by Jacob Uitti
The Seattle-based rock ‘n’ roll band, Tres Leches, thrives in poorly lit, vulnerable spaces. The group, however, doesn’t use darkness as a cause for being closed off. Rather, the trio, which is known for strapping on instruments only to switch them mid-song, uses dim spaces to open up to one another within them, exchanging the creative energies and personal conversations that have helped fuel their punk prowess.
Comprised of Alaia D’Alessandro, Ulises Mariscal, and Zander Yates, Tres Leches began three years ago in D’Alessandro’s parents’ basement. They flourished as a result of their lighting feng shui.
“Playing in dark spaces influenced our songwriting,” says D’Alessandro, “Not in a way that we’re sad about, or anything. It’s more like that feeling of being there but you’re with your friends and you can open up.”
The band members, who will celebrate the release of their first LP, Amorfo, at Beacon Hill’s Clock-Out Lounge on September 28, also pride themselves on their ability to shift roles in the band at any moment during a performance.
“It pushes the mind to be in a different space at any one point,” says D’Alessandro, who sings and plays guitar, keys, and drums at any given moment. “You have to be able to adapt how you take up space very quickly.”
On Amorfo, a Spanish word that means “formless,” the trio bridges the heaviness of grunge and the dreamscape of the ethereal, creating a driving, psychedelic record rooted in rock. On the album, which features the bouncy “Ha Ha Thisaway” and the instrumental “Nueva York,” D’Alessandro shouts, “What are you doing!” in complaint of capitalist pitfalls, while Mariscal later laments the forgotten, using his native Spanish.
Mariscal, who was born in Mexico City, says he regularly meets people of different backgrounds because of the songs he and his band sing.
“I know there are people like me somewhere, and playing this music, sometimes I find them,” he says. “People thank us for singing in Spanish or acknowledging immigrants and refugees in our songs. To be able to connect to people this way and share our stories feels really therapeutic.”
The three members of the band bond through their diverse modes of expression; each pursues their own interests outside of Tres Leches. D’Alessandro, for example, works in KEXP’s video department and makes music documentaries. Mariscal is an interdisciplinary artist who paints and sculpts. And Yates, an experiential musician and engineer, records local bands.
“Sometimes at practice we’ll just play one or two songs, and then we’ll take a break and talk about our lives.,” says D’Allesandro, “Those conversations have become very much part of the work we put into our music.”
The nine-song Amorfo, rich with musicianship and catchy language, is a prominent step for the up-and-coming three-piece. And while the album ranges from pop to punk, there’s cohesion to its construction, much like a multi-course feast cooked by a tightly knit kitchen team. But to experience the trio’s full range, audiences must see them live as they trade instruments and stage positions in real time.
“It’s like euphoric chaos,” explains D’Alessandro. “Chaos in its idealistic form. It’s a good thing, like one of those few moments when chaos doesn’t mean destruction, but rather the building of something. You’re not sure where you’re going but you go with it. Instead of fighting it, you’re taken into a space that you don’t necessarily have control over. It’s very revealing.”
Feature photo courtesy Tres Leches.