Earlier this year, iconic Americana group Los Lobos won their fourth Grammy Award for Best Americana Album, with Camilo Quinones (CQ for short) playing an instrumental role on percussion. The percussionist, producer, member of local El Dusty & The Homies, teller of dad jokes, and enjoyer of coffee recently sat down to talk about his involvement on the Grammy-winning project, Native Sons.
Tyler Schultz: With Los Lobos being one of the most influential Americana groups of the day, I can imagine the excitement of getting to work alongside them on percussion. What was your initial reaction when they decided to work with you?
CQ: I’ve been working with Los Lobos off and on in live settings for close to 10 years now…including a live recorded album and broadcast performance on ACL live, but being invited to participate in a studio recording was always a dream of mine. As you can imagine, I was completely elated when the call for a few shows included a quick mention, “Hey, we are gonna rehearse at the studio where the guys are recording, can you come a day early so we can have you put some percussion on a couple of tunes on the new album?”
So I immediately responded, “HELL YES I CAN!”
TS: With this being your first Grammy nomination, I’m sure there are many emotions that arose when you discovered the nomination. Even better, your first time being a part of a Grammy nomination for your involvement with Los Lobos’ Native Sons took home the Grammy for Best Americana Album, and deservedly at that. What was this experience like for you personally? What do you think made this album such a success?
CQ: For me every part of it has been an incredible honor! I was excited to record one song on a studio album with four-time winning 12-time nominees, Los Lobos. When one song ended up being seven of the 13 songs on the album, that was mind-blowing! Finding out Native Sons was nominated for a Grammy was such a huge deal to me! I didn’t even know how to celebrate that step without “jinxing” the possibility of a win… I was at lunch when I found out about the album winning, I remember my head feeling kind of hot…
The concept behind Native Sons, well Respected LA legends, Los Lobos returning to their musical influences, tributing their favorite LA area bands and songs. In my experience with Los Lobos, it’s always about enjoying the music they’re making, that’s paramount and it translates to the listener’s enjoyment. Native Sons had a song for everyone who grew up listening to the bands of California.
TS: What are your greatest takeaways from being a part of this Grammy awarded project?
CQ: Really it’s been motivation in its purest form! Being part of an album that got awarded by arguably the highest honor in its respective field, really does hit differently. I made two songs the day I found out.
TS: Americana is known for pulling influences from many musical genres. What do you feel defines the genre today? And what do you think makes your role in it and working with Los Lobos particularly special?
CQ: Well first and foremost working with Los Lobos is a special honor in itself. The band, as a band, is older than I am. So being part of their legacy and a history that will be forever documented by thesee future hall of famers is an incredible addition to my ever-evolving career in music.
I think as a style, Americana was traditionally defined and continues to be defined by instruments and music that evolved during the course of American history. Americana as a style in my opinion will continue to evolve to include more traditional influences from different cultural backgrounds, people from all over the world are now multi-generations deep in America and their cultures are seamlessly influencing cuisine, art, music, and much more in this country. For instance, I played instruments and rhythms on Native Sons that are from two-three different countries. I’m a first-generation 1/2 Puerto Rican, 1/2 Cuban, 100% Chicano American having participated in an Americana album and that album getting awarded album of the year. I feel like it’s an American dream come true. Obviously, it’s really special and hopefully motivating for people trying to find their musical voice.
TS: As a drummer, I know you’re involved with many groups and projects. One project I particularly enjoy is Beach Café, released in 2020. The music you make has a free-flowing groove that’s both chill and energizing. Can you tell me about the influences of these songs and what inspired you in making them?
CQ: Wow, thanks, man! I’m happy to hear that type of reception for a project so personal to me. Beach Café was the first instrumental project I produced and engineered. I invited my friend, trumpeter, and composer Ryan Montaño to top-line some music I was making and it turned into this project. The music on Beach Café really represents a lot of my musical influences and inspirations. Traditional Latin percussion and rhythms, mixed with some 90s R&B, and a little bit of “Jazzy” style instrumental trumpet leads, all seamlessly mixed together with computer-based electronic production techniques and approaches. I feel like it’s a natural evolution of all my musical influences culminating in a new style I’ve been toying around with under the term “Latino LoFi”. I have several other Beach Café EP’s already in the works that I can’t wait to put out.