PoChiMex’s members are young but seasoned guys who’ve been playing with San Antonio-area bands, including the best of the best, since they were in their teens. In 2005 they got together and began gigging frequently across South Texas, specializing in crowd-pleasing cumbias and rancheras.
Soon they headed into the studios to record a CD – the kind of album that dream teams often put together – one where they trade licks, show off a little bit, and make sure there’s some radio-friendly hits. But then they stepped back and realized they had something more in them. Why play it safe and follow the mold when the band’s very name (Pocho/Chicano/Mexicano, with pocho a not-too-polite Spanish term for Mexican-American) suggests a concept rooted in bicultural reality?
So they took the bold step of scrapping that already-completed album in favor of one that communicates what life, PoChiMex style, really is. After all, legendary Tejano artists such as The Royal Jesters and Little Joe had made a name for themselves by addressing social issues. PoChiMex realized it was time to reclaim that tradition in La Onda, a tradition that has been set aside for too long.
And so the concept for PoChiMex’s debut album Somos Iguales was born. The band approached noted San Antonio songwriter and producer Arturo Hernández. He’d already penned, with Frank Villarreal, Jr., the socially conscious “Pobre Juan,” a song about the punishing toll of migrants’ physical labor. PoChiMex wasted no time in recording the song, and asked Hernández to write some more material for the project.
As it turns out, his songs were so good, and the concept so strong, that all the songs on Somos Iguales ended up being from Hernández.
Other standouts include “Qué Bonito Sueño,” a cumbia that imagines what Mexico (a country with 10 billionaires, including the world’s third-richest person) would be like if all of its people had a chance to share in the country’s vast wealth. “Por Qué Dejé a México?” is a wistful, rhythmic ballad about an immigrant who wishes he could return to the unhurried life of his youth. And “Otra Historia” is an unapologetic corrido about cross-border family-reunification, Vato Loco-style. All in all, an impressive and very out-of-the-ordinary debut album from these five talented guys.
So here’s PoChiMex, debuting with a concept album. It’s one of the boldest moves that La Onda has seen in a long time. But even though they’re going out on a limb, PoChiMex realizes that they’re tapping into things that their fans and their community have been talking about for a long time. And of course, PoChiMex is doing it with all the enthusiasm, verve, and musical excellence they’ve shown throughout their career.
PoChiMex is: Roy Balderas, lead vocals and sax; Pete Bustamante, guitar, bajo quinto and harmony vocals; Joey Sánchez, drums and percussion; Guillermo Rodríguez, electric bass and backing vocals; Gabriel Gil, keyboards and accordion.