy is playing a game of catch that would put most dogs to shame.
Even with the locker-room vibe breaking the ice, not all the conversations revolve around typical guy targets. Talk moves into interesting tangents—the evolution of wisdom teeth, the smoking ban, controversial author James Frey. El Mombre earnesty also emerges, as they attempt to explain—all at once—the concepts at hand. "We want to create something outside of our normal day-to-day life." "Think of the 1800s—people just had instruments and sheet music and brothels and whiskey and guns..." "So this is our gun, brothel, and whiskey night—but no guns and no brothel." "There are crews who paint their nails black, rent a space in Pioneer Square, and are like, 'We're committed,' but there's a tragic, bullshit marketing aspect of that." "If it sounds like shit or it sounds great, this is music you're participating in rather than passively consuming." And, most importantly, one Mombre asks into my recorder, "Are you going to play this tape back at work and make fun of us?" Um, no.
A few Mombres pick up a cello, bongos, and an acoustic guitar, moving between covers of the Velvet Underground, Weezer, and the Rolling Stones with the ease of a campfire jam. Momentum builds and the party descends to the basement, where a drum kit (salvaged from a trash can and unable to stay upright very long) takes up most of the space. An organ perched in a tiny loft is barely heard above the din, but the guys use it to offer me a quick music lesson so I can join in (poorly) on a Pixies cover. El Mombre night is a highly participatory situation.
Between covers of Modest Mouse and the White Stripes, the guys swap places. Drummers become singers who become guitarists and then bassists; original songs riff off Black Flag and the Talking Heads as El Mombre prove these basement performances aren't for nothing. With their talent they could easily gig around town, should they want to create set lists, record demos, focus on Music Careers, leave this Fremont home. But for now, El Mombre seem content to play where the beer is free, the audience is a lone feline, and journalists only come along when the cause is right. "I like that we're a basement band," says Jamie after the music has died back down. "We haven't even made it up to the garage yet, but that's only because my house is so small. We play in the living room sometimes, but if we had more room we'd just stay in the basement."email@example.com