By Adam Lovinus
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Photo by OCW staffAnaheim-based Latin alternative quartet Enjambre—brothers Luis and Rafael Navejas on lead and bass, Osamu Nishitani on rhythm, and Nicolás Saavedra on drums—is a whole so disparate that only a parts list gives them justice:
•They're all immigrants. The Navejas boys come from Fresnillo, Zacatecas, and came searching for the good life in 1998; Saavedra left Santiago, Chile, in 1999 to get a better education; Nishitani is of Japanese descent, born in Germany, raised in England, and moved to the United States because, he says, "I like American rock."
•Nishitani's many talents don't include Spanish fluency. "I just stand onstage and nod along with the lyrics," he sheepishly confesses.
•Enjambre's sound defies logic, considering the scenes from which they originate. The Navejases' Zacatecas is a state whose greatest musical legacy is the war-inspiring banda sounds of tamborazo. Saavedra and Nishitani live and breathe heavy metal. Each member swears Nirvana and the Beatles are their greatest musical influences—even though Enjambre sounds nothing like them. "We take all of our parts together and give it a certain Enjambre-ness," Luis says.
•Enjambre is original. Really: it's impossible to pinpoint what type of music Enjambre plays except to say that it's astonishingly alternative. Sometimes they'll ballad you with "Me Sale Risa." Or they'll out-Weezer Weezer for emo wimpiness, afterward straight-edging you with "Yo Soy." Or they'll come straight out of The Wizard of Oz with a bizarre oompha-loompah song that has you scanning the sky for winged monkeys.
•They are—and are not—the Hives. Sure, both rely on apiaries for their name—"Enjambre" is a "structure for housing bees" in Spanish, and "Hives" also (in English) means "structures for housing bees." But while the Hives are more ubiquitous than hero-of-the-moment Sheriff Mike Carona, no one knows who the fuck Enjambre is—further proof that a tone-deaf God rules the musical world. While the Hives sound just like every other entry in the recent locust plague of bands that are a punk version of Milli Vanilli, Enjambre is creating some of the weirdest-yet-punkish music since the Butthole Surfers.
•Enjambre's non-visibility in the county is their manager's fault—and he did it on purpose. Next Thursday's concert will be their first appearance at home turf JC Fandango's (where they practice) in almost a year, even though club owner Javier Castellanos is Enjambre's manager. They have a large following up and down the 5 freeway at dive bars in San Diego, Tijuana and Los Angeles—just not in Orange County. "I want to make sure people don't classify them as the house band, so I rarely play them here," Castellanos says. "It's way too easy for people to do that."
•Castellanos kicks their asses. He didn't let them play for five months because, he says, "I didn't feel they were ready to play. Plus, they weren't taking themselves seriously. I told them, 'You might think I'm a jerk. I'm sorry, but I'm doing it for your own good.' I'm always going to give them a kick in the ass when needed."
•And Castellanos loves them. "When I heard their demo, it was poorly executed," he says. "But what caught my attention most was the homemade cutout packaging of a picture of them wearing shirts that made them look like bees. If they spent that much time on that, imagine the magic they could make with music! Yeah, it sounds corny, but it's the truth."
•Non-coddling has made Enjambre into one of La Naranja's tightest outfits. The band's vibrancy naturally resonates from their hermetic harmonies, with guitars that sound like a cathedral's bell one riff and something infernal the next. Their unity is so evident they'll switch roles—Luis will occasionally take the bass from Rafael—without a skip in the rhythm.
•Their practice room is Enjambre's fifth member, a tiny space in the bowels of JC Fandango. Two tiny lights illuminate nothing, two couches occupy about half of the room, and there's a huge overhead pipe on which the boys have banged their heads many a time. This is where their magic blooms. "You feel the vibrations," Nishitani says. "When Luis makes a mistake, I can say, 'Hey, your guitar was in my face' and vice versa. But when we do something good, we can feel it. It's way better than a concrete floor with soundproof walls surrounding us."
•Enjambre laughs if you try to categorize them. "Borders are stupid," Luis says. "We have a Japanese-British metalhead, a Chilean metalhead, and two grunge-loving Mexicans playing alternative music and singing it in Spanish. Why bother classifying it? We just click."
Enjambre plays with Los Super Ratones at JC Fandango, 1086 State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 758-1057. Thurs., Sept. 26, 9 p.m. $10. 16+.