The best punk bands have always been the most honest and uncompromising, sharing their frustration, disappointment and all manner of discontentment. This is the foundation the Vulturas were built on. The band formed last year, just as Fullerton-based tattoo artist and current front man Louie Perez III was considering taking a step away from music.
In early 2018, Perez had been asked by local legend Steve Soto to join the Chicano punk-rock supergroup Manic Hispanic. But after Soto unexpectedly passed away that June, Perez found himself feeling lost and disheartened. “He was my fellow band member and also a really good friend,” Perez says. “So I was in a little bit of a tailspin, I guess.”
However, a friend with some serious punk cred then recruited Perez for a new project. Rob Milucky, who’s best known for his time with seminal OC acts the Pushers and the Grabbers, had been writing songs and was looking for the perfect vocalist to front his new band. “He was like, ‘Hey, you should try singing on a couple of these songs for me,’” Perez recalls. “‘I know you’re kind of bummed right now; maybe it’ll get your head in the game or get you distracted.’”
The two soon got to work. “I think I laid down seven songs in one day and three songs the next day [in the studio]. And we had a record,” Perez says with a laugh. The Vulturas’ self-titled debut was released earlier this year via Huntington Beach label Hostage Records. With an in-your-face attitude and searing power-chord guitar riffs to match, the album showcases a sense of urgency that a lot of contemporary punk bands lack. In 10 relentless tracks, the band harken back to that classic OC punk sound while also providing some poignant, sneering commentary on today’s society. “It’s the perfect time to be pissed,” says Perez. “It doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, everybody’s pissed. And whether it’s social media or if you’re watching anything on the news or Cambridge Analytica, etc., etc., it’s just a big game of pitting sides against one another.”
The Vulturas isn’t so much a political album as it is a social commentary. “I think politics is a small-minded term nowadays,” Perez says. “I think we’re all just very unhappy as a society.” Perez forces listeners to face this reality, as his voice switches between a sarcastic drawl and a furious scream, often within the same breath.
His consciousness-piercing songs bear a clear resemblance to those of his father, Louie Perez II, one of the primary songwriters for Los Lobos. Of course, the younger Perez has his own distinctive style, as tongue-in-check lyrics such as “Three cheers for self-destruction/I hope you get a thousand likes” say a lot more about our society than any basic “Fuck Trump” tune does.
In fact, social media is a common thread throughout the album. The Vulturas hold a mirror up to our current state, showing us how addicted we are to the validation we receive over the internet. “I could pontificate on how much I loathe and yet require the drug of social media,” Perez says. “It’s infiltrated every facet of our lives. And I think that it’s so volatile; it’s like cocaine was in the ’80s, when your parents did it in the backroom, but they figured out a way to master it [so] it’s okay for everyone to do it. Everybody fixes for the dopamine, and it’s become this huge fuckin’ pissing contest.”
The album has already sold well, especially considering Hostage Records’ primary focus is on vinyl. The limited-edition version of The Vulturas that was available online sold out in 52 seconds, and Hostage has already started pressing more copies.
The band will soon head out on tour with UXB, which includes members of U.S. Bombs and the Aggrolites, and they’re already working on new material.
For now, only three tracks from their album can be streamed or downloaded online. “When this record starts to get out and hit more people physically, I guess we’ll start putting it online,” Perez says. “We’re just holding out so that people can experience it on vinyl because it kicks on vinyl. [Then] once it’s been out for a few months or whatever, we’ll start to consider what we’ll do with the next batch of songs.”
Until then, you’ll have to catch the Vulturas live or pick up a copy of their album from your local record store—which is perhaps their way of telling you to get off your phone and actually experience music.