Quetzal's career has been on a hot streak of late, especially after winning an unexpected Grammy award last year for Best Latin Album for their 2012 release, "Imaginaries." A string of gigs and other invitations to perform have followed since and the group is directing that momentum towards their sixth release in 16 years, "Quetzanimales." Only a few years ago, the band was on the brink of a permanent recording hiatus but now they're enjoying a second wind that's carrying them through 2014 and beyond.
Through their nearly 20 year history, the consistent core of Quetzal has always been the real-life partnership between guitarist Quetzal Flores and singer Martha Gonzalez. The two come from distinct musical backgrounds and it's not hard to trace the band's unique blend of American pop/rock/soul influences and folkloric Mexican styles back to their respective upbringings. Gonzalez grew up in Boyle Heights and was surrounded by aspiring musicians including her father, brother and uncle, all playing regional Mexican genres (rancheras, boleros, etc.). "It was such a family thing that by the time I became an adult, I remember thinking, 'I don't want to do this!' she said. Gonzalez went into theater and acting instead but she jokes that music was like the mob in "The Godfather," i.e. "pulling you back in!"
In contrast, Flores, who also grew up in various eastside neighborhoods, including the Emery Park tract of Alhambra where he and Gonzalez recently moved back to, came of age with an eclectic set of musical influences but unlike Gonzales, he says, "I didn't grow up with Mexican music. I grew up with R&B and soul and rock and roll; that was my thing." His mom kept Stevie Wonder, Franki Valli and WAR in heavy rotation in the house. His saw his cousin, Rocio Marron became an accomplished classical violinist. His uncle Joey introduced him to Jimi Hendrix while his older brother would come back from prep school on the east coast, bearing cassettes by The Smiths and Depeche Mode. It was his siblings who helped put Flores on the path to playing music: "my older brother started playing guitar. I wanted to be like my big brother, and then my sister dated this guy who was in a heavy metal band."