By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
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By Nick Keppler
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Lady P. and Don Verde were despondent a year ago. Products of broken homes, each had also recently endured the breakups of their respective bands—Lady P.'s Pescadores Pescadores and Verde's Tijuana Bibles. So the two found themselves spending hours in Verde's basement during early 2002 trying to piece together some sort of sonic salvation from the world of rejection.
But we're getting ahead of the Los Abandoned saga. Their story actually begins mid-2001 in a Los Angeles parking lot. There, Lady P. and Verde met while unloading equipment between their then-bands' respective sets.
"I told her, 'I have this group that sounds like yours. We should play together sometime,'" the acerbic Verde remembers over lunch at the Farmer's Market. "Then I actually saw her perform live. She was amazing. I was so bummed-out. I wanted to kill myself. I questioned my musical existence."
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"He's really sarcastic," Lady P. says, laughing.
"No, I mean it!" Verde asserts with a wild-eyed confidence his Roy Orbison-dark shades can't conceal. "She was amazing."
Verde—like so many others before and since—fell under the trance of Lady P.'s hypnotic voice, a crystal-brittle soprano alternating between vulnerable and vicious. The Chilean chanteuse, in turn, appreciated Verde's schizophrenic guitar pickings, which recalled everything from Joy Divisionesque blips to Caribbean weirdo beats to plain ol' rawk. More important, however, Lady P. discovered an Angeleno musician unencumbered by the since-Elizabethan-times war between the languages of Cervantes and Shakespeare.
"It was always difficult for me to find a bilingual band," she now says. "I want to sing in both Spanish and English because that's my background. You'd think others would want to do the same thing."
"Spanglish is the national language of L.A!" interjects Verde, who has a habit of spouting hilarious non sequiturs. Lady P. shoots him an approving glance. "A lot of people think inside of a box. But with Don, it was a real effortless fusion. We didn't try to do anything; it just happened," she says.
Lady P. joined Verde's band soon after the chance encounter, only to see it break up. Which brings us back to those around-last-January basement sessions, from whence came the five-track EP they branded demotape. The pair mailed it to various clubs and record labels, with little success. But even the cruel music biz couldn't ignore Los Abandoned's musical misery for long.
Each song on demotape is a poppy piece of paranoia, reflecting their practitioners' already-nervous personalities and life stories. "Stalk U" backs its O.J.-bad tale of obsessive romance with a scruffy rhythm of which No Doubt would be proud. "Thais," a holdover from Lady P.'s old ensemble, cackles with rat-a-tat organs, a furtive bass and drum beats stolen from late-'80s Manchester. These two tunes clash mightily with the sparkling "Ojos," which needs nothing more than Lady P.'s longing lilt and her weeping ukulele to shock with sadness. "Electricidad," meanwhile, is for fans of pop that simultaneously inspires heart flutters and flinging arms. And all that needs to be said about the punk/dance-hall beauty "Me Quieren en Chile" is that one of the main lyrics translates as "They hate me in Chile/They hate me in LA/They hate me in Spain/They hate me in France/I'm hated because of that whore/And only that whore!"
"We try to do our music so it should be an exact contrast with what we're saying," Verde says. "I like the contradictions in life. To me, that has always best expressed the human condition. If you view yourself as a clown with your ups and downs, you can make some very funny songs."
"We also have to make the audience dance, though," Lady P. reminds Verde.
"That's right!" Verde replies. "First the booty, then the tears. Booty tears!"
Life became kinder for Los Abandoned soon after demotape's release. Around April, Lady P. and Verde added a drummer and bassist (each castoffs from other groups, of course) in time for their first live show. Constant touring in the year since attracted ever-increasing audiences. The quartet then went on to win Latin alternative-music mag La Banda Elástica's Battle of the Bands last month, which secured Los Abandoned a contract with EMI. And they're set to open two shows for another man/woman duo, Colombian titans Aterciopelados, a group both Lady P. and Verde freely acknowledge serves as a blueprint for their ambitions of idiosyncratic success.
With fate now loving Los Abandoned with abandon, Lady P. and Verde could understandably forget about their old problems. But both claim the hurt they had to endure will forever dictate their work.
"We're an argument for perseverance," Verde says. "We never imagined it would all happen so fast—and with our vision intact. Goes to show that if you keep banging your head against the wall, you'll either hurt yourself or find a great band."
Los Abandoned and Aterciopelados perform at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583. Fri., 8 p.m. $25. 16+.