A New Album for Baltimore-based band Halloween Tres by Jordannah Elizabeth
Halloween Tres released their debut album Code Red October 31, 2016. I’ve seen them live a number of times and watched vocalist Lorenzo Baeza, bassist Aaron Lee Estes, and keyboardist Lucas Rambo jump around stage emitting trancelike noise music that appears to be improvised but is actually composed, just touched with spontaneity due to the band’s sporadic style of physical and emotional performance art.
I travelled to the bowels of Mt. Vernon to sit down with the band. Aaron Lee Estes invited me into his very clean loft space kitchen where he had a spread of grapefruit laid out of us all to eat. Soon after Aaron and I sit down, Lucas and Lorenzo arrive and we immediately engage in a bit of a strange conversation.
There are moments where we all talk at once and get off topic and laugh about inside Baltimore nuances, but this interview is an account of what they understand about themselves as a band, and their exploration of their musical process.
Lorenzo, I had conversation with Caroline from Strange Times People Band and I said to her, “You know, if there was a male counterpart to your music it would be Halloween Tres.” Did you find inspiration from STPB?
Lorenzo Baeza: Directly, no. Indirectly? Probably. All I really do is listen to music.
Let’s talk more broadly about influences. It doesn’t have necessarily be by human artists, but where do you pull your ideas from sonically?
Aaron lee Estes: I’d say the influence is emotional and conceptual. So, whatever musical influences that have naturally percolate into my musical consciousness over the years are bound to come out but I’m definitely not trying to cop a style or a feel.
Lucas Rambo: My answer is the garbage disposal.
Lorenzo Baeza: I think we all listen to three different styles of music. We don’t really talk about it but we have shared commonalities where we can be in the car together and blast something that’s party music or sad music.
Like what specifically?
LB: Lucas is the reggae kind of guy, I’m a Celine Dion kind of guy. (Aaron laughs). I listen to disco and R&B and proto-goth. I think we deviate in terms of genre all over the place. The music is really created out of this energy that just happened one day.
Aaron, did you take music classes when you were younger?
ALE: I took piano lessons for a few years when I was young.
LR: I didn’t know that!
You need to provide photos.
ALE: I don’t know if there are any.
LB: Can you read music?
ALE: Not very well, but I can read music but it takes a while. My dad was a musician. His instrument was a trombone, but he stopped playing it before I was born because “He couldn’t fit it inside the bottle of Jack Daniels” (chuckles). But we always had a piano in the house when we lived in West Baltimore. But yeah, I know how music works on a Western functional level.
What about you Lucas? Do you have a background in music?
LR: I played trombone and cello when I was in elementary school and took guitar lessons for a couple of months when I was 13 or 14.
LB: I don’t have any training, but I’ve been making music since I was 12 years old on the same 4 track [recorder] I make music on now.
So, you all quietly released your album, right?
ALE: We had a release show on Halloween.
LR: We didn’t play it!
LB: (chimes in) We didn’t play it. I got hit by a car!
LR and ALE: (at the same time) We had a release “party”.
ALE: [Lorenzo was hit a week before] so we didn’t we didn’t “play it”, but we had a party and we played the album.
Are you ok, Lorenzo? You look fine.
What’s the inspiration behind the album, Code Red?
ALE: It’s a flavor of Mountain Dew.
LR: And it’s also a drill.
What would you use a code red drill for?
ALE: Dangerous jams!!! (laughs)
Lorenzo, tell me about the lyrical content of the album. Do you write social commentary or are the lyrics, personal or abstract?
LB: I think the collective trick in the band is that we don’t really think too much. I think a lot of things are based on energy and feeling. I am an artist, so I paint and write all day long. When they (Aaron and Lucas) play a certain riff, we record what we’re doing and I’m just spouting out words. I go back to the tapes later and decipher and figure out what things mean. Even the album title, “Code Red” that could mean nothing, but in my mind it means “blood”.
Most of the songs are about hierarchies of power, and the idea that we’re living vessels giving voice to the idea of the struggle of those who have pain inflicted upon them. They’re about the abuses of power and people who are the minority – they’re about death and gothic ideas, but are reinforced with this kind of “disco” intent. “Glitter goth”.
I know I’m in a band with three dudes and we try to ride the line of what it is to be male, and the identity of being ultra masculine. I know my voice is very low and it’s probably a terrifying performance…it’s not supposed to be shocking though. What we’re actually emoting is emotional energy which is real, and the only way we can actually do that is by implementing this weird fabrication of costumes and exaggeration.
Halloween Tres and I conversationally meander and talk about politics, Beach House and how I love Nirvana’s debut album, Beach. We return to a cohesive conversation with me asking if Nirvana is the only band the three of them can agree on as a collective musical favorite of their band.
Is Nirvana the one band you guys can agree on?
LR: No, we can agree on other bands!
ALE: Me and Lucas are big reggae heads and me and Lorenzo love a lot of old industrial and goth music. Lucas and Lorenzo like a lot of pop and rap that I don’t like.
LB: You like a lot of rock that I don’t like…
All I’m going to say is that you all collectively like Celine Dion and Nirvana.
(They all agree that’s fine.)
LB: We have a list of influences on our Bandcamp.
Photo of Lorenzo Baeza from their 2015 Halloween performance by Dave Iden
Author Jordannah Elizabeth is an author, music and arts critic, editor and folk soul musician. She is the founder and director of the literary nonprofit organization, Publikprivate.org and the author of a “Don’t Lose Track Vol 1: 40 Articles, Essays and Q&As” published by Zero Books. Follow her @lovejordannah.
Photo of Halloween Tres at kitchen table by Jordannah Elizabeth.
Performance photo courtesy of Field Festival website.
Photo of Lorenzo Baeza from their 2015 Halloween performance from youtube video by Dave Iden