Y La Bamba

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Luzelena Mendoza’s songs draw from her strict Catholic upbringing as an only daughter of a Mexican immigrant and the vocal harmonies of the Latin music she grew up around. After becoming extremely sick upon returning from a spiritual quest in India, she took in a white, six-toed cat to keep her company as she fought to regain her physical, emotional, and spiritual health. She christened her new feline companion “Bamba,” a name that she incorporated into the moniker she used for a batch of lo-fi home recordings and performances at open mic nights. Mendoza quickly captivated the attention of a group of Portland, Oregon, musicians, including current Y La Bamba members Michael Kitson, Eric Schrepel, Paul Cameron, and Ben Meyercord. Equally impressed by Y La Bamba was Chris Funk of The Decemberists, who offered his production skills pro bono for the band’s Tender Loving Empire debut album, Lupon.

Funk isn’t the band’s only high-profile fan. Neko Case, who hand-picked Y La Bamba to open for her on multiple tours, lends her vocals to the title track of the band’s sophomore album, Court the Storm, produced by Grammy-winning producer Steve Berlin (also of legendary rock outfit Los Lobos). Court the Storm is packed with delicately crafted art-folk that finds Mendoza’s ethereal vocals combining with bittersweet melodies and thrumming, Latin-inspired rhythms, resulting in one of the finest indie-pop releases in memory. Last year’s Oh, February EP saw Chris Funk returning to the production helm, and featured a batch of the band’s most immediately engaging songs to date.

  • Court the Storm
    Released: February 28, 2012

    Court the Storm

    Y La Bamba’s Court The Storm creates a multi-ethnic musical landscape that walks a musical tightrope between alt-latino and indie while delivering on the promise of 2010’s critically acclaimed Lupon. With the veteran, Grammy winning producer Steve Berlin at the helm, as well as a guest appearance from Neko Case, Court The Storm features abilingual songbook as well as the energy of their must-see live shows.

    Listen

    1. Squawk
    2. Bendito
    3. Moral Panic
    4. Hughson Boys
    5. Como Ratones
    6. Idaho's Genius
    7. Viuda Encabronada
    8. Ponce Pilato
    9. Michoacan
    10. Dialect Of Faith
    11. Court The Storm (Featuring Neko Case)
  • Oh February
    Released: January 29, 2013

    Oh February

    This is Luzelena Mendoza at her most captivating. These 6 songs of mexi-influenced folk americana pick up where 2012′s Court The Storm left off. In a sultry cross genre dream accented by lush guitars, lively accordian and expert percussion, Oh February features Y La Bamba’s most immediately listenable songs to date. Produced by The Decemberists’ Chris Funk.

    Listen

    1. Oh February
    2. A Poet's Tune
    3. Death on the Road
    4. Clarij
    5. River In Drought
    6. Oh February Part 2 (Mad As We Are)
  • Lupon
    Released: September 14, 2010

    Lupon

    With a raw songbook of home recordings under her belt and a new group of musicians to help Mendoza with her musical vision, Y La Bamba began to captivate audiences in Portland and tour stops around the US. Eventually, the quintet would attract the attention of The Decemberists guitarist, Chris Funk, who offered his production skills for the band’s first studio recording. Funk worked tirelessly to capture Y La Bamba’s rustic tones, songs inspired by the traditional tunes of Mendoza’s childhood, and her signature vocals that resemble the sounds spilling out of a 1930’s Victrola. The confidently stunning body of songs i s dubbed Lupon (after a nickname that Mendoza’s father despised).

    Listen

    1. Monster
    2. November
    3. Soy Capitan
    4. Crocodile Eyes
    5. Abducted
    6. Juniper
    7. Festival of Panic
    8. Winter's Skin
    9. Fasting in San Francisco
    10. Isla de Hierva Buena
    11. Hunters' Hooves
    12. Memories of a Poor Start

Michoacán

Juniper

Ponce Pilato

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Concerts by Songkick
  • “[Luz Elena’s Mendoza]’s voice is pre-legendary” – Jasmine Gars, NPR

  • “It figures that matter-of-fact polyglots like Y La Bamba would vibe with producer Steve Berlin of matter-of-fact polyglots Los Lobos, who warms up Bamba’s folk-rocking second record. Frontwoman Luz Elena Mendoza can warble tremulously like a Latina Joanna Newsom, then let rip a robust alt-country holler not unlike that of Neko Case, who joins the band on the title track.” – Rolling Stone

  • “The music Luz Elena Mendoza makes with her bandmates in the Portland, Ore., group Y La Bamba is a perfect example of how to embrace tradition while still creating something new, exciting and thought-provoking…While its music may not sound exactly like the Mexican music of Mendoza’s youth, Y La Bamba creates songs that stop me in my tracks with their breathtaking range.” – NPR

  • “Mendoza’s voice seemed otherworldly…It is light and ethereal yet seemingly tortured — she sings with deep emotion, if not pain.” – NPR

  • “This gives me goosebumps, it’s so beautiful.” – Jasmine Gars, NPR

  • “…bouncing, ass-shakin’, toe-tappin’, arm-swayin’ rhythms.” – Magnet

  • “Delightfully tweaked Mexifolk brings Luz Elena Mendoza ever closer to being crowned the Latin-rock Feist.” – Spin

  • “The song swirls and dips for more than five minutes, and when it ends, you’re left a bit breathless and lonely; romance and its tribulations made perfectly clear.” – MTV Hive

  • “If you pine for the day when Astrud Gilberto records some lounge inspired mexican folk music with Devandra Banhart then Y La Bamba is totally your jam” – Bust

  • “There are elements of conjunto and bandoneon instrumentation and folkloric orchestration, but the underpinnings of the record are almost American Gothic in their ethereal melodies and late night road-trip aesthetic…In total, the songs on Lupon are a synthesis of Mexican influence and American execution.” – Venus

  • “Taking cues from the Mexican heritage of vocalist Luz Elena Mendoza, Portland, OR’s Y La Bamba has made a mariachiinspired art folk album….Lyrics about make thing most out of life, escaping souls and Guadalajara bars are at the heart of Court The Storm, and Mendoza shares them passionately, never losing the role of storyteller as the songs waltz along.” – CMJ