SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - Fat Tuesday may be fading into a hazy memory, but there'll be plenty of voodoo in South Lake Tahoe as Voodoo Glow Skulls play Whiskey Dick's Saloon Saturday night.
VGS is Frank Casillas (lead vocals), Eddie Casillas (guitar), Jorge Casillas (bass), Mark Bush (trumpet), Dan Albert (trombone) and Vince Sollecito (drums).
The Casillas brothers formed Voodoo Glow Skulls in 1988, after teaching themselves to play a variety of instruments as youths. They practiced by jamming along with records, first from their parents' extensive vinyl collection and later their own rock and metal albums.
"Our parents never really pushed us on music, it just kind of happened," vocalist Frank Casillas said. "Instead of sports we were mostly into learning how to play accordion, clarinet, guitar, you know, teaching ourselves to play drums."
While the budding musicians listened to and enjoyed their father's Latin music albums, they connected much more strongly with the burgeoning hard rock and metal scene of the late 1980s.
"We were more into playing along with all our hard rock, our heavy metal records," Casillas said.
This musical background led Voodoo Glow Skulls to develop a sound all its own, infusing American ska-punk and rock with distinctive Latin flavors.
"Ska music, the rhythms and everything are very similar to Latin music, you know?" Casillas said. "I can understand how it would be appealing to Latin people."
The singer credited Los Angeles as the birthplace of this type of music, but says it has grown into a considerable underground music scene spread around the country.
"Anywhere else, it exists in some of the bigger cities like Chicago, other places where there's a big Latin population," Casillas said. "In L.A. it exists in a big way. You know, there's Latin influences everywhere in L.A."
Over 25 years playing music, VGS has experienced sweeping changes in the industry, especially the transition to digital technology.
"It does make it difficult for bands like us that survive, literally survive off the live show, off record sales and the fan base," Casillas said. "Before you know, people would go to a record store, I mean I was one of them, I would sit in a record store for hours looking at album covers and checking out the whole package. That would sell the record a lot of the time, you know? Now you don't really get that anymore."
The technological growth of the music industry has also allowed bands to better manage their own recording process, a fact that Casillas and his band mates appreciate.
"We do a lot of our stuff ourselves now, we record our own albums now," Casillas said. "Fifteen years ago we were paying top dollar for big name producers to do stuff like that for us. Now we're capable of doing albums on our own, in our own backyard.
"Before on record labels, you're dealing with budgets, you gotta recoup money and this and that. There's more pressure, you got to put an album out at a certain time and now we have no deadlines, we do what we want when we want it as far as the music goes. Now bands can do it themselves, especially if you've got a built in fan base and a history like us, it makes things quite easy. You just got to be on top of it."
Now, VGS is preparing to head out on the road after something of a relaxing year.
"We've pretty much been on chill mode for a year or so," Casillas laughed.
The band will tour around the United States in the coming months, and head to Australia for a two-week tour in March.
VGS is also preparing to get back in the studio to work on their next project. The members are working on material for a new album.
"Oh man, we're not even in the recording process right now, we're just in the creative process," Casillas said. "It usually starts off with my brother the guitarist and my other brother Jorge, the bass player, they'll come up with riffs or ideas. After a certain point, I mean everybody in the band is a pretty well-accomplished musician to where everybody kind of jumps in and throws in their little thing. If it works, it's obvious and we use it. A lot of times, if it doesn't, we'll just scrap it and go with another idea."