Have you ever witnessed a concert that made you feel like you were on drugs sans the drugs? That rare transcendental experience is exactly what I experienced when I caught La Puente-based band Chola Orange at Da Dank in Whittier at a Halloween show last October.
The band self-ascribes their abstract yet refined sound as a "psychedelic, space-funk, video game, horror movie soundtrack that you remember dreaming about in the future," and as weird as that description sounds after just one
Noah Arroyo, (bass) Art Avila, (guitar/effects) Kris Castro (keys) and Greg Nelson (drums) are seasoned vets of the SoCal indie music scene with Castro having played with L.A. Latino Indie darlings Buyepongo and even Chicano Batman. The four buddies formed Chola Orange after Castro and Arroyo were in a band called The Truffles which—like many creative projects—eventually fell apart.
Their irreverent yet awesome band name derived from a conversation Castro had with a friend, "He was painting a portrait of a girl...and he said, 'I don't like the hair— it looks like '
Still in their infancy, Chola Orange has served up funky, soulful, psychedelic and experimental instrumentals since the summer of 2015. "We're on this weird stuff where we're inspired by movies," says Castro, "When we first started we were going to do cinematic music for a chase scene or some crazy action sequence and then we just started refining it." Avila adds, "it's more about the music actually telling the story rather than needing the dialogue for that purpose." The band even jokes that they hail from Czech Slovakia because Castro's favorite soundtrack is a Czech-Slovakian film called Little Mermaid by Czech-Slovakian composer, Zdenêk Liška. Arroyo jokes, "we're Czech and we're Mexican—Czechxican."
As their musical influences stem from various genres— "from Sun Ra to 2 Live Crew" as Arroyo would say—Chola Orange is most interested in pushing the envelope of the musical landscape in SoCal's current indie scene. "We're trying to do something different," Castro says, "I like cumbia and stuff but when Chicano kids get together they're going to do reggae, punk or cumbias and I always thought that there's not really even funk or certain types of [other] stuff." Castro points out Lowrider soundtracks, Thump Records, G-Funk and pop-lock dancers as influences in his musical upbringing. "Some people get it [the funk influence] when they see us."
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For only having instrumental jams, Chola Orange manages to still captivate a crowd thanks to their transcendental sound. Lately, the band has started experimenting with talkbox vocals in the style of Zapp & Roger, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix in their experimental phases.
According to Chola Orange, their ventures into new sonic landscapes has gotten mixed reactions from audiences so far but when people do feel Chola Orange's vibe they feel it hard. "[People] don't understand what's happening but their kids' kids will get it," Arroyo says. Castro chimes in, "we've done gigs where we're all into it and we're doing our thing and at the
Take a dose of Chola Orange as they take their sound to Orange County for the first time Wednesday, April 19th at the Copper Door, 225 N. Broadway., Santa Ana. Free. 21+, 9 p.m. Also be on the lookout for their upcoming 45' titled, "Soulblazer." Follow Chola Orange on Instagram: @cholaorange or at www.cholaorange.com