A Special Preface:
After we first heard the very catchy song, "Where Did You Go?," back in 2016, we immediately fell in love with The Last Banoleros' music. But after interacting with them alongside other fans over the next five years, we have discovered something even more important. We now know that these men are not only talented and gifted musicians, singers and songwriters, they are also very nice, creative and funny people, as well. Through concerts, both in person and virtual, and through "Around a Neon Cactus" and their "virtual interaction video segments" each week, we have happily discovered that they are much more than just talented musicians in a very talented band. They have also become, maybe even somewhat unwittingly, a form of "lifeline" during this damn pandemic of 2020. Through their beautiful music and their kind, genuine interaction with one another and with their fans, they have become much more to Maria and me, and dare I say, to thousands of others. Now, Maria and I also love this band and its individual members, Diego Navaira, Emilio Navaira, Jerry Fuentes, and Derek James as people, too.
Although Maria and I are not directly or officially affiliated with the band or any of its members, at this time, through their aforementioned kindness that they have so freely offered to us all over the past five years, especially during 2020, these very kind men have given us all something to look forward to each week. As a way of offering our own personal gratitude to Diego, Emilio, Jerry and Derek (and of course... Percy) in out own small way, we have created "The Bandos Tribute Page" for just that reason - a tribute page dedicated to the music, the fans and the band known as, The Last Bandoleros. Over time, I hope to add more and more features to this site that will allow us all to fully enjoy and appreciate this band, its members and its music.~
Members Jerry Fuentes, Emilio Navaira IV, and Diego Navaira were born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and Derek James is from New York. Fuentes met James when he moved from San Antonio to New York a few years prior to the forming of the band. Fuentes met the Navaira brothers on a trip home to San Antonio and introduced the brothers to James shortly after. Following those introductions, the four men began performing live together after a writing session that went particularly well.
The band members cite numerous musical influences, primarily The Beatles, Brit-pop, country blues, rock and roll and Tex-Mex. With harmonies that call to mind Ed Sullivan-era Beatles and a raucous performing style, the Last Bandoleros made their late-night TV debut on July 18, 2016 on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." One of Rolling Stone Country's Artists You Need to Know, the Tex-Mex-influenced group turned in a raucous "Where Do You Go?," their first single, and "I Don't Want to Know." The Last Bandoleros represent the latest example of country's band resurgence. But while other groups are exploring drum loops and pop-heavy beats, the Bandoleros lean heavily on an organic border sound and Fab Four harmonies. They have more in common with the Mavericks than, say, Old Dominion, which James admitted to Rolling Stone Country in May.
"It feels like country music is experiencing a broadening of its borders, which is exciting for us because we know we're not a down-the-middle country band. We have a lot of flavors," says James. "As important as our musical tastes are, it's equally important to like the people you're making music with. We're coming from a place of mutual admiration, and that was the key for us as a group. "They share a management company with Sting, and as a result, they joined him on his 57th & 9th Tour in 2017 along with Sting's son, Joe Sumner. They are also featured on the track 'Next to You' on the album '57th & 9th' as well as on the tour DVD.
Really, the Bandoleros are first and foremost a rock band - one that even jokes about how much they look the part. When someone mentions Emilio's MTV Unplugged-era hairdo, calling him "Emilio Cobain," he corrects them: "It's Kurt Navaira. That last name is too strong to be left out." It's hard to disagree. During the heyday of Tejano in the '90s, only Selena was a bigger Tejano solo act than Emilio Navaira. And not only did he cross over to country music, but he loved the Beatles, Eagles, ZZ Top, Nirvana and all the great music from the '60s and '70s, instilling that passion and musical open-mindedness to his kids from an early age.
"Emilio knew how good they were, he was very proud of them," said Joe Reyes (of Buttercup and Demitasse), who has known and played with the brothers and Fuentes since they were young teenagers (Diego, Emilio IV and Reyes covered the Beatles on several gigs, and the brothers are featured on Buttercup's upcoming Spring album). "Emilio told me the story of how he took them out of school to take them to see A Hard Day's Night at the Bijou, and that's when everything changed for them. When they left the theater, they were stunned, just like me after I saw Help! on TV."
Dad's inspiration helped, but the Navaira brothers were born with a special talent: It seems they truly can hear, write, sing and play better than most musicians their age. "They stole my job from Studio M!" jokes Reyes, who learned how to produce records from Studio M's Mike and Ronnie Morales in the late '80s. "As I became busier with my own stuff, [Fuentes and the Navairas] took over all the guitar production I was doing, and they were great."
So, the Navairas kept playing and playing until they formed Ready Revolution, a pop-rock band. Enter Jerry Fuentes, an SA native who released his first album while still a young teen and, like Reyes and the Navairas, was a protege of Mike Morales. Eventually, Fuentes moved to Brooklyn and met Derek James, and the two became friends and roommates. They set up a studio in their basement and Fuentes would regularly come back to SA and continue writing. It was Ron Morales who suggested Fuentes meet the brothers. "They were all like, 'You have to meet these two brothers, they came in after you left and they're amazing!'" Fuentes remembered. He and the Navairas met and clicked immediately, both personally and musically. They wrote feverishly for months, until they realized they had songs for a whole album. "We didn't want to give the tunes to no one else," said Diego. "When we got together and wrote those songs, it was just magic. We soon realized we had to take it as far as we could take it."
Fuentes had met Sting manager Martin Kierszenbaum (who wrote one of the Texas Tornados' early bios when he was at Warner) through a mutual acquaintance, and did some studio work for the former Police frontman. The sessions went so well Sting invited Fuentes and Diego to play with him at the NBA All-Star game in Toronto in February. They sang backup vocals in Sting's new album, 57th & 9th, and the Sting/Bandoleros live version of the Police's "Next to You" is featured on 57th & 9th's deluxe version.
I've worked with Sting for 26 years, and he works on musical impulse," Kierszenbaum told the Current. "He had great vibes with those guys."
"It was very surreal," said Emilio IV. "Three or four times in the studio I thought, Wow... That's Sting over there! But after awhile, we got to know him, and he's such a nice guy." "He allows you to feel comfortable around him," added Diego. "What you hear on the record, you're going to hear live, and we were very conscious of that when we were recording it," said Diego. "Sometimes we had three-part guitars, but we decided not to do anything we won't be able to pull off live."
"Let me tell you something they won't tell you," said Michael Morales, the Grammy-winning head of Studio M. "This is a young supergroup. More often than not, when you put together the best musicians in the world, they often make terrible records. But in this case, these guys were all groomed learning not only to be the great musicians that they are, but the right musicians. The right musicians play great but also write the right songs, and this is what happens with the Bandoleros."
"They basically play by ear, and their ears are pretty good," said Reyes. "Those guys have the ability to detect what the song needs, and they master so many different styles. Even though they're so young, they've been playing forever, that's all they've ever done, and it shows. They do their thing but can also hang and play with Sting. That's how good they are."
On July 15, 2020, the eclectic country-rock band appeared on Good Morning America on for a pretaped performance at the legendary venue, Floore's Country Store, just outside of San Antonio, TX. And were joined by Percy Cardona on accordion. The group recorded its new concert album, "Live From Texas," at Floore's and returned to the venue for a rendition of the Texas Tornados' "Hey Baby, Que Paso." This song is one of ten songs showcasing their renowned live set on the album, which shot to No. 2 on the iTunes Country Album chart and No. 6 on the All-Genre Album chart immediately following the televised performance. A rollicking rendition of Texas Tornados' Spanglish anthem in their own inimitable way, the track also reached the Top 20 on iTunes Country Songs chart.
The group also sat down for an interview in which they talked about performing during the pandemic quarantine via their livestream series. After rowdy and exciting live tours with The Mavericks, Dwight Yoakam, Los Lobos and Sting in the months and years prior to the pandemic, The Last Bandoleros related how they have kept that energy going virtually with their "From Texas to Your House" free Facebook livestream virtual concert on July 18, 2020. Racking up over 33,000 views, the band is planning to return for another free livestream concert in the very near future (details forthcoming). Until then, fans can keep up with Derek, Jerry, Diego and Emilio via their weekly Web TV show "Around a Neon Cactus," airing every Wednesday at 7:30pm CT on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. The series features performances, funny segments, Texas cooking tutorials and regular interaction with fans, affectionately called "Crooked Little Halos" after a lyric in their song "I Don't Want to Know".