By Al Kaufman
Back in 1989, when country music stars were pseudo-cowboys wearing oversized hats, a band formed in Miami, fronted by a Cuban-American who sounded like Roy Orbison’s long lost kid brother. They called themselves The Mavericks, but nobody knew what to call their music. They were country, but because they infused their music with Tejano, jazz, pop, soul, and rock, people tried to come up with other labels for them, such as alternative-country, garage country, Tex-Mex. They were basically Put-Your-Qualifier-Here Country.
All their fans knew was that The Mavericks were a bunch of great musicians who could play virtually anything, and were led by a lead singer, Raul Malo, who could equally convey longing, love, and laughter in his sexually charged croon.
After six albums and 14 charting singles, The Mavericks quietly disbanded in 2004. Malo went onto a successful solo career, while others did their own thing. Drummer Paul Deakin toured with other acts between getting back to his carpentry. Guitarist Eddie Perez, who joined the band in time for their last, self-titled, album before the split, played with everyone from George Strait to the Foo Fighters. Multi-instrumentalist Robert Reynolds and keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden (who did not officially join the band until the reunion, but had been a session musician with them on tours and albums) continued their band, Swag, which included members of Cheap Trick and Wilco.
The band reunited in 2012, originally to play some shows and festivals, but they eventually recorded an album of new material. Their time spent exploring more musical territory pays dividends on their latest release, In Time. Just look at opening track “Back In Your Arms Again.” It encompasses country guitar with Latin keyboards and a rock and roll rhythm section. And it all makes one hell of a party. There’s the Latin and ska intertwined “All Over Again,” the Orbison-esque “Born to Be Blue” and “Amsterdam Moon,” the spaghetti-western epic, “Come Unto Me,” and the dance hall insta-classic “ Dance in the Moonlight.” It is an album overflowing with enthusiasm and exuberance that would be lacking if this were simply a “gimme the paycheck” reunion gig.
Drummer Deakin took time out from the band’s world tour to answer some questions about the band’s reunion and future, as well as their place in history.
Why the hiatus and why get back together? Did you know it was a hiatus, or did you think the Mavericks were through?
I’m sure there were a lot of reasons for the hiatus, but the main one I think was burnt out. We had been touring for 10 years solid at that point and it started not to be fun anymore. We always had a tenet that if it wasn’t fun, we would stop doing it. So we did. There were no plans to get together so I guess it was more of a break up. I think the main reason for the band getting back together was that we missed it honestly. I know Raul says that he had some songs over the past couple of years before we got back together, that he felt would have been good for the Mavericks. The original idea came from a promoter offering us a reunion tour package. We met for dinner to talk about it and Raul brought up that he had some songs and wanted to make a record. He felt it would’ve been disingenuous to just go and cash in on the old hits, and probably not much fun. And you know how we feel about that.
You guys have been quoted as saying you make music that that pleases yourselves. The new record has country, Tejano, blue-eyed soul; a typical Mavericks record. Does it bug you when people try to pigeon-hole you, or say things like, “Oh, they’re not real country.”? Does the name come from your refusal to be labeled?
No, I can’t see why that would bother us. Although I would question who was saying it, whether they had the same definition of what real country is as what we do. That said, we do have country elements within our music. And we don’t really do anything not to be labeled. That seems like a lot of forethought and I don’t think that we do that. It’s just all about the music and we’re a band that listens to a lot of different styles of music. Honestly, before we play we’re listening to disco some days or Perez Prado one day or Harry Nielsen another. And after we play, we listen to music ’til we go to sleep. It’s just all about the music, not how we are perceived.
You have a very large female following. How do the wives feel about this?
I think we are all fortunate enough to have significant others in our lives that are confident in themselves. It’s just not an issue.
Twenty-five years makes you eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Others who are not strictly rock, like Donna Summer, have made it in. Do you think you have a shot?
Ha, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I think that’s pretty much a long shot at this point.
Can we expect another 25 years of Mavericks’ music?
As I said before, the idea of the reunion started with the idea of a tour and morphed into making a record and continuing on. I think I’ve heard Raul say, “What started as 20 shows may turn into 20 years.” We are still having a lot of fun and are better at protecting that these days than we were the last go around.
The Mavericks play Center Stage on Friday, April 25th.