El Paso Music Scene

Tension Interview

Gil Alvarado and Ernie Avila of Tension. To see all five photos, click here
Tension, formed in 2000, is an El Paso rock/metal/alternative band. As I found out, they are very civic-minded, both in supporting live music in El Paso, as well as helping out other people in all sorts of situations. They are Ernie Avila (drums), Dave Rojas (bass), Kiff Payne (guitars), Adam La farelle (guitars), and Gil Alvarado (vocals). They've played just about every venue in town; we caught up with Gil and Ernie in Crawdaddy's, on Viscount, on Wednesday.

EPMS: Hi, guys. Start us off by giving us the history of Tension.

Gil Alvarado: The only original two members left are me and Adam. The bass player left and got married, the drummer we had left, our guitar player got married, so he couldn't come out and play anymore (lol).

Ernie Avila: I was already married.

Gil Alvarado: So many changes, like I said, that's why I named the band Tension.... It seems like we've always had somebody's girlfriend that thought she was our manager.

Ernie Avila: That's why I'm divorced now... She couldn't handle the Tension (lol).

Gil Alvarado: Right now, we have the best and tightest members.

Dave was from Whiskey Sour (now abinormal), Kiff was from the Hate Campaign, Inner Sanctum. I played in Craven with Kiff years ago. We all fit together like a glove.

We've pretty much kept together 5 years.... (hopefully) we'll be cutting some originals in 2005.

Ernie Avila: I'm kind of the outcast of the band. Adam looks like normal person. People can't believe I'm in the band... They say I look like a cholo, because I have short hair. Sometimes I wanna make my throne like a low-rider. They call me the Band Slut, because I'll play with anybody... Anybody needs a drummer, they call me.

Gil Alvarado: We started, going on 5 yrs. Ernie does our web site, he and I do promoting, flyers, calling people... We call people at radio stations, ... KLAQ, Hero Radio.

EPMS: What kind of response do you get from KLAQ?

Gil Alvarado: As far as the DJs that have seen us, we get great response... Jack Lutz, Glenn Garza, they're very helpful. Jack Lutz gets up and sings with us.

EPMS: How well does he sing?

Ernie Avila: He gives us an intro, he says good stuff about us on the radio. He sings... umm... He sings Metallica. ... He's a big Metallica freak. You want that feedback, support, back and forth.

Gil Alvarado: Scott Ronson (of Hero Radio)... Marina

EPMS: Marina Monsisvais (formerly of Hero Radio, now with 94.7 FM)?

Gil Alvarado: Yeah... She dresses really wild. She paints her hair... She's into the hip, new stuff... She supports us.

EPMS: What are your influences?

Ernie Avila: Jazz, classical, heavy, oldies, I really dig the saxophone.

Gil Alvarado: That's where me and him clicked. Our influences are pretty much the same. We've both been in bands 10 or 12 yrs, but we'd never met each other until Tension.

I like Ozzie, old Metallica, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix... I used to play guitar myself... Deep Purple. David Bowie.

Ernie Avila: Maynard Ferguson, Rage Against the Machine, Motley Crue.

EPMS: Did y'all catch the downtown festival last year when Vince Neil came?

Gil Alvarado: No, we played that week.

Ernie Avila: Ozo Matli. They're very pro-awareness, anti-government. I'm the same way. F*** George Bush (lol).

Gil Alvarado: His old band, Leak, used to put (an anti-Bush sign) up on the stage every day.... so are we (anti-Bush). Hero Radio bumped them from a Battle of the Bands because of their strong anti-Bush stance.

EPMS: What places have you played in El Paso?

Gil Alvarado: Nakyes, Stakeout, Colleagues (now Handlebars), Bombardiers, Mugshots, Crawdaddys. Mavericks, Surges... some friends of ours bought Jokers Pub... The owners are from the band, Crash Kennedy.

EPMS: Do you play any out of town gigs?

Gil Alvarado: No. Now we have the right members... We're signing up for a USO tour. We haven't been accepted yet, but we've got somebody on the inside.

EPMS: What are your best or most popular songs?

Ernie Avila: 'The Game' by Disturbed... Classic Metallica... Doors ... Tom Petty's 'American Girl'.

EPMS: Does Gil sing better than Tom Petty?

Ernie Avila: Most definitely (lol). We add Tension flavor to the song. There's a part toward the middle where the bass player does a country riff, then we switch back.

Gil Alvarado: Slayer, Pantera, the people go crazy. Sepultura... We do music from Candlebox to Slayer and Pantera.

Ernie Avila: We play bands that everybody knows, but songs by those bands that people don't know.

Gil Alvarado: We play stuff from 80s, 90s. We're a cover band. Regardless of covers, originals, you spend more time with the members of the band than you do with your family... That's where I got the name Tension from... There's always going to be drama, tension...

People say 'You're just a cover band' but it takes a lot of work... If you don't play an Ozzie song right, people let you know.

Ernie Avila: In cover bands you play 4 hrs, 50 songs... In an original band, you do one set, and they have (multiple) bands in the show.

Gil Alvarado: Other bands either hate you or love you.

Ernie Avila: Bands are very competitive.

Gil Alvarado: There are not that many clubs out there. You have drama coming from bands. You've got a lot of things to take care of.

Ernie Avila: We're probably one of a few bands that support others...

Gil Alvarado: When a new band comes up, we'll let them play a few songs

EPMS: With your equipment?

Gil Alvarado: Yeah.

Ernie Avila: A few weeks ago we played here (Crawdaddy's)... I'd just met (members of a certain band) the night before... they played death metal. We let 'em do some songs.

Gil Alvarado: If they have their own equipment or not, we help them.

Ernie Avila: We're not picky. We've done bike runs, when people die, like one year later, to raise money for the family... At the end of the (motorcycle) route is when they have a party. We do Toys for Tots. We try to do as many charity gigs as possible, just to try to help the community.

Gil Alvarado: We try to put El Paso on map.

EPMS: What are your favorite beers?

Gil Alvarado: Bud Light.

Ernie Avila: Mine's free beer (lol).

EPMS: What is the most interesting thing about the band?

Ernie Avila: I can go party for a week without sleep (lol)... We don't care... club owners say, don't play this, don't play that... We do it anyhow.

Gil Alvarado: We don't care, we do what we do. We fit like a glove together. We still keep the crowd.

EPMS: Do you play any original music?

Ernie Avila: We had one, but we stopped playing it, because of someone leaving the band. We're going to start working on originals now.

(just then, a Flock of Seagulls song comes on over the speakers at Crawdaddy's) Ernie Avila: I love retro music like this.

EPMS: What are your favorite TV shows?

Ernie Avila: Married with Children

Gil Alvarado: Kelly Bundy, man.

Ernie Avila: Letterman

Gil Alvarado: Yep. Though I'd like to be there when Oprah gives cars away.

EPMS: Favorite cartoon as a kid?

Gil Alvarado: Scooby Doo.

Ernie Avila: I like these questions (lol). Felix the Cat, Underdog.

EPMS: Favorite cartoon now?

both: Simpsons.

Gil Alvarado: Family Guy.

EPMS: Favorite El Paso bands, besides yourselves?

Gil Alvarado: Absolut, 202.

EPMS: Who will be the next El Paso band to make it big?

Gil Alvarado: Some friends of ours, who were members of Pissing Razors, that now have a band called Speed Razor.

EPMS: What changes would you like to see in the music situation in El Paso?

Gil Alvarado: More clubs that have live music... When gangster-type music came out, clubs started shying away ... So many clubs, Putneys, Chelsea, Treetop. So many clubs played live music before.

Ernie Avila: More people coming to the shows... When only 30 show up, it kind of sucks.

Gil Alvarado: All-around more support. Stop the one-nighters, go back to the weekend jobs. Now, you play one place, then have to go to a different club the next night. Before, at Putney's, Chelsea's, the gig might last the whole week.

EPMS: What are your favorite hangouts?

Ernie Avila: Holes in the wall. Incredibles.

Gil Alvarado: the Brass Asp.

Ernie Avila: Jaguars (lol).

Gil Alvarado: Red Parrot (lol).

Ernie Avila: We go clubbing w/ guys from Ministry (from Illinois)... Mud Vane (also from Illinois).

Gil Alvarado: (to Ernie): Who was that band from the east?

Ernie Avila: Cannibal Corpse

Gil Alvarado: I've been doing this for 10 years, we've pretty much played with everybody in the circuit. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody knows Ernie, the Band Slut.

EPMS: Why is your web site called, 'shutupstupids.com?'

Gil Alvarado: We call our fan base "the Stupids". One time, we were playing at (some club), and I'm mumbling something, and one friend yells, "Shut up, Stupid, and play!" Ernie picked up on it, and started saying that to me.

EPMS: Do you have a Myspace page?

Gil Alvarado: No, Ernie is still working on our site... He's putting bios of the members on the site.

Ernie Avila: Hopefully this weekend.

EPMS: Your favorite band that petered out, that was on top for a very short period of time?

both: Skid Row

Ernie Avila: Cinderella.

EPMS: What's the best thing about having a band today?

Ernie Avila: Money is not what we're about. If you think about it, though, you get to drink, and be with your friends.

Gil Alvarado: Drink, be with friends, still get paid for it.

Ernie Avila: Even when we get drunk, we still sound good, at least to us (lol).

Gil Alvarado: Thanks for supporting the local music scene, you are giving up your time, not a lot of people out there are doing that. It's great to see somebody actually wanting to help support us, and the local scene.

EPMS: Thanks for the compliment.

EPMS note: kudos! Cool!

We also spoke with Joseph Sanchez, and Hank, managers at Crawdaddys.

EPMS: what other bands do you have play here?

Joseph Sanchez: Alibi, Whiskey Sour (now Abinormal), Liquid Skin.

EPMS: Which nights?

Joseph Sanchez: Definitely Fridays, Saturdays, sometimes Wednesdays. We want to have music three nights a week.

EPMS: Why did you start having live music here?

Joseph Sanchez: Basically, these guys (Tension) said they need a gig or they'll beat us up (lol)!

We're try to promote bands on the East Side. There are more venues on the West Side . We want to have steady gigs, so people can depend on us having the music each week.

Gil Alvarado: What's great about this place is that you can order until 2 AM.

Joseph Sanchez: You order something at 1:58, we'll still serve you.

Hank: On Wednesdays we have softer music, acoustic music, 7-10 PM during dinner.

EPMS: Why should people want to come here to see live music?

Hank: Number one, our food. Basically, we have food and liquor until 2 AM. With the high ceilings, that gives us good acoustics, good sound. On Saturdays, we have $2 domestic longnecks all night.

EPMS: Thanks a lot.

- Charles Hurley