VSALEXIQUE – Guitarist and singer Marc Muñoz insists there was no real break with his reggae band, Break from Society; on the contrary, life happens and the group takes a break.
“The band never really stopped playing and I never really stopped playing music,” the Calexico native recently said. “We just kind of put it aside for a while, we had other obligations. I started a family and (had) kids and our bassist, Shamu (Victor Navarro from Calexico), he started playing with (San Diego reggae band) Tribal Seeds.
Between his studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz and his few gigs at boardwalk clubs with his cousin and drummer, George Flores, also from Calexico, Muñoz became a teacher in the Imperial County Office of Education.
The band and its collection of material languished on the back burner, much of it becoming unavailable with time and technology. CDs and cassettes mostly gave way to streaming content, and Muñoz set about digitizing the band’s self-titled album in 2005.
“In 2020 I was sitting on all this material and just had some free time, and I just decided (to go through) the catalog and work on some stuff, and before you know it, we have started recording tracks and I said, “Well, let’s just finish the whole album and put it out,” said Muñoz, who, along with Flores, is joined by Roger Rascón of Calexico on bass. He still considers Shamu to be part of the group.
While Muñoz had amassed quite a bit of material, early high school recordings and more, he focused on remixing and remastering the original 14 songs from “Break from Society”, adding two additional previously unreleased tracks.
Break from Society is now celebrating the album’s availability on most streaming services with a full-fledged record release party on Friday night August 5th at Hot Rods & Beer in Holtville, featuring opening acts, food, vendors and a car show; it’s more of an experience than a concert.
“We try to make it a festival and have other bands there, and really focus on…like reggae and punk and other acts like that,” Muñoz said.
Break from Society bassist Rascón will have a second band, Santa Calecia Music Club, and pro skateboarder Tommy Sandoval will be there as DJ Roots Dr., spinning reggae, as well as a band from Coachella called Blue Sun.
Muñoz added that around eight vendors will be on hand, from skate shops to clothing companies, all local.
“We really wanted to make it a community thing in the valley, people who are all doing the same thing, in the trenches and loving a certain type of art or music and they keep doing what they’re doing, and we just wanted to have like one place to put it all together,” he said.
Breaking with the “breaking of society” of society
For the band, the decision to work on digitizing “Break from Society” initially made sense, although Muñoz added that he would continue to work backwards on remixing old tracks.
Drummer Flores said the feature was important for many reasons, indicating that it was a document of different periods of the band’s life “compiled into one album”.
“It was recorded until 2005. It took us a while to compile this amount of music. So it was spread over a few years of recording. We recorded stuff in Mexicali, then we recorded stuff in Santa Cruz, and then whenever we came here for, say, vacations, we probably recorded stuff too,” said Flores, who also lived in Santa Cruz. Cruz while Muñoz was in college.
And, frankly, the band wanted their doc to sound better, the way Muñoz dreamed of and intended him as lead songwriter.
“We were never really happy with the old recordings because, you know, it was all DIY from the start. I recorded all the music back then,” he said. “But you know, Recording music obviously takes money, and so money has always been an issue. So now, 10 years later, the technology is advanced and you can do things that would take an entire recording studio, (now) you can do on your laptop.
Muñoz decided to take the first album apart and put it back together. He learned the digital tools and recorded and mixed the album, but he sent the mixes to be mastered at a well-known studio in Washington, DC, Lion and Fox Recording Studios.
“Lion (and) Fox recorded for all these reggae guys of the day, like Gregory Isaacs (‘Night Nurse’) and probably Black Uhuru,” Muñoz said. “They probably recorded any reggae band from the 80s and 90s.”
Now is the time to introduce the music, Flores said, and the band’s relationship with Hot Rods & Beer makes it possible.
“John, he’s the manager of Hot Rods, and we used to play for his bar a few years ago almost every weekend,” he said. “So it’s gonna be nice to be back out there and just to finally be able to celebrate music and have some of the younger listeners, you know, experience our band for the first time.”
Back in the day and beyond
It’s been a long story for the band, founded by Muñoz, with Flores and others along the way. Break from Society has been a solid unit for years with Shamu on bass, and there’s still plenty of music from that period to come out.
“I basically try to release all the music that I’ve written over the years, you know. I’ve had several CDs and I’ve never released them legitimately,” Muñoz said.
“So I’m going to release our high school album. I’m going to release our original demos that we did back then. There’s another album after this one that I’m going to release that has tracks we did in 2002” , he added. “And there are quite popular tracks that I have, ‘Down in Calecia’; it’s one of our most recognizable songs and has never been officially released. So I’m going to make another EP of it. So I have several small albums on which I will work. Soon, hopefully this year.
There is a future for Break from the Society which includes new music and more shows, when that happens it is something Muñoz is still considering.
“We’re just going to play it by ear at this point, you know, just trying to play locally,” he said. “Everyone works; they have jobs here so it’s a bit difficult to get out of town.
Break from Society has a show coming up in Palm Desert, Muñoz said, “but we’re just trying to stay local for now and do all the social media stuff and do some videos and maybe work on some new stuff. material.”
Muñoz said he had an album of new songs, “I just need to, you know, sit down and get all our stuff together and sit down and record it.”
For Flores, he would love to take the road a bit.
“I would love to go back to Santa Cruz, play some local venues, the Catalyst (Club), Moe’s Alley, or something like that. San Diego. We’d love to play in San Diego…just to hang out for a bit,” he said. he said “I just wish our name would be established where if we wanted to play somewhere it wouldn’t be that difficult.”