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3LH’s Fast, Catchy, and Danceable Latinx Surf Rock Is Here to Defy Stereotypes

Welcome to Taco de Sonido, our new monthly music column presented by Tecate, the official beer of L.A. TACO. Each month we'll bring you the latest up-and-coming artists that are staking a claim to the new sound of Los Ángeles. Read, listen,  share, and don't be afraid to share your comments or suggestions for new artists for us to check out. We've got our ears on the street but we want to hear from YOU.

[dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]or 3LH, the bond that was forged in middle school playing “Rock Band” is unbreakable. The year was 2010. The vuvuzelas’ sounds from the World Cup were roaring, and it was the start of a new decade.

Rafa Heredia and Kevin Carranza would kick it after school. Hailing from Garden Grove borderline Westminster hoods, the friends would regularly meet up and play the video game Rock Band for hours. Little did they know then that the longtime friends would go on to form their real-life band, 3LH.

From using toy instruments to playing the real things, the band is fueled by their punk rock ambitions with dreams of playing real-life sold-out crowds. In 2011, those dreams would come true with the friends taking the stage at the famed all-ages venue in Orange County, the Chain Reaction in Anaheim.

One of their first breakout hits was their three-cord punk cover of La Bamba. A song with folkloric roots originating in Veracruz dates back to the 1900s before it was made famous by Pacioma’s own Richie Valens. Continuing in Valens’ mission, they hope to keep bridging the gap between Mexican and American culture through 1950s-style rock n’ roll.

In high school, their current line-up solidified with Heredia on guitar and vocals, Carranza on drums and adding bass player, Favian Vega, and some years later adding guitar player-sometimes-keyboardist, Johnny Villanueva in 2019. They came up with the name Three Legged Horse. An ode to Heredia’s western roots, which he describes as always having an affinity towards music with twangy guitar sounds to even his father being a bullfighter in the 90s and currently owns a ranch in Perris, CA. According to Heredia, the group decided to shorten it to 3LH since the latter would always look awkward on flyers.

At that time, the group nurtured themselves on a steady diet of early punk and pop-punk with Green Day and Operation Ivy. “We kind of started backward with music,” says Heredia. The band traced back the musical lineage of pop-punk and ska, which led the group to The Ramones. The iconic punk band was known for covering their share of popular songs from the 50s and 60s. However, 3LH wanted to dig deeper, regularly seeking out the original versions of those covers, finding obscure 45s that ripped to YouTube videos. The band would strike their inspiration gold mine: esoteric sounds from different music styles that they weren't familiar with but would help inform their brand of rock and roll.

Those deep Youtube videos combined with the Latinx skacore they stumbled upon after realizing that two of their teachers at Bolsa Garden High School were members of ska bands at the time, became the fundamental building blocks of 3LH’s sound. “[Their high school teachers] bridged the way for us,” Heredia recalls. Both their English and Spanish teachers were members of local acts HB Surround Sound and Sistema Praxis; a perfect amalgamation of retro beachy surf vibes meets Latinx skacore.

From there, 3LH sought to create their brand of music, containing equal parts raw, intense punk rock but still catchy enough to dance to. The band cut their teeth on a slew of live shows at places like the Observatory in Anaheim. Heredia recalls one early occurrence of being snuck into a Dead Kennedys show by his English teacher backstage. The formative experience would prove to be another strong influence on 3LH, specifically the heavily distorted cow punk-inspired licks from founding member East Bay Ray of the Kennedys.

“It’s kinda like a barrier. Right off the bat, bands look at us differently because we are darker, but we’re still playing the same music, and we are probably more badass than they are!”

Heredia recalls hearing Dead Kennedys’ cover of the classic Viva Las Vegas. He didn’t know that the tune was originally credited to Elvis Presley, an artist that Heredia admits that he wasn’t familiar with before hearing the cover. That opened up the stylistic flood gates further for the group unearthing a greaser rockabilly lifestyle. For 3LH, it wasn’t merely just the music, but also the look and feel that connote visuals of greased back pompadours and horned rim glasses. “It all segued into having that retro vibe but still have the raw energy. The vintage aesthetic brings it all together,” Heredia says.

3LH’s maturing musical interests came into play as well, such as funk, oldies rock n’ roll, and indie. These musical liberties allowed them to expand their knowledge of all forms of genres. “It becomes a melting pot of ideas, that became the sound of the 3LH,” Heredia says—having released a steady stream of singles since 2017 with the group putting the finishing touches on their first album, which they hope to release later this year.

Being known as a Latinx band that plays rock n’ roll, a style of music historically and currently played by majority-white musicians in Orange County, was a label that the band didn’t set out to be identified by. However, when the group would show up to play shows, they realized that the rest of the musicians on the bill would look at them differently.

“It’s kinda like a barrier. Right off the bat, bands look at us differently because we are darker, but we’re still playing the same music, and we are probably more badass than they are!” Heredia tells L.A. Taco.

“We aren’t just surf punk...”

Despite their heavy rocking sound moving at 1,000 miles per hour, the past year has allowed the band to slow things down. During the pandemic, Heredia and his bandmates passed the time hunting down and collecting old 45 records and putting together DJ sets for each other as part of socially distanced hangs. Drawn to the esoteric guitar parts and songwriting cues, the band has recently enjoyed fuzzy downbeat blues and 60s pop songs. Heredia cites artists like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Paul Anka, specifically “Uh-Huh” from 1963, as being particularly impactful. “That’s a badass tune,” Heredia says.

“It’s a simple look and style, and everything compliments each other. I find so much beauty in that,” says Heredia when asked how that band is able to make the connection between the music of the past along with their current influences to create their signature sound.

In their song “Lonely Hearts,” released in 2018, the band manages to embody those connections, both old and new, perfectly. The song opens with a sunshiny guitar riff before launching into a heavy faster crescendo as Heredia’s vocals pour his heart out, howling like a wolf in the night. In a similar vein is the band’s cover of Misfits "Saturday Night." An interesting choice given it comes from the band’s post- Danzig catalog. Another stylistic decision that makes sense for 3LH, who seem to make their own paths to tradition.

“We aren’t just surf punk,” says Heredia.

Although this past year has been a tough one for the band whose appeal relies so much on their live shows, Heredia knows it for the best to ensure a happy and healthy future for their fan base. “It’s okay that we aren’t going a thousand miles per hour.” The band is using this time to reevaluate what they want to do in the future.

“People resonate with our shows. When we play, we prefer not for people not just stand there and stare...”

In terms of what that future might look like, the band hopes to keep expanding their sound and branch out, not feeling beholden to any label or genres but rather catching the next wave into whatever greatness they find themselves to be a part of.

On their most recent single, Memory, which tackles the subject matter of attempting to find amends with a past lover. The song serves as a pitch-perfect anthem for a group that seems to toe the line between the past and the present.

3LH as a band hopes to continue to pick up where they left off by showcasing their talent through the raucous live performances they become known for.

“People resonate with our shows. When we play, we prefer not for people not just stand there and stare,” Heredia says. He hopes people want to come and experience 3LH firsthand, either through their records or one of their live shows, to experience what they have to offer.

“It’s an ongoing energy where everything ties together,” says Heredia.

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