But that's exactly where aspiring music star Quetzal Flores, whose group simply goes by the name of Quetzal, looked to find his musical inspiration.
"The Smiths [the popular '80s English band] helped me a lot," Flores said in a phone interview, promoting his upcoming free concert for the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center Wednesday night in Weehawken, beginning at 7 p.m.
He added, "Morrissey [the Smiths' leader and current solo artist] had so many things going on in his life, and I completely related to how he felt and how he tried to make sense out of everything."
Added Flores, "And I so related to REM. I really believe those two groups should be part of every musical education course in the country. They were both so brilliant."
East L.A. roots However, when you listen to Quetzal's incredible and vast array of musical ranges, you can become amazed, but it realistically all comes back to one true venue - his roots in East L.A.
"Whether that's something we meant to do or what, it's the reality of who we are and where we came from," Flores said. "We are part of the tradition of East L.A. music, like Los Lobos, the influx of rock and roll, R&B, pop, all those different styles coming together. We also have Mexican roots, so it came natural. It's not something we thought about or planned. It just enabled us to be cultural beings of our backgrounds, the permanent process that is Chicano music, all part of the Chicano experience."
Flores also believes that a lot of his lyrics are "politically challenged."
"Trust me, the content is very political," Flores said. "I like to channel my thoughts into the lyrics, so it will instigate interesting dialogue, so I can create thoughts like eliminating war or perhaps the immigration referendum. I have a lot of ideas on that. If you're not from East L.A., you might not understand the lyrics, but you can relate. It's all part of the culture. I don't look at it as a deficit, but as an asset."
Quetzal's songs are featured in both Spanish and English, so the music is thought-provoking in both languages and cultures. It's perhaps the reason why Quetzal has crossed the barriers of both audiences.
Approval from Los Lobos Back in 1993, Flores formed "Quetzal-A new experience in Chicano Music," wanting to push the boundaries of the traditional Chicano music, using violins and female lead vocals. Even Los Lobos, perhaps the most popular of all Chicano groups with the release of "La Bamba," from the movie soundtrack, and "Bertha" from the Grateful Dead Tribute album, said that "Quetzal embodied the soul and the struggle at the heart of the Mexican-American legacy and carried the torch for all Chicanos."
The group's latest CD release, "Worksongs," was produced by Los Lobos organizer Steve Berlin.
Flores said that the group has the ability to play in large stadiums and quaint festival settings, so playing in an outdoor concert like Weehawken's Lincoln Harbor Park should be no problem.
"To me, there's something about playing so close to New York," Flores said. "I know I will try to live in New York in the near future. I love being in that environment and feeling that energy. I love it. It's so different from East Los Angeles. I am drawn to it. I also know there is a big Hispanic influence in the area, so I'd love to see them all come out. I think Chicano music can touch all communities."
Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center Executive Director Bruce Sherman was pleased with the diversity of the free outdoor concert series, especially with the performance of Quetzal.
"As usual, the concerts this summer are eclectic and diverse," Sherman said. "Not many people on the East Coast would get a chance to see an innovative band like Quetzal. I hope people take advantage of this opportunity to hear them."
Sherman is excited about the season, and the fact that the first concert with jazz great Stefon Harris was rained out has not dampened his spirits.
"This is part of the drill with outdoor concerts." Sherman said. "We've scheduled rain dates for the following night after each scheduled concert but in the case of last weekend, both days were bad. So we're hoping to be able to make up Stefon's concert at the end of the season."
This season will be a bit different from the past two when shows were scheduled for a consistent night of the week.
"If we're locked into the same night of the week, it's very difficult to book certain artists, especially those that are on tour," Sherman said. "So we decided to schedule based on the artists' availability. Besides, there are some people who could never get to a midweek concert. So by mixing up the dates a bit, I hope more people will be able to experience the concerts. People just need to keep on top of the schedule so they know when to show up."
The HRPAC Summer Concert on the Hudson production of Quetzal will be held Wednesday, July 5, beginning at 7 p.m, at Lincoln Harbor Park in Weehawken. Some chairs are provided, but concert goers are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets for comfort. For further information about this concert and any in the series, log on to www.hrpac.org or call the concert hotline at (201) 716-4540.