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Pass the Gravy

Brothers Victor and Adrian Monroy didn't necessarily expect to make a living with Pastilla. The rock en espanol moved them; the commercial success is extra.


After years of what seemed like an endless uphill struggle, brothers Victor and Adrian Monroy can finally boast that they make their living playing rock 'n' roll.

'Thank God we started making some money with our live gigs," says 23-year-old Victor, whose band, Pastilla, has forged an excellent reputation within the Southern California rock en espanol scene.

This year has been a busy one for the band, which plays Thursday at JC Fandango in Anaheim. The quartet recently released its second album, "Vox Electra." This was followed by extensive touring in the United States, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

'We just played Tijuana and Mexicali, and many people in the audience knew the songs by heart," Monroy said, as if describing a miracle. "The record is not selling like hot cakes, but it sells consistently."

It's easy to understand why the Monroys are enjoying their modest triumph to the fullest. Their parents are factory workers in Pomona, and the brothers had only their dogged determination to make music keeping them afloat. Soon after arriving in the U.S. from Mexico in the early '80s, they decided to devote themselves to music full time. But they did it for the music itself, not with any expectations of fame and fortune.

"If we had had any hopes of something happening [commercially] with Pastilla, we wouldn't be here talking--we would have already given up," Victor said. "Fortunately, our record company [BMG Latin, which signed Pastilla last year,] has already invested so much money in the group that they will probably let us continue making music our way."

Listening to "Vox Electra," it's apparent the Monroy brothers are better writers than singers. But there's a wistful quality about the flat, quiet voice of Victor and the melancholy way which he sings of displacement and lost love.

Victor and Adrian take the punk axiom that anyone can sing as long as the song is his, and they put it to work within the context of their fascination for recycling the Beatles. Echoes of "Revolver" and "Abbey Road" can be found in their records, as well as nods to the Cure and the British Goth scene, and to Latin groups including Soda Stereo, another band with a flat-voiced singer who also found inspiration in the Beatles and new-wave music.

Said Victor: "Seventy percent of what I like musically is British. But there's good things on both sides of the Atlantic," adding that he fosters a growing admiration for the American indie rock scene.


The band is a welcome addition to Southland rock en espanol, a movement that until recently had become obsessed with combining contrasting musical genres. Polkas, reggae and salsa were awkwardly mixed with ska and heavy metal, as long as the results sounded unusual.

Pastilla, on the other hand, is infatuated only with good, old-fashioned pop. Ironically, a group that contents itself with the standard rock two-guitar-bass-drums format sounds unusually fresh. The band--singer-guitarists Victor and Adrian, bassist Daniel Damian and drummer Eric Rubalcava--comes across even better live than on record, as the band members' sardonic stage presence and instrumental interaction adds urgency to such rockers as "Amor Metal."

Still, their success has yet to push the Monroy brothers into their own apartment.

"We still live with our parents," Victor said, "only now we give them rent money."

* Pastilla and Voz de Mano play Thursday at JC Fandango, 1086 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim. 8 p.m. $10. (714) 758-1057.

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