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An Interview with Chicago Hardcore Band Si Dios Quiere

Influenced by their Chicago and Chicano identities, Si Dios Quiere doesn’t hold back when it comes to vocalizing their frustrations and bringing attention to the issues their communities face. The five-piece hardcore band taps into that aggression, natural vulnerability and experiences with gentrification, immigration and gang violence to fuel the brilliant storytelling in their latest EP release, Sol y Guerra.

“It’s stuff that is happening everywhere in other communities. We draw the main influence when it affects us directly as Mexican-Americans [and] the shit that comes with that. I’m very proud and appreciate my people, my culture, my music and food and all that but there’s all the other stuff that no one ever wants to— people talk about it but it’s the shit that makes it into a song, sometimes. [We’re] trying to bring awareness. We got to get it off our chest,” said the band’s guitarist Christian Guajardo.

Si Dios Quiere is Ruben Garza (vocals), Guajardo, Roberto Velazquez (guitar), Louie Flores (Bass) and Ricardo Velazquez (drums).

The Chicago natives are set to play Act Like You Know Fest this fall. All proceeds for the festival will be donated to Oklahomans for Equality, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ individuals and families through education, alliances and programs.

How was Si Dios Quiere created?

Christian: Yeah, I wanted to do a hardcore band forever and I posted on a Facebook group for local Chicago stuff and then Rick saw it and we were into the same bands. It was like all the older old school like hardcore punk bands. We met up and I think our first jam we wrote our first song, basically the whole thing from scratch. I had nothing ready. I don’t think he had any stuff in mind. We just did it and that was kind of the start.

Did you guys expect it to turn into what it is today?

Ricardo: Definitely not no. It’s so cool to see the turnout at all the shows and stuff. Yeah, definitely didn’t expect any we weren’t sure what to expect

What’s everyone’s background in music? When did y’all start creating music individually?

Christian: I started playing guitar in, like, 6th grade, so I was like twelve or eleven, something like that and I played it on and off. I didn’t do a whole lot. Then when I got to high school, I was also in and out of a lot of metal, I guess, bands. Even though we didn’t really do anything. I took a break and then I got back into it a couple of years ago and [it was the] same thing, just a bunch of different metal bands and stuff like that. I wanted to try something different and I kind of started doing this. So I think I really kind of sat down and started doing guitar seriously a couple of years ago. I decided to get my shit together.

Ricardo: Me and my brother Rob, who’s our other guitar player, we’ve been playing music since we were young, and we’ve always been in bands together. Our background, like, mostly we come from, like, just a lot of punk music. So, just from there. I wasn’t doing music or anything for a while either. So it was kind of like great timing. When I saw Chris’ post about wanting to start a band, and he — like he said, every band that he had on that post I was getting into at the time. When I messaged him, that’s when I guess I started taking it seriously again.

Y’all are all Chicano, which is so sick. The phrase, “si dios quiere” is universally known in the Latino community. How did y’all decide on the name?

Christian: Dude, it’s funny because we had some names in mind that were in English and all that.

Ricardo: I’m glad it didn’t stick though.

Christian: Then we started thinking, oh, man, maybe we should do something in Spanish and we started coming up with some names. The one I thought of was Si Dios Quiere and I got that from another all Latino band, Xibalba. They have a song called “Si Dios Quiere”. But like you said, it’s a phrase that we all know, and it can be used kind of, like, in a good way, but also it can be kind of, like, heavy and dark, depending on the situation or the context. Yeah it’s a hard ass name. We should just go with that.

And you’re all from Chicago. How does your community, both Chicago and the Mexican/Latino community, inspire your music?

Christian: A lot. It’s just like it’s all connected, right? All of us grew up in the hood, and so that’s where all the Mexicans are in Chicago. We take a lot of those experiences, and that’s what we write about. We can all relate to it. We never bring up something where someone in the band is like, oh, I don’t get it, or I don’t click with it. We all get what’s going on in the lyrics and all that stuff. I would say for the most part, it’s directly — It directly comes from that. Sometimes we sing about other shit, but it’s usually tied to that, I think.

Ricardo: Yeah, for sure. It’s definitely the experience. Everything that gets written. We definitely relate to it. I guess [it’s] also the aggression we all have. That’s how we release our anger, I guess you could say, through the music.

Christian: Yeah, exactly. Actually, I feel like it’s one thing to be, like, Latino or Chicano or however you want to put it, but growing up in Chicago, sometimes it’s really colorful and beautiful, and there’s so much culture, but there’s also a lot of heavier things you got to deal with. Especially if you’re living in the city or around it. Yeah, there’s like, gang violence, drugs especially, growing up, all of us are kind of in the same age. So the thing is, what we talk about is — that’s what we saw in the 90’s and the early 2000s. Anyone will tell you, like, Chicago, South Side, West Side, in the 90’s [and] 2000’s is like, you don’t want to hang out there. Even now, shit happens. And it’s just like, man, it happens in your hood. We can’t always do stuff about it, but at least we can try to write about it.

Your music makes a lot of social commentary on very present issues like police brutality, immigration and gentrification. Is this something you always knew you wanted to include in your music?

Christian: I don’t know. I feel like the first time we started doing stuff, not totally. It just turned into that naturally. We were, like, trying to figure things [out] because the things we’re singing about are things we’re talking about anyways, like, in between practicing or getting ready to whatever. That’s just the stuff that we’re shooting the shit about. That was something we all felt pretty strong about. It’s kind of like our thing, I guess.

What’s the song writing process like?

Christian: Pretty much me, Rick and Rob, our other guitarist, one of the three of us will have some idea and we just come together and we start kind of piecing it to a song. I think we do it — It’s really natural for us. If it’s just me and Rick or me and Rob or Rob and Rick or the three of us, someone will have some idea and we just start kind of brainstorming and writing around that. Ruben writes a lot of his lyrics on his own. I write some lyrics on my own. So then at some point we just add that to the mix and we just start trying to piece it together and see what sounds good. But yeah, the three of us will usually have some good parts written down, and come together.

Ricardo: Yeah. I just wanted to mention that I was going to remind Chris about this too. I think when we first started, it was like once we had everybody in, we were going through a lot of songs. Like, we’re busting out songs left and right and there was a lot of throwaway songs. Once we got ready to record the demo and everything came together like really well. I’m happy everything has turned out the way it did first with the demo and then coming in the follow up, Sol y Guerra.

Christian: It’s been a process. When we started ‘till now, especially because we started doing —so, we wrote that first song and we had those first few jams like I think weeks before the lockdown happened and trying to come out of that. I think we got better at working together and writing. It’s been crazy. A lot of throwaway songs like Rick said, we never use any of it. Sounds cool for a day and then we come back like, does it though?

It’s funny you mention the lockdown because you started releasing music in 2020 which couldn’t have come at a more interesting time given the political climate of the country plus a global pandemic. What was that like? You had a lot of material.

Christian: Yeah, we did. So the title of our demos’ called A Hell like No Other. That cover, it’s a collage of some photos we took and photos that we got some photographers to lend us. A lot of it was like right around the whole George Floyd situation that happened and there was a lot of protests and displays of art and solidarity. I think that plus like the stuff we were kind of messing with that really, I think lit a spark for us to, “let’s finish this and let’s talk about this stuff, man” because there’s not a lot of other ways for us to channel that. So, that was that year fucked up. but we got some songs out of it.

What comes first when writing a song, the music or the lyrics?

Ricardo: Music.

Christian: Music. Rick will tell you. Depending on people’s work schedules, whatever, sometimes it ends up being just me and him. I might not have anything. He might not have anything, but by the end of it, there will be a solid amount of music, and it’s all from scratch. And then afterwards, we figure out, like, lyrics and all that.

A Hell Like No Other, opens with a clip from the movie Blood In Blood Out and the last song on Sol y Guerra ends with a snippet of the song “Como Te Voy A Olvidar” by Los Ángeles Azules. What was the significance of adding those clips?

Christian: So we all like Blood In Blood Out and I forgot someone was saying we should use some sound clips. We didn’t really know what sounds clips we just thought, “hey, we should have some sound clips and make these songs longer than a minute.” I don’t know. We were talking about that movie and then I think I was watching it and there was that part. I was like, man, that line is so good. That should be in a song and that was it. We had the intro. I don’t even think we had a title for it. Then we decided to name it after La Madre, which is kind of from the movie. And we took that snippet and then with the song “Como Te Voy Olvidar”, I just thought it would be kind of haunted. I don’t know, kind of cool. It’s a sweet song and it’s kind of a sad song. The song that it’s on “Desperate Measures”, that’s a sad ass song. It’s about gang life and it’s not a fucking pretty song. It’s like it ends with this really romantic clip. We’re just like, man, it’d be kind of dope to do that. We started using that as our intro sometimes.

Are there any Latino artists or bands that influence your music?

Christian: Yo, so many. A lot of local ones. Yeah, definitely with the music, right? If I’m talking about guitars and shit like that. La Armada, they’re another band. I said this before. We’ve played with them a few times, and they are a band that they started off as, all Dominican. They came to the US. They reformed their group here and then now their lineup —it’s got Puerto Rican, and I think they’re drummers from Venezuela. So it’s really cool, right? They’ve been doing it for a minute, and I feel like that was a direct influence to us, deciding to take this course that we did with the band. So they’re probably one of my biggest influences, I think I would say, for all of us to be honest.

Ricardo: Honestly dude they’re amazing. Yeah, I think we’re very fortunate when we played their release show. That was a good night for me to remember because Snuffed was also on there.

Christian: They’re great, too. Yeah, Snuffed is awesome and then other bands. I mean, Metallica, Slayer, all that old school shit. Madball. Yeah, I don’t know. I would say it’s a mix of all that.

Ricardo: Honestly I have more of a hip hop background. I’m more about like Three Six Mafia and stuff like that. But when it comes to for me, other hardcore bands, I love Stick To Your Guns, Terror, stuff like that. Obviously, Suicidal Tendencies. Thats when — when I found out Suicidal Tendencies, I was like a young kid, a young punk rock kid into skateboarding and all that stuff.

There’s a lack of not just Latinos but other BIPOC in the hardcore scene. Have you ever felt that this scene wasn’t created for us?

Christian: Yeah, all the time. Especially with this big sub genre, hardcore or whatever. It’s super rare. Off the top of my head, the only bands that I know that are riding out from LA and Xibalba, but who are also from LA. So it’s super centralized, right? I mean, there’s a couple of other ones, but it’s really rare to see something like that. Sometimes you’ll be at a show and like even if it’s like a local show or something, you go and the band’s playing and the crowd it’s not always as diverse as you think and it sticks out to you, right? Because you look around like, shit, no one looks like me.

Ricardo: Yeah, it’s easy to feel out of place.

How do you combat those feelings?

Christian: I don’t know. It’s kind of cool because then you could I mean — if you see any of our videos on YouTube, there’s a lot of people talking shit. It’s not a lot, but there’s a couple. You know where that is coming from. The things that we’re singing on stage and in the songs and just like the fact that one, we’re getting people a little irritated and shit. Like, fuck you, I’m going to keep doing it. Then two, it’s the people that show up and the people that buy the stuff and support us. It’s insane. We did our release show a couple of weeks ago. It was over a month ago, actually. We did our release show at this venue called Subterranean, here in Chicago. It’s crazy because that’s a venue where I’ve seen a lot of big bands, like cool hardcore bands play. Then we were playing there. We were playing the main part of the venue and it was super packed and the crowd is really diverse but also a big chunk of it was just brown kids from the hood, you know what I mean?

It’s like all these South Side West Side Chicago kids that are showing up to see the music have that kind of effect on them where they’re into it or they’re singing [because] they know the lyrics or they’re feeling proud and stuff. You can get really good energy at other shows, but this one’s a little more unique because it’s like a cultural energy. It’s almost like being at a street festival or something. It’s very specific and I don’t know. I think that keeps us going because that’s starting to happen a lot more and more as we’ve gone on. It’s crazy, the people who will show up for the reason that they connect to it on a level that’s more than just, “I like music.” It’s like an identity. I think that’s what keeps us going.

If y’all could collab with anybody who would it be?

Ricardo: Every time I think about it I think about that flyer.

Christian: We did an interview and they said, who’s your dream lineup? We told them and they made a flyer out of it. For a second, I was like, wait, fuck. What? I thought, you know, like, Rick was saying Rotting Out was on there. Xibalba and this band called Escuela Grind, who are really dope, they’re from the East Coast. And then another band from LA called Desmadre. I feel like if we could collaborate, just hang with any one of those bands, it’d be really cool. It’d be really fitting.

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