RJ Frometa

1) Vents is extremely honored to be speaking today with storied and nigh legendary Latin musical artists Rhythm Tribe; Brisa, Mason, Thomas and Esau thank you for a little of your time today! Before we dive down the proverbial rabbit hole, how has 2021 been treating all of you?

First, I think it better to be nigh than never. With that said, this year has been loaded with surprises. A real blessing.

2) Major congratulations on all of your recent and phenomenal success with the new single Goodnight! Brisa, as lead vocalist for Rhythm Tribe, have you been surprised about how quickly this little gem has resounded for audiences everywhere?

It has definitely been an amazing start to our journey. I honestly just feel so proud of my brother, Mason, who wrote and sang the lead of Goodnight. He had only started getting the confidence to sing within the last few years and the way he has been devoted and has become so open with his creative expression, he is definitely one of my biggest motivators and best friends… who just happens to be my brother. Even when we were in the studio recording this song and our other new release Make It Clear, we just helped each other stay so calm and even though we would get stressed out, we just reminded each other that it doesn’t have to be as serious as we make it. To remember that we were just there to express ourselves and tell our stories… and it just so happens to be recorded. lol. But in all seriousness, Mason handled his first experience of being in the booth, making his first song like a monk. Personally, I stressed out in my first recording session, but I have anxiety so there’s that. But when it comes to Mason, he has a way of just keeping the peace about things. I think that’s why this song resonates with so many people. Especially with everything that has been happening, people who have lost loved ones need music to heal. This song gives listeners a positive perspective on how to deal with that loss. It is medicine for a wounded soul.

3) Thomas, music has been part and parcel of your family reaching all the way back to 1915. How does it feel for you as not only an accomplished bass player for Rhythm Tribe, but also as the patriarch for your musical family to receive such validation from the public and critics for your latest work?

I actually played guitar on the past two albums. I did add the bass on all of the Next Level Album. This project was always about the different use of guitars within the music. Learning about my Grandfather, Rafael Sanchez, legendary cuartista/guitarist from 1915, to my father Rafael Guzman-Sanchez, guitarist from 1949, has helped me celebrate our family’s over 100 year musical legacy that started in Corozal, Puerto Rico. Becoming a recording artist in 1982, then performing in films like Salsa and Back Draft, allowed me to learn a lot about the entertainment industry. In 1988, I recorded the song Forever Mine (ZOO/BMG) with my dad, Rafael Guzman-Sanchez, a year before he passed away. I remember him sitting across from me as we played a Guaracha rhythm together. He looked at me like never before. I didn’t understand why he had that look in his eyes. It wasn’t until I had the first recording session with my kids and we were all tracking live in the studio that a chill came over me as I heard them in the headphones for the first time. Its like we were communicating on a whole new level. My heart was filled with so much love and happiness. The memory of my dad came into my mind, and I finally understood what he felt that day. So now, every time I am blessed to create with my kids, it is like my dad is there with us. It is something I tried to capture in our film short Todo Eso, which is up for a Grammy in the “Music Film” category, and is now in the Tribeca film festival.

4) Mason, what was the genesis of Goodnight as a song? How did it come into being?

A very dear friend of mine had been going through a very difficult time in her life. She had lost her dad to cancer a couple years ago and her mental health had taken a rather dark turn. She was dealing with night terrors to the point that she was unable to sleep and it was difficult to watch her go through it. So, the thought of a lullaby came to mind. Something to soothe her, ease her mind, and try to help her relax. I was inspired by meditative styles of music. It was the calming, somewhat haunting, and almost hypnotic vibe that really stood out to me, and I really wanted to have that essence within this song. Eventually, my dad and I worked together to come up with the chord structure that fit this melody that came to mind, and Esau came up with a Bachata/Bolero beat for the song. After we began recording the song, I played it for my friend. She smiled and started to cry, and at that point I knew we had made something that could really help.

5) Thomas, who produced Goodnight and what did that collaboration look like?

“Goodnight” was produced by me, but the contribution of Kyle Hoffmann our engineer was huge. Together we were able to be the guide to the recording. We recorded at both NRG in N. Hollywood and Barbershop Recording Studio in Northridge. The music on this album is a one pass, recorded together as a live performance. Mason’s final lead vocal was done as an overdub. This older style of recording made the production very quick but the performance can be felt based on the group actually playing together.. Esau, many people – including myself – feel that the glue that holds a band together is the backbeat, i.e. the drums.


6) Your playing is so unique and distinctive. Who inspired your particular artistry on the drums?

Spanish: Es una buena pregunta. Mmm en la actualidad la complejidad de Antonio Sánchez me inspira mucho como también Giovanni Hidalgo , Tiki Pasillas etc. En realidad la lista es grande, debo aclara que todos ellos son mi inspiración pero también mi frustración lol. Los admiro mucho.

English: It is a good question. Mmm at present the complexity of Antonio Sánchez inspires me a lot as well, as Giovanni Hidalgo, Tiki Pasillas, etc. In reality the list is large, I must clarify that all of them are my inspiration but also my frustration lol. I admire them a lot

7) Brisa, they say that the family that plays together stays together. From a very early age were you and your family just automatically enrolled in the band, so to speak?

In all honesty we weren’t. But live music, especially salsa music was always being played in every family setting we were in. I can remember growing up, going to family functions at my Tia’s house and the moment we stepped in the doors my uncle would be on the congas and my dad would pick up a guitar and they would jam for hours, and it just made the entire room move. Soon enough the living room floors would be filled with everyone young and old dancing. It was almost like the problems we were dealing with outside of wherever the music was would go away and we would simply enjoy each others creativity. That memory is what I feel now every time I play or sing with them. I had always sang in choir or in my room to myself with my trusty hairbrush microphone, but not until a few years ago did my dad ask everyone to join in on this project. At first I thought it was just for fun. I was still in school working on my degree, and being a student athlete at the same time, so it was definitely one of the most stressful times to take something like this on a more serious level. But because it was with my family, they made me feel like it was possible as long as I didn’t give up. And instead of having anxiety over the situation, which I feared I would have, I felt as if we are still just in the living room enjoying each-others’ time. And I feel that is what we want others to feel when they see us perform or hear our music, comfortable and free to express themselves.

8) Thomas, what in your mind distinguishes Rhythm Tribe from everyone else on the block?

It is our own style and approach to Latin hybrid music, which we call “Acid Latin”. It takes the band to a new level never touched by anyone. This hybrid combines a style of Guaracha (created by my father Rafael Guzman-Sanchez), Bolero, Bachata, Mambo, Reggaeton, Funk, Bomba Sica, Tumbao and other Puerto Rican rhythms and then infuse Pop and R&B types of songs to come up with a very unique hybrid that is Rhythm Tribe.

9) Esau, I’ve written four books about Ritchie Valens and his first and only tour, so I’m curious how artists such as Ritchie and Carlos Santana that have pushed the Latin sound in the rock and roll market has informed Rhythm Tribe’s musical styling’s; are other Latino artists counted as an influence in the music of Rhythm Tribe?

Spanish: Ver a otros latinos tener éxito y seguir sus sueños es la única conexión con esos artistas. Creo que todo lo que uno escucha, ve o siente es información que tarde o temprano tiene algún efecto en tu manera de tocar, pensar, sentir, crear o interpretar inconscientemente. Toma efecto todo lo vivido, pero lo que más me gusta de Rhythm Tribe es todo corazón, libertad musical, honestidad. Tocamos, creamos música con el corazón y mucha honestidad obviamente nos une una misma cultura musical. Mil Gracias por tu interés a nuestra cultura musical y muchas felicidades por tus libros. 

English: To see other Latinos be successful and follow their dreams is the only connection with those artists. I think that everything that one hears, sees or feels is information that sooner or later has some effect on the way you play, think, feel, create or perform unconsciously. Everything that you have experienced takes effect, but what I like the most about Rhythm Tribe is all the heart, musical freedom, and honesty that we play. Also, our musical culture obviously unites us. Thank you very much for your interest in our musical culture and congratulations on your books.

8) Mason, is it fair to say that the album Generations is a sort of culmination – at least up to late 2018 – of what Rhythm Tribe is about and the music that you create?

Rather than a culmination of what we’re about, I would say it’s more of a beginning. Generations acted as more of the starting line for our group, and allowed us to really ponder, ”What type of music can we create?” We’ve found that with our Acid Latin style, we can incorporate so many different colors and sounds to mix into our music. With Generations, we utilized, in a sense, the sounds of multiple generations of our musical heritage. Now with our latest album, Next Level continued to expand on those concepts, and grow into our own sounds. In my opinion, Latin isn’t something that can be easily categorized. It can stretch and mold into so many different styles that the musical concepts are limitless. And now, being able to compete in the Grammys, I really hope that we have even more opportunities to introduce the world to our of music.

9) How has Rhythm Tribe been navigating the recent pandemic? Has it hit into your touring and performance work at all?

This pandemic really stopped a momentum that the group had coming out of 2019 with a single at #28 on the Billboard chart. It was heart breaking to have to cancel tours or live show opportunities. We took the lockdown in stride and decided to work on the music. The group performed in a live streaming concert with viewers from all over the world. This is how we got ready for the studio. Mason and Brisa both caught Covid in July, but fortunately only had mild symptoms along with the loss of their sense of smell. My wife and I stayed masked up and never got sick. After they recovered, we went into the studio and continued recording.

10) I’m curious Thomas, with the Guzman-Sanchez family so ingrained into the LA DNA, can fans expect to see a thorough documentary (perhaps intermingled with footage from your concerts) on the history of your family’s musical journey?

We have a feature documentary in production called The Start of a New Sound, that we have been building for the past few years. It is a Deep Tone Water Bubble production and follows the development of the group and the Acid Latin sound. I hope to have it ready in late 2022.

11) When can fans look for an album follow-up to Generations? Are there plans afoot for such a project?

Our first album Generations was released in October 2018. We started our second album during the pandemic and in October 2021 released Next Level . So far, two videos have been released, Goodnight and Make It Clear. This new project has been entered into the Grammy competition, in four categories. Best Video – Make It Clear, Best Song – Movin On, Best Music Film – Todo Eso and Best New Group.


 12) Closing this out Brisa, do you have any final words to all of the fans of Rhythm Tribe that are probably some of the most loyal and enthusiastic that I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing?

I think I can speak for the entire group in saying that we thank you and love y’all so much. We really hope that our music has helped in some way in your life. Whether you dance, cry, laugh, drink or love to our music… we are honored to be a part of your world. Personally, I want to thank everyone who has listened to these songs of ours. These words were from my heart, and it has helped me heal. It has helped all of us heal and I hope they help you too. And just remember that as long as you believe in yourself, you can do anything.