Sweet Sweet Music spoke to The Krayolas’ Hector Saldana about wearing lime-green spacesuits, aiming really high, causing a near-riot at the old Goree Unit women’s prison and, of course, about the great new record “Savage Young Krayolas”.
The band is known as the Tex-Mex Beatles. The Chicano garage rockers have garnered flattering comparisons to the Fab Four, Bob Dylan, the Who, Nick Lowe, and Warren Zevon.
What was the moment you knew you were on to something?
When I told the guys back in 1975 that we were going to be called The Krayolas. And they were, like, ugh. No way. Their reaction was so visceral. I thought Krayolas sounded like a band. I figured people would either love it or hate it but that they would never forget it. I was 18 and probably out-voted. But the name stuck.
How did this record come together?
“Savage Young Krayolas” began in Fall 2019 with the death of Barry Smith, one of our core members who played electric bass, organ, sang, and wrote songs. It was unexpected and Mighty Manfred of the Woggles paid tribute to him on his show on “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” on Sirius XM.
I was looking for photos for the memorial and came across a two-inch analog multi-track tape that The Krayolas has recorded at Trinity University in San Antonio in February 1980. It was for a TV show and never officially released. It reminded me that for a brief window the Krayolas were a powerpop/garage rock trio and we would perform in these custom-made, lime-green spacesuits.
It struck me that Trinity means three; and also that the unreleased spacesuit sessions are the only straight-up guitar-bass-and-drums recording that captured that youthful period. The first four songs are from those sessions. I’m 22 on Side 1; 19 and 20 mostly on Side 2. That’s Barry on the album cover.
The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?
I would love it if a whole new generation of powerpop and rock fans would discover it. But in truth, the success is really in making it available for discovery — to give it new life — and for the audio to sound balanced, fresh, and really rock like it sounded when we played it. There”s a whole lotta love on that record.
As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?
When I was young, I was very shy about it. I still remember writing “Rhymes of Tomorrow” in my high school notebook but not feeling I could show anybody. I’ve written some songs — even happy ones — in absolute tears. “Sunny Day,” “Alex,” “Christmas With My Dad,” and “Times Together” were like that. But emotion is a two-way street and it’s amazing what some fans have told me about my songs, hidden meanings, and inspiration. It’s really about joy and honesty and emotional and physical release.
When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?
Songwriters are pretty cocky. But a little over a year ago with “Christmas With My Dad” and the super powerpop “Baby I Was Wrong.” Those felt like hits. There’s an energy to a true hit like “Catherine” and “Fruteria (The Fruit Cup Song),” “We the People” “Cry Cry, Laugh Laugh” and “Corrido Twelve Heads in a Bag.” But it’s unpredictable. I may not be the best judge. I thought “The Murder at the Taco Land” could be a hit. But my tastes run from downer to cheeky.
Recording music. What’s all the fun about?
Probably getting into a bloody argument with my brother. It can get pretty volatile. Trying to harness that energy is pretty fun.
What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?
There are a couple. Causing a near riot at the old Goree Unit women’s prison in Huntsville when we jumped off the stage to do the gator dance comes to mind. We were swarmed and the power was cut off. There’s also the time we played with Rockpile at legendary Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa before Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe and Billy and Terry were using the name. We performed in caveman outfits and Dave Edmunds showed me how to play “Yesterday” the way that Paul McCartney taught him to play it. I’ll also never forget singing the Kinks song “Who’ll Be the Next in Line” at the Doug Sahm tribute concert at the Paramount Theater in Austin on the big closing all-star night of SXSW 2015.
You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?
Only that those early records were made really fast and pure. We were complete novices, albeit with confidence. Everything was a couple of takes, max. We were aiming really high and wanted to make records like our heroes. And we were always disappointed that we could only sound like The Krayolas. But that’s OK. We still make our records fast. I like to sing and play at the same time. In the early days, it was joyous mayhem done on a wing and a prayer.
You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?
I’m the chief songwriter for the Krayolas but it would be fun to collaborate with Megan Thee Stallion and Taylor Swift, to see how those young artists do it. That’s a different stratosphere. It would be a dream to collaborate with Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Fiona Apple, or Brian Wilson. It’s like “Wayne’s World.” I’m not worthy.
They expect ‘the roaring 20s v2.0’. What kind of party are you looking for?
After the pandemic, it’s going to be the Roaring ’20s. We’ll be playing “Savage Young Krayolas” songs and “Happy Go Lucky” songs for that pent-up audience.
Here’s a classic performance.