The music of Alma Desnuda can most succinctly be described as “California acoustic soul,” but what the laidback San Francisco-based band really aims to play are songs that make you feel good–and maybe even do good. UC Irvine alum Paul Suhr is a founder of the cajón-tapping, bass-plucking, message-bearing quartet, which performed on the John Lennon Bus stage at NAMM in Anaheim last month, and recently released its sophomore album, Riders.
OC Weekly: Where does the name Alma Desnuda come from?
Paul Suhr: It's Spanish for “naked soul.” Joe (Glasser), Chris (Bryden)
and I met while studying abroad in Cordoba, Spain. We started a street
publication called “Alma Desnuda,” where we would write poems and
stories and translate them into Spanish. When we all later moved to San
Francisco, we started jamming together on rooftops. One day, we decided
to do an open mic night, and they asked us what our band name was. We
just looked at each other and said “Alma Desnuda,” and the name kind of
stuck. Alma Desnuda is a reminder of how we should live our lives. It's
about authenticity and living life to the fullest.
What's the story behind your latest album, Riders?
The title song of our first album, Middleway, is essentially based on
the idea that there's this pull from society. It wants you to be
productive in a certain way. But there's also another way of living and
that's following your passion, what your soul is drawing you toward. The
“middleway” is your own path between the two. Riders is about what
happens when you take the middleway, the struggles, the triumphs, all
that. When we wrote Middleway, we had other jobs. I was the director of
an English-language school, Tony was a teacher, Joe was in the corporate
field, Chris was working at a nonprofit for people with emotional
disabilities. Now, this is what we do. We're the riders.
Last year, you were nominated for the title of “Most Socially Conscious
Rockstar” by the Oakland Indie Awards. What does that even mean?
Alma Desnuda is more than just music–it's a message. We live
consciously and do everything with intention as responsible human
beings. We've partnered with numerous nonprofits.We've played for people
in hospice care, disadvantaged youth, the incarcerated. We eat organic.
Our tour bus, Patricia, is a 40-foot school bus that's painted baby
blue and runs and biodiesel. We're not the typical rockstars you would
You also were part of the Rock Our World project. Your anthem, “Life We
Got,” was performed and recorded by children in classrooms around the
world, resulting in a truly awesome music video. What was that
Kids are always surprising, but I was blown away by their ability to
just get it. Our lyrics are not shallow; they definitely have a deeper
meaning. The kids would ask, “What does that mean?” I really enjoyed
seeing how music and technology and education all came together for this
Tell me about one of your newer songs.
We just recently wrote a song called “Estelle.” We don't have many
quote-unquote love songs, but this is a beautiful song from the
perspective of an old man who is singing to his wife and reflecting on
the different factors that allowed their relationship to last. One thing
he knows is that true love is made when both partners are whole and
complete in themselves.
What else should people know about Alma Desnuda?
We're not just a band. There's something bigger that we're creating here.
Alma Desnuda performs with Gregory Alan Isakov at the Coach House,
33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930;
www.thecoachhouse.com. March 25. 7 p.m. $12 in advance.