Tattoo artist and musician Louie Perez III is a major fan of all things vintage, especially vintage California. Buildings, Catholic ruins, urban fixtures, and art and culture that whether they wanted to or not, were forced to stand the test of time. Stained glass and giant paintings on sun-bleached walls. Rusty steel bridges, and mossy and crumbling freeways forged onto hills that never wanted them. Cracks in Los Angeles concrete where the desert refused to be contained. “Maybe it’s just the voodoo, but I have to touch something old. So much of Southern California is just like an old mission, the more it falls apart, the more of a poem it becomes.”
A proud Angelino turned proud Old Town Orange resident, Perez is the frontman of LP3 And The Tragedy, a group of musicians embodying duality much like Louie: proud Angelinos living beyond the county line, playing punk Americana rooted in the past, yet distinctly modern.
The band originally formed in 2014 with the intention of a one-time engagement for the California Heritage Museum’s retrospective on the tattoo shop where Perez works. “They said they needed a band for the show they were putting together about Shamrock Social Club and my boss Mark Mahoney ,” says Perez. “My youngest cousin Ruby had been asking me if we could play together for a while, so [finally] I was like, alright c’mon little homie I’ll give you a shot, let’s do the gig!”
The show turned out to be more than Perez bargained for. The crowd was filled with Shamrock Social Club’s clientele like Danny Trejo, Lee Ving, Mickey Rourke, Steve Jones, Adam Goldberg, members of Guns n Roses, as well as all of Perez’s co-workers, not surprising for a shop whose motto is ‘Where the elite and the underworld meet.’ “You can call it lucky, but you try playing your first gig to those people! I was shitting dude, I didn’t know what to do.” LP3 And The Tragedy were a hit that fall night, and after hearing Perez and his bass shredding cousin Ruby harmonize, friends insisted that the band keep going.
They set up a show at The Continental Room in Fullerton, which hit capacity. Their successful night at Conti prompted the group to book a show at Alex’s, and shortly after, LP3 And The Tragedy got a call they couldn’t turn down: a request to play South By South West for what would technically be their third show ever. “We’ve had a horseshoe up our ass since this band started which is great because I spent a long time doing music and not really doing a whole lot of anything,” says Perez. “My other bands were cool, but it was a hard road of riding in vans and playing to 6 people after driving for 20 hours. I don’t think anything was as accepted as fast as this was.”
On the heels of their successful trip to Austin, LP3 And The Tragedy decided to track their set to tape. Their record Southland Hum was recorded at Golden Beat in Glassell Park, the postproduction was done partially by friends, and partially by Perez in his Old Town Orange living room. After late shifts working at Shamrock Social Club in Hollywood, he’d barrel down those familiar stretches of the 101 and the 5, get home at 3 a.m. and work until just after sunrise.
Perez loves classic, timeless songs, and Southland Hum is chock full of them. Their songs are mostly about Perez’s experiences, and the tangle of concrete, metal, art deco, and urban charm that makes Southern California both iconic and unbearable. Their songs are driven by thoughtfully harmonized co-ed vocals laid over and between perfectly crafted, punk-inspired folk and rock arrangements in the vein of X, The Gun Club, and of undoubtedly Perez’s father’s band and Chicano rock legends Los Lobos. Tracks range from organ and harmonica driven upbeat anthems, to stripped down acoustic songs layered with nylon strings and tambourines, serving gritty twang with smart 21st century indie rock vibes. Even though it is so obviously steeped in 1970’s Los Angeles, there is a freshness to LP3 And The Tragedy’s songwriting and delivery: it breathes and bites. They inhibit and pay homage to their roots while pushing them into the future.
The group DIY’d nearly the whole record release operation, opting out of working with a traditional label, and instead doing a limited run of Southland Hum on purple vinyl through Maplewood Records for their tour with X and The Blasters earlier this year.
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“It makes sense that people compare us to that [70’s Los Angeles] stuff, because it’s the muscle memory of what comes natural to us,” Perez says. “I spent so much time as a kid growing up in skateboard culture and wanting to impress people, as you do when you’re young, you know, just puffing your chest out and trying to sing out of the side of your neck, and I gave it up! I just want to play songs that I like, and stop worrying about [what] people think. ” Now Perez embraces the classic Los Angeles folk that runs through his veins. “I’m very proud of the lineage we came from, our parents took a very humble road musically and they’ve added so much more to the cultural dynamic of rock n roll than they’re given for and I’m very proud of that. They burned slow; a lot of people burn fast and try to take the elevator up, but once you’re at the top, the rest of the world has to take the stairs.”
This month LP3 And The Tragedy will be digitally releasing Southland Hum (along with two bonus tracks that were supposed to make it on their vinyl release but had to be cut!) on September 16th, and celebrating its release at KCRW’s Music Tastes Good Festival happening in Downtown Long Beach on September 24th. The band is excited for fans to get all the songs they’re proud of, and if you can’t wait for the release, you can go to their website and stream part of the album for free.
Perez couldn’t be happier with Southland Hum and the way it’s been received. “Somebody told me something a long time ago and I hope it rings true with us, that “when it’s honest, it speaks louder than trying.” And I hope that works with us too. This is the most honest thing that I’ve ever done.”
LP3 And The Tragedy Perform at Music Tastes Good September 24th in Downtown Long Beach along with Warpaint, The Specials, Iron And Wine, Melvins, Metz, and many more. All Ages, $75.