Quick now, what comes from East Los Angeles and makes you dance? You are probably going to say Los Lobos, the Grammy award winners. But I'm talking about that rockin' trio, Food for Feet featuring two members of Oingo Boingo.
Mike Tovar and John Avila have been friends since grade school and musicians about that long. In the early '80s they went to Germany to play with a progressive rock band named Triumvirat. They returned to California and formed Food for Feet in 1983 with Tovar on guitar and Avila on bass. One night the drummer forgot to show up, and Avila called his buddy Johnny Vatos from Oingo Boingo to sit in. Vatos never left. Later he returned the favor by inviting Avila to audition as Oingo Boingo's bass player. Both now have two jobs.
Together, the trio has played with such musicians as Helen Reddy, El Chicano, Patrick Moraz of the Moody Blues and road bands doing everything from traditional Mexican music to the Beatles. The band released a six-song album in 1989 and is now working on new material.
Avila recently discussed the life and times of Food for Feet.
How did the record do and what's the status of another one?
The record is hanging tough--it's coming down the home stretch. Now we can drive to work in painted Volkswagens. We're just three guys with a lot of energy--and we never know quite what to expect. We're working on new music right now. We should begin recording in four weeks or so and a new record should be out by February.
Since there are only six songs on the record should we be expecting to hear more at the concert or will it be just six real long songs?
Oh no, we've got thousands of songs, or even dozens.
How often does Food for Feet play?
Well, we're playing five times this week; it seems to come in bunches. Right now, we want to play a lot and work on our new stuff. At the beginning of the year, we did a 40-city, 13,000-mile tour that lasted two months. Usually, we had local bands open for us, but once we actually opened for Oingo Boingo and the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Red Rock Amphitheatre in Colorado. So Johnny and I played twice that night.
How did the band get its name?
We were playing the notorious Madame Wong's Downtown, and we just signed the contract and were walking down the stairs when the club owner said, "Hey, you've got the gig, but we need a name." I shouted out "Food for Feet" at the spur of the moment and it stuck.
How is Food for Feet different from Oingo Boingo?
Well, obviously, we're a trio and not an eight-piece. There's a lot of diversity with a trio, just a lot more space. Also, I'm the lead singer--I get to sing now.
What are your musical influences?
My parents taught me how to play guitar and sing. There was always a lot of singing at our house--there were always guitars lying around. Then, I remember the first time I saw the Beatles and all those screaming girls. I said, "Man, that's for me." I was 5 years old. I liked a lot of the '60s bands, the Doors, the Stones, then later, jazz and Latin music. I like to keep my ears open. I have a hearty appetite for music, and I don't have an attitude against any particular form of music. There's a lot you can find out just by listening.
Describe Food for Feet music.
Well, there's the Big L--it's loud. We don't even know what's going to happen next. There's some great playing.
Does the band do any Oingo Boingo songs?
Why should people come to see Food for Feet?
It's music that's good for your sole.
How 'bout those Dodgers?
Yeah! The Dodgers are great. I'm a Dodger fanatic. Win or lose, they've had a helluva year. They're the best team in baseball right now. You know, I played baseball for 10 years; I sort of dropped the bat and picked up the bass.
WHERE AND WHEN
Food for Feet will be performing on Thursday nights with Lock Up and A Band Called Horse at The Carnaval Club, 634 State St., Santa Barbara. The doors will open at 9 p.m. For more information call (805) 962-9991.