Catching up with San Antonio-rooted Last Bandoleros before the band's homecoming gig at Floore's

click to enlarge The Last Bandoleros will play Floore's Country Store this week. - FACEBOOK / THE LAST BANDOLEROS
Facebook / The Last Bandoleros
The Last Bandoleros will play Floore's Country Store this week.
Plenty of bands with South Texas origins blend country and rock with Latin sounds. But how many also excel at Cheap Trick-esque power pop, collaborate with dancehall reggae artist Shaggy and tour with pop icon Sting?

The Last Bandoleros check those boxes and more. The group combines a core roots foundation, big choruses and Beatles-style harmonies to freshen up a contemporary country-ish sound.

Rooted in San Antonio but currently based in Nashville, the band will play John T. Floore’s Country Store on Thursday, December 9. Its four members spoke to the Current via Zoom in advance of the show.

Given the Last Bandoleros sound, the conversation started at what may or may not appear to be a logical point: an intra-band disagreement over who was the better frontman for Van Halen: David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar.

If that seems odd, well, you don’t know The Last Bandoleros.

“We never said we were a country band,” bassist Diego Navaira said. “There are a lot of country influences. We love George Strait, Alan Jackson, Johnny Cash.”

“Do we fit in Nashville?” pondered guitarist Jerry Fuentes. “People acknowledge the Latin/Tex-Mex thing. And there aren’t a lot of bands in the country world, where it’s so solo male-driven or solo female artists.”

Complicating matters, the Last Bandoleros feature vocals from all four members.

“Live, that’s when … the Van Halen, the Zeppelin comes through,” drummer Emilio Navaira explained, bringing things back around to the Roth-versus-Hagar question. “The live thing is reckless abandon.”

As Emilio’s and Diego’s last names suggest, the band has a pedigree — the pair are sons of the late Tejano legend Emilio Navaira.

“I love when people say [my dad’s] name when we’re talking in an interview, especially now that he’s not here,” Emilio said. “It makes me feel like we’re on the right path, like he’s still overlooking it somehow.”

Diego agreed, noting that the siblings felt no obligation to follow in their dad’s footsteps: “What made it easy was he just said, ‘Do whatever the fuck you want to do. Don’t listen to anyone.’ Up until the day he passed, that’s how he lived his life.”

That connection also means the band hasn’t forgotten its SA roots, Diego added.

“The Floore’s show will be different than the setlist we play tonight because we’re home,” he said. “We’ll maybe add something that’s an influence, maybe do a Tejano song.”

The Last Bandoleros doesn’t limit itself to formative influences, though, having recently gone to New York to collaborate with Shaggy during the COVID lockdown.

“He’s a fan and a friend,” Fuentes explained. “We got tested and bunkered down with him for a week, and it was almost like a writing camp.”

This experience produced the band’s most recent single, the R&B-tinged “Maldita.” The session yielded other material as well, which the members hope to release “down the road.”

Similarly, the group has found a kindred soul in Sting, who chose them to open a 2017.

“We were going down the hall in some stadium ... I saw this silhouette and I noticed that the body was upside down. And it was Sting doing a handstand in the middle of a dark hallway before we go on!” guitarist Derek James recalled.

For the time being, the band has focused on singles rather than LPs, in part due to the current nature of the music industry. That said, “we’re all lovers of albums and would love to release a new album,” James added.

So, again, what about Hagar versus Roth?

Diego cited his favorite Hagar-era Van Halen record as 5150, though he also likes For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.“But I love both eras of Van Halen, though personally am more of a Roth fan. But Emilio and Jerry are more Hagar,” he added.

Guitarist Jerry Fuentes played devil’s advocate, noting his strong preference for Van Hagar’s songs.

“My personal taste goes towards those smash choruses,” he said. “In the van we’ll play ‘Summer Nights.’ I think Hagar’s a better singer.”

“We have these discussions quite often in this band.” Diego said. “You’re going to start a fight right now.”

Let’s be honest. That’s always a risk when there are siblings in a band.

$18-$23, 8 p.m., John T. Floore’s Country Store, 14492 Old Bandera Road, (210) 695-8827, liveatfloores.com.

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