“Nick had a vision of a group of musicians that could all play any style and thought of the name, Los Angeles League of Musicians. It wasn’t until he brought his congas that the band in this formation really started playing together,” sums up guitarist Zac Sokolow, explaining how LA LOM, the trio that he makes up with percussionist Nicholas Baker and bassist Jake Faulkner, came to be. He tells it as if he went back a long way in time. But barely two years have passed since they began playing and adding more and more fans. And since we’re talking about fans: Zane Lowe recommended the band not long ago on TikTok – and was kind enough to specify that he heard them through Tigre Sounds.
Sometimes it happens so fast that we don’t even have time to get it. That’s what cultural phenomena usually do: something explodes in front of us, dazzlingly but also unexpectedly, and we think it’s too recent to be that valuable, even though it is. That’s how it is with LA LOM: what they do is too good not to circulate it, not to spread it while it happens. Formed in Los Angeles in 2021, they’re an instrumental trio, although they often add guest musicians. And what they do is an exquisite blend of dissimilar but harmonious genres of music, from romantic boleros to 60’s soul ballads, from Sonidera and Amazonian cumbias to Bakersfield country. All absorbed and fused by their way of playing and feeling music, very old-fashioned, but so natural that the word retro seems not enough.
All this that’s happening to LA LOM is to celebrate. So we couldn’t be happier to support the premiere of their new video from Tigre Sounds. Here you can see their beautiful cover of “Llorar”, an original song by the Mexican cumbia band Los Socios del Ritmo.
“I grew up playing banjo with my dad, bluegrass and country music,” says Zac, who also learned to play guitar, mandolin and fiddle. “Jake and I met when we were teenagers at McCabe’s, a guitar store in LA that I used to work at. We’ve been playing music in different projects since then. We played for years in the rockabilly scene – which has always been big in Southern California and connected with the car culture. Soul, particularly the slow romantic ballads have always been popular here, especially for the lowriders.”
“Nick and Jake met in college and reconnected when Nick got a gig at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood,” tells Zac, to update the story of how they found each other. Reviewing the itinerary of its three members is key to understanding how so many musical sources came together in LA LOM, and how those paths from the past allowed them to trace this new sonic journey. “Nick learned Afro-Cuban music with his mentor Robert Miranda, who he began studying with when he was 8 years old. His grandmother is from Durango, and through her, he grew up listening to a lot of classic Mexican boleros. When we first started playing with Nick, we drew from those styles, playing tunes from groups like Trio Los Panchos, and Cuban music we learned from records of the Lecuona Cuban Boys.”
Zac, Nick and Jake are enchanted by the sounds of their city, Los Angeles. They all grew up there. The music they play comes from there, from local radio stations, backyard parties and dance clubs. There they heard those cumbias made on the other side of the border, in Mexico. There they also learned about the romantic boleros that older ladies love. “Cumbia is very popular in LA, particularly the Sonidera style. You hear it everywhere,” says the guitarist. And he adds: “There’s a radio station that plays cumbia all day long, and there are DJs and great bands that come here all the time. Last month I saw Grupo Soñador from Puebla play at Lazaro’s Ballroom. I also saw Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto from Colombia who came through and played at the Lodge Room. There are also local LA legends like Very Be Careful who play the Vallenato style, and great bands that play the psychedelic Chicha-influenced kind of style with electric guitar, like Tropa Magica.”
“I don’t think we intentionally plot any kind of musical fusion,” Zac warns, stating that there are no set limits for LA LOM. “We’ve been pretty open-minded about tunes to bring in and try out, and we know when something that we’re playing sounds like LA LOM. We recently got to open for a great Tuareg guitar player from Niger called Bombino, when he stopped in LA. He’s been a big inspiration to us as well.” Desert airs fly over in their version of “Cumbia Arabe”, originally recorded by the Mexican musician Francisco Bobadilla in 1977, and covered a year later in Colombia by Afrosound.
“For the last couple of years we’ve been playing gigs four or five nights a week, at bars, parties and hotels all over LA,” says the guitarist, trying to explain how LA LOM became specialized in selecting and covering gems from tropical bands like Los Shapis and Grupo Soñador, as well as legendary composers like Lorenzo Barcelata. This year they even took on the task of covering “Juana La Cubana” by Fito Olivares, who had just passed away a few months before. “We’d try to learn at least one new song before every gig. As we’d play for dancers, someone would ask us to play a song that we didn’t know. I’d write it down and try to learn it later. When you play that often, certain songs just work and stay in the set, and some of them get old pretty quickly.”
LA LOM also has a significant collection of original material. “I think that a lot of the covers that we’ve played have informed the kinds of tunes that we write,” reveals Zac. “We used to play three or four hours at our first gigs. And we used a lot of that time to make up new songs on the spot. When the crowd is dancing and excited, I think it’s easy to know what needs to be played, and a lot of the best tunes we’ve written have come from that.”
Keyboards, lap steel guitar, more percussion… It’s not unusual to see a guest musician playing with the trio. As its name suggests, Los Angeles League of Musicians is open to multiple possible ensembles. “We often play with a great percussionist named Dominique ‘Chief’ Rodriguez, who we originally met when he used to play with a band from LA called the Blasting Company. Cody Farwell plays the steel, and has joined us for a lot of the live shows and played on a lot of the recordings we have made. We love playing as a trio, but we are fortunate to know and get to play with some great musicians in LA whenever we can. We’ve done some collaborations with vocalists, and plan on doing more in the future.”
See LA LOM live when they return to Miami next month on Saturday, December 2nd, at ZeyZey. Tickets are on sale here.