One of the better performances I saw at Upstream Music this past June was Tres Leches at the Central Saloon. The trio composed of Alaia D’Alessandro, Zander Yates, and Ulises Mariscal would tear through a song, then stop, float to different instruments—the guitarist becomes the drummer, the drummer the bassist, etc.—and rip right through the next one. All three swapped yelping vocals and the whole thing took on the fun and frenzy of a game of musical chairs.
Tres Leches started about three years ago and released an EP in 2016, garnering praise from local bands like Spesh and Tacocat, but this year Tres Leches gained momentum. They played Folklife and Upstream on back-to-back weekends, caught mentions in City Arts and The Stranger. In November they’ll play Freakout Festival, and this Friday, September 28, at the Clock-Out Lounge, they’re releasing their first LP, Amorfo. It’s Spanish for amorphous and fits the band nicely.
That slippery sense of classification with instruments manifests on the record too. On their EP the band already hopped genres. But on Amorfo they’ve both expanded and refined, clarifying their eclectic influences and the connections between them. Here they invoke the Clash, there Yo La Tengo. Soon they’re clamoring through folk punk like X, and lyrically veering between Spanish and English, and revamping Leadbelly’s children’s song “Ha Ha This-A-Way” as a punk romp, and the back-to-back Folklife and Upstream performances make sense.
I mentioned that Folklife, which has struggled in the last years, isn’t especially known for post-punk. “Folklife is trying to open up what folk music means. It doesn’t just mean traditional sounds,” D’Alessandro says, citing a conversation she had with Reese Tanimura, the festival's managing director.
"I think it’s really important that Folklife brings bands like us," added Mariscal, "who don’t necessarily fit into the box of Folklife.”
Of course, much of the fun of Tres Leches is that they don’t much fit any box.
Tres Leches Record Release
Sept 28, Clock-Out Lounge, $10