According to the National Census Bureau, most American marriages last an average of eight years. And being in a band is a lot like being married, as anyone who's spent a measurable amount of time stuffed in the back of a dirty van between their sleep-and-hygiene-deprived bandmates will tell you. So it's nothing short of miraculous for a band to stay together for a staggering 41 years. Which is exactly what Los Lobos, who will play the Bearsville Theater on March 4, have done—with transcendent, always interesting results.
"Yeah, it really is kind of amazing [for a band to have lasted so long]," says saxophonist Steve Berlin, a "junior" member of the group, having joined its ranks a mere 31 years ago. "But we don't really think all that much about 'building a legacy' or whatever when we're playing or making records. We just kinda plow forward and do what we do."
Los Lobos have been doing what they do—which is make enduring music that combines rock, blues, Tex-Mex, country, R&B, Mexican and Central American folk, and pop, soul, and jazz with an emphasis on great songs—since 1973. Formed by singer and guitarist David Hidalgo and drummer Louie Perez as Los Lobos del Este—"The Wolves of the East," a play on both their East Los Angeles roots and the name of influential norteno act Los Lobos del Norte ("The Wolves of the North")—the group quickly grew to include two of Hidalgo and Perez's high school friends, singer and guitarist Cesar Rosas and bassist Conrad Lozano. Soon after self-releasing 1978's acoustic, folkloric-based Just Another Band from East L.A., the foursome shortened their name and found a receptive outside audience in the LA punk scene, which is where Berlin, then playing with the Blasters and the Flesh Eaters, first encountered them.
"[The band] had been working totally off the radar from the rest of us, creating their own style on the other side of the river," recounts Berlin. "What struck me most was that they had not just one but two great singers in David and Cesar." The sax man joined Los Lobos during the recording of 1983's major indie debut EP, ...And a Time to Dance; next came 1984's critically acclaimed How Will the Wolf Survive? (both Slash Records), followed by their number one hit version of "La Bamba" from the 1987 Ritchie Valens biopic of the same name. Although their Top 10 stardom proved fleeting, Los Lobos have remained unfaltering, touring with the likes of Bob Dylan, U2, and Neil Young, drawing consistently at large clubs and theaters, and steadily waxing richly rewarding albums like 1990's The Neighborhood, 1992's Kiko (for many, the band's breakthrough masterpiece), and 1996's underrated avant-rock stunner, Colossal Head (all Warner Bros.). The group's newest outing is 2013's live acoustic Disconnected in New York City (429 Records).
"We're definitely lucky to still be able to do what we want to do after all this time," says Berlin, who explains that the quintet's current tour revisits all eras of their four-plus decades. "If anyone says we're blessed, I completely agree."
Los Lobos will perform at the Bearsville Theater on March 4 at 7pm. Tickets are $40, $55, $65, and $75. (845) 679-4406; Bearsvilletheater.com.