Y LA BAMBA's Luz Elena Mendoza and Death Songs' Nick Delffs connected creatively when their bands shared a 2012 tour down the West Coast. Upon returning home to Portland, that connection was never intended to evolve into a new band. It just did so on its own.
"We started sharing each other's songs and playing together, and definitely having a connection that you can't really force," Mendoza says. "It's like a beautiful experience and exchange and we just kind of developed. Basically, it's like growing. We were growing. It's not like we were trying to be in a band together. We were just playing."
And they didn't stop. Three years after that initial tour, Mendoza and Delffs' band, Tiburones, is releasing its debut album, Eva.
The group's lineup includes Ali Clarys (vocals/synth), Jake Ransom (percussion/vibraphone), Sam Stidham (bass), and Lauren Vidal (percussion/guitar), each of whom fuel the fire created by Delffs and Mendoza, whose combined aesthetic courses through the new album. Eva smolders and soars with the kind of folkloric, Latin-tinged indie-pop that has made Y La Bamba one of Portland's most beloved bands. At the same time, it skitters with a jittery brand of rock 'n' soul, à la Death Songs and Delffs' previous band, the Shaky Hands.
It's certainly no shock that Tiburones sounds like two distinctive songwriters coming together. What's beautiful about Eva is just how complementary their styles sound, and how seamlessly they mesh. Delffs says he had never really collaborated musically like he has with Mendoza in Tiburones.
"It was really very much needed for me," he says. "I was in this interesting place in my life in a lot of ways, and I was personally really needing to explore different ways of writing songs. It was really refreshing for me to play supportive roles and kind of share the lead. The whole writing process was very different."
It was productive, too—resulting in, according to Mendoza, an "explosion of songs" that the band recorded with Graeme Gibson (Houndstooth, Fruit Bats). Eva will be the inaugural release on Pink Smoke, a new label started by Chris Funk, the local producer, Decemberists guitarist, and a "homie for years" of Tiburones.
The impending album release is the culmination (so far) of an effort to keep Tiburones moving forward in a way that's low key, organic, and totally focused on the art. Mendoza and Delffs didn't take the next step in the process because they felt like they had something special, they say. They did so because they had no other choice.
"You don't realize it's happening, so we hold on to it because it's something that is visceral to us," says Mendoza. "We hold on to it because it's part of what we believe in and what we stand for without even thinking about it. It's a strong, spirited experience. It's a way of life for us."