Give Me A (Hybrid) Moment: Justin Amen and the Hybrids
We met up with Justin Amen and the Hybrids at the Los Angeles College of Music building in Pasadena. They were kind enough to give us a private show. Much talent. Very wow.
Justin Amen and the Hybrids are Justin, lead vocals and lead guitar. Jorge, rhythm guitar. David Contreras, drums, and David Perez, Bass.
TW: How did the band begin?
Justin: So it started off I used to play just solo music, I’ll just play it like, acoustic and sing. That’s where the folk aspect comes from I just used to write songs... Me and George, we’ve been good friends for a while. I used to go to his house a lot (to smoke weed). We would just start jamming out and stuff. We made some cool stuff when we’re high and I showed him some of my music and he did some cool stuff to it and I liked it so we said let’s start a band.
Jorge: So I was like “Alright, we’re gonna have to seal down a drummer, cos they have the most parts. We went through a couple members like Charlie. He would play bass for us back in the day. He’s a cool homie, but he’s working two jobs and stuff like that, so we had to let him go. We found David The Drummer thru Instagram sifting thru Justin’s DMs one day. We met him at a couple shows before, called him up and arranged a meeting. Started jamming out and stuff. We dug his sound, and what he was doing to the groove. Brought Charlie in, but now he’s working two jobs. But now we have David.
TW: How did you meet David?
Jorge: He’s best friends with David The Drummer. David and David are best friends. So we got Double Ds on the rhythm section.
TW: Where did the band name come from?
Jorge: I came up with the hybrids part because I wanted to create a band where musicians could get together and back up artists and do gigs. There’s another hybrids to this where we play jazz and soul music. So David and I are pretty busy most of the time. But other than that I think it’s a lot of fun. I really like helping out other musicians. Actually I’m going to school right now. I’m about to get my degree in Music Education from Cal State LA. I’ve always loved music, but I’m more into teaching.
Justin: have you guys seen Tenacious D? That’s pretty much how the name was started. “Justin Amen” was on my ass and “The Hybrids” was on his.TW: How do you describe your sound?
Dave: That’s something we would talk about as rehearsing. Like “What are we gonna go as?” I don’t want to stick to one genre. It wasn’t until recently like we kind of just decided on alternative rock. The way we perform the music and what we each produce as a band basically produced this fusion of Jazz, Rock, Punk Rock, maybe a touch of Metal if you’re feeling lucky. It’s pretty much a blend of multiple styles that were all influenced by really. That’s why it’s “Alternative Rock” if you will. As far as influences go, to capitalize on it, for me, I started out more on the Rock, Metal, and Punk side. Then I got more into Funk and R&B and Jazz. Oh my gosh, I love Jazz. At this point I listen to just about everything and try to bring in as much styles as I possibly can into my playing but not without it getting distracted into one specific style.
Justin: I don’t know how to go off of that. Pretty much, we went by a lot of different Genres and stuff, because at first I just showed them some of my music and we’ll see where it goes. I was thinking we were gonna stick like that “Folky” thing and stuff, but ended up going in a different direction and I liked it. Like he said, we all put different aspects into it and stuff. It kind of just made a mixture of everything and I mean even with my own writing I’ve always tried to be diverse… I don’t like to write nothing but this or nothing but that. I just write whatever I feel. If I feel sad or something, it’s not gonna be a happy sounding song. If I’m mad, it’s gonna be faster and angrier sounding. If I’m in love, it’s obviously not gonna be a fast punk song. I kind of let that make my Genres. I lend my crazy emotions, and whatever I’m feeling kind of guide what I do with my music. It’s definitely cool I can have that and experiment with my sounds and have other people come and experiment with it, and make it what it is. I guess we can call it Alternative Rock.
Jorge: How do I top that? I mean, when me and J-bone started jamming we were really into blues and The Beatles. We jammed to a lot of The Beatles trying to copy the harmonies to Sgt. Pepper. Those were always cool times but I actually also play saxophone. I started in high school band and studied that in college. But I’d have to say that guitar is a fun instrument for me, because it allows me to be a little more open and learn about different harmonies. Really interesting, compared to saxophone and studying jazz and classical music. It’s more of a melodic instrument. Compared to the harmonic aspect of it. So that all goes into play into what I do I also know I have I’m a music major so I know Theory and harmony and stuff. I’m always into helping other people out and J-Bone’s a cool friend of mine and I think his songs are dope. His songs are really cool and I think they attract a huge audience, I think. Because the music’s so diverse, that’s what makes it so appealing to a lot of people.
TW: In an effort to get to know you all better, I was wondering if you had any jobs, or what do you do to live?
Dave: Well I sleep – no I’m kidding. How I live, basically is pretty much sitting behind that kit, that’s how I live. That’s my life. That pretty much sums it up. I don’t even know how to explain it anymore. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a job because it’s something I love to do. It’s how I make a living. Playing drums every day. Not to brag, but I’m in like five other groups, but this is one of my favorites. Yeah, I would say drums is how I make my living. That’s my life.
Justin: I wish I could say I make my living off of music, but at the moment I need to live off of money. There’s an age difference between me and Dave, too. David and David are nineteen, and we’re twenty two. I work two jobs. I work at Starbucks during the day and at night I work at a sushi restaurant over in Montebello. I’m a waiter, I don’t make the sushi.
Jorge: Well, when I first started going to school I had two jobs. I was working as an after school assistant in a middle school and then worked as a busboy... I’d work five hours at La Costa or whatever job I was working at, and make like forty bucks or something like that. I would play a bongo gig and for five hours and I’d get like two hundred something dollars and I was like what the heck? This is crazy! So I just stuck to music after a couple years of doing both those jobs. I also work at the church too…
David: I work at a temp agency, so just warehouses. Wherever they need me I go; and I play bass for my church. They pay me a little bit, but not that much.
Jorge: Same man, same.
TW: Keeping on the jobs, I was wondering if anyone has any stories they want to share.
Justin: I’ll go back to my first job, I used to work at Ralph’s. That was my first job when I was like seventeen. I don’t know how old I was at this point, but I had been there over a year. I was pretty much working as a receiver. Like when the truck orders would come in and stuff I went and signed off on it. I was ordering product one day with my manager. I was sitting in the office talking to him and right behind him is the camera for one of the isles. It was like the soda and juice isle. I just see this guy walking back and forth in the isle. I’m just seeing this in the corner of my eye as I’m talking to my manager. All of a sudden I look – and he’s like a crazy looking homeless guy – but he just like pulls down his pants and squats. Takes a shit. In the middle of the isle. And I watched him on camera do this, pull up his pants, not even wipe, and walk out. Left a man-shit in the isle. I cleaned that shit up. Because I was working for a union at the time, one of the rules that they enforce is none of the baggers and employees like that don’t clean up bodily fluid. They don’t clean it. It’s the higher-ups, the managers. My main manager was there and there was me, who was the higher-up. So my manager placed it on me to do it. I said like “Can one of them do it?” and he was like “Nah.” And he told me the rule. So I had to go out there. They have this stuff. It's pretty much this powder you just throw on it, and it sucks all the moisture out of it and you just sweep it into a bin. I did that. It was a lot easier to clean up thank god, but I was still gagging while I was doing it.
Jorge: Hmmm…. I dropped a trey at La Costa once. I was a busboy. I was walking through and I lost my step and I dropped the trey. O my gosh I hate hearing plates crash to the floor. Not a good sound. I was so embarrassed. One time I was playing a gig. It was in adoration for a church and I was playing a lot of guitar. I think I was playing for like forty five minutes and then my arm fell asleep. I was like are you serious right now!? At one point I was like “Oh, God, please don’t let me let go of this pick!”
David: Before my temp job I worked at Wal-Mart. I was an overnight stocker, and one night I was stocking. I went to the back room and found the back doors were open. It was close to Christmas. These guys just pulled a truck to the back, grabbed ten TVs and ran out the back. I couldn’t do anything. I was like “See ya later!” and went back to work.
TW: What’s the farthest you’ve gone on tour?
Justin: We’re still a fairly new band. What’s the farthest we’ve gone? Not that far, honestly. I mean we’ve played East LA. We’ve played downtown, we’ve played Echo Park. We’ve played in Highland Park too. Universal. We want to go on a tour. Once the album comes out. We’re kind of thinking of making it week thing, you know, for one week just go up the states from California to Washington. You know, hit Olympia and stuff. From there, go down to Portland, Oregon and Eugene, Oregon. From there, probably back into California, San Francisco and slowly make our way back here. That’s what we want to do just to get used to it because none of us have ever gone on a tour that I know of… Yeah, we’ve never done a tour where we sleep in the car and stuff like that. Definitely planning to.
Jorge: Let’s get an RV, man.
Dave & David: Yeeaaaahhhh!
TW: I’m not sure how much of this you have, but what do you do in your free time?
Dave: Free time. Do I know what that is? I think I do. Even when I do have down time, I barely relax. I’m mostly behind the kit working on my craft and mastering it really. Occasionally hanging out with these guys. Most of the time – when I do, it’s gigging, and like I said, rehearsals and school and practice. But the free time I have I just… Lay down, and ponder life.
Justin: I mean when I’m not working two jobs… Being with the band and stuff, uh I have a girlfriend that I spend a lot of time with.
Justin: Yeah, I spend a lot of time with her and when I’m not doing that I’m pretty much just smoking weed with him [gestures to Jorge]. Or uh trying to do some other stuff I need to do in my life. It’s kind of you know pretty much work on living I guess. I don’t know, that kind of got awkward.
Jorge: I can relate to David on this one. I mean, well, I’m on vacation right now. So I took some days off. If I’m not practicing here, I’m practicing usually at school or at home. Most of the time I practice saxophone. Most recently I went hiking with my girlfriend. I thought that that was really therapeutic. I’m trying to get more into writing and going out and seeing nature more. There’s a whole world out there I feel like I’ve been lacking on, especially since I’m graduating.
David: I just hike a lot. Go for walks, play video games sometimes. That’s it, yeah.
TW: Would you like to talk about the album?
Justin: So right now we’re working on an album, a self-titled album. It’s based off of songs that I wrote that I had for my solo music but I never got to it as far as recording them. It’s the stuff I wanted a full band for, but I never recorded it by myself. Right now it’s going pretty well. We’re almost done. We just got to record one more song live and then after that we’re gonna put all the overdubs over everything else that we need to. After that we’re pretty much done. We have a single coming out called “Russian Roulette”. We also – I mean, I say ‘we’ even though technically the first album was just me – but we use that music too and we play a lot of stuff from the first album. “Russian Roulette” was actually on the first album. It was just like an acoustic folk song and it sounds a lot better now. I do have one album out right now and it’s called “What We Become” and I recorded that last year. Also recorded a four song EP. That’s mostly just acoustic folk music and a couple songs where I try to play drums and stuff. You can find that on Soundcloud and YouTube and all that good stuff.
Recommended Song: Grass Isn’t Always Greener