I first meet the Red Pears at a Blaze Pizzeria in Downey. We sit in the corner by the front door. The duo orders two pizzas, separately. Henry Vargas — the singer/songwriter orders a cheese pizza with all veggies. He mentions cooly that he just recently started eating cheese again. His longtime music partner Jose Corona orders a regular pepperoni. Although different, they perfectly contrast each other symbiotically. They talk about the Strokes and the Arctic Monkeys fawning over the simplicity of those bands musical style which gave them the idea that they could play instruments too.
That same taste in music brought them together all by circumstance in high school. Vargas transferred over from El Monte High to Mountain View high school — where Corona went — after he ran into trouble with a classmate. “I was going El Monte high school and I got in a fight with some guy. Basically, I got transferred out. My parents didn’t want me to go to that school because he was saying he was going to jump me,” Vargas says.
When he got to Mountain View high, Vargas first befriended Corona’s sister in the school choir. Vargas would meet Jose after at a battle of the bands competition. Corona almost got Vargas to join his band, but, since Corona was heading to San Francisco State University for school, it never came into fruition. Luckily, they would reconnect soon after Corona came back to El Monte.
“We had a different vision, a different mindset, we wanted to play music,” Corona says. They would go through different line-ups and bands before they got to the idea to become the Red Pears. It came down to dedication — most of the time it would only be Corona and Vargas jamming and writing music. Because of that, they decided to start a duo and Red Pears came to fruition. The name is a play on word of “pair” and they added red because they liked the color. Both started learning instruments by playing songs from their favorite bands. Corona learned drums from emulating the Strokes, while Vargas taught himself on an acoustic guitar with missing strings.
Before the Red Pears though, Vargas was already writing songs. He would write joke songs about his classmates, so songwriting came naturally to him. He would smoke with his friends, write joke songs, and would try to write witty lines to make his friends laugh: “John is smoking weed, look at him, he’s shaped like a tree.” By his admission though, it took awhile to get comfortable writing sincere, personal songs.
So when they started writing together, Vargas had a bunch of ideas on his phone. Many would end up going on their first EP with the tongue-twisting title We bring anything to the table . . . . . . except tables we can’t bring tables to the table. The intention was to record a demo for venues so they recorded in Corona’s garage through Garageband. The rawness you hear in the first album was incidental because they played the songs off the cuff. Both agree that people associated them with the raw sound because of that first record. It became a foundation of their production style. “We didn’t know it was going to be heard,” says Vargas.
After their first record, musicians would badger them to play bass for them. They had a couple tries with local musicians but no one stuck. Their goal was to have a four-piece band, but it was difficult to find people that fit their style and work ethic. Eventually, they would get their bass player, Juan Aguilar, a classmate from school. Corona would badger Juan and ask him to play bass for the Red Pears, but Aguilar would always decline. Eventually, he joined the live band and give them a bigger live sound. After Juan dropping out, they recruited Patrick Juarez.
“[Patrick] and his brother would go to all of our shows and he would show me that he knows our songs,” says Vargas.
“He was a quick learner. He was doing all that shit when he was sixteen,” says Corona.
They got their start playing live at backyard shows all around El Monte. Their first show as at an open mic night at a church. Eventually, through mutual friends, they would end up playing in the IE scene with bands like the Beach Bums and The Cozzmos. They slowly built their fan base eventually playing the eclectic Tropicalia Festival late last year at the Queen Mary in Long Beach alongside headliners Chicano Batman, Kali Uchis, and Los Tigres Del Norte.
After the interview as we walk out the door, a young teenager recognizes them and asks “are you guys the Red Pears?” They say yes and the young fan asks for a picture. He hands me his phone and I take it.
The Red Pears perform at The Constellation Room tomorrow June 21, 8 p.m., $8, all ages. For full info click here.
I like to stare at my computer. Occasionally I type words to pass the time. Those words are usually about music.