PAPI FIMBRES texts me while I'm at work. He's leaving town to go on a celebratory birthday camping trip with his wife early tomorrow, he says, so the only time for an interview is tonight at their show at the Know. I hit the road right when I clock out, stopping by home long enough to spin through Fimbres' band's new album, Máscara vs. Máscara, before heading to NE Alberta.
Máscaras' debut, a co-release by Portland upstart Party Damage Records and garage imprint Resurrection Records, combines bandmate Carlos Segovia's whizz-bang acid-fried guitar work with Theo Craig's nimble Rickenbacker bass walks, all while being clobbered by Fimbres' bull-in-a-china-shop drums.
"Theo found a poster of our first show. It was August 2, 2013," Fimbres tells me as we huddle around the corner from the Know after their set. "It's just matured so quick and it became its own entity, and it was a fucking force of love and intensity." Fimbres might sound like all bravado, but the man's a force unto himself. By some counts, he plays in 25 bands around town, and he tells me he's been in 50 since starting his music career here 15 years ago.
Máscaras happened by chance. After years of playing "semiprofessionally, playing hard, playing for keeps," Craig had stopped playing music. Booking shows and doing radio came naturally to the long-time Portlander, but a "traumatic romantic moment" led to him putting down the bass for two years. "I forgot that I knew how to play," he says. "Just a vague notion that 'I could do this better' sometimes, watching someone."
Craig was drawn back into the band-life fold when he bumped into an old friend at Rontoms and joined the short-lived project Later Dudes, with guitarist Segovia. "We played about six shows, six weeks in a row, and recorded six songs," Craig says.
As luck would have it, Fimbres wandered into one of those shows, in the basement at the house of local band Minden, and caught the inimitable duo of Segovia and Craig. Between streams of congratulating passersby at that show, Fimbres jokes, "I was like, 'You guys are tight, but I can make it fucking tighter. Let's do this.'" And Máscaras was born.
A flurry of shows, numerous hangouts-turned-jams, and two recording sessions later, here we stand, in the budding Portland summer, on the precipice of Máscara vs. Máscara's release. Party Damage and Resurrection each came to Máscaras independently wanting to put out recordings. "Never in my life" have two labels shown interest in a record like this, Fimbres says. "One label, that's great! [But] a co-release, that's fantastic!"
Máscaras revels in the push-pull between outer space and the terrestrial, the dissonance of rock combined with the rhythm of Segovia and Fimbres' cumbia project, Orquestra Pacifico Tropical. The ebullient drummer says the band "captured lightning in a bottle" with the album.
Something Craig mentions points to the heart of the band. He gets affirmative nods from Segovia and Fimbres when he says, "This record came from us just appreciating each other." Máscara vs. Máscara reveals nothing less.