By Linc Bradham
This Alchemical Records article is read by the author to provide a multimedia experience for our audience while increasing the accessibility of our content to persons with hearing loss, low vision, dyslexia, physical or motor disabilities, or are on the autism spectrum.
Sonic Castaways (in Spanish, Naufragos del Sonido) fuse multiple influences, genres, and sonic ideas with a volition and daring that respects the masters whom they emulate while still sounding fresh and
exciting. For Hispanic Heritage Month, as part of Alchemical Records’ continuing coverage on groups and artists who touch Hispanic culture in some way, we present to you: Sonic Castaways.
Sonic Castaways is a bilingual (Spanish/English) Washington, D.C.-based group who started their musical journey in 2016. Guitarist and singer-songwriter Alejandro “El Gato” Cortes is the founding member and leader of the band, which he called “Naufragos del Sonido,” later translated to English as “Sonic Castaways.”
Joining Cortes are Dan “The Generator” Aaron on drums, Jack “The Switchblade” Froude on guitar, Brad “La Pantera Negra” Warren on bass, and David “El Tumbao” Foreman on percussion and congas. In addition to the core members of the group, Sonic Castaways are frequent collaborators with many other well-established DMV artists, such as vocalist Laura Luv and violinist Sonia Maria.
Blending a variety of musical backgrounds, including, but not limited to: jazz, blues, folk, Motown, progressive rock, salsa and of course, traditional Spanish folk music, Sonic Castaways remain not only diverse, but spectacularly interesting in their delivery of these different styles.
Says Cortes, “This diversity is one of the band’s key components and as a fun way to put it…calling the band ‘Sonic Castaways’ was a way to highlight how eclectic and different each band member’s musical styles are…while at the same time, the struggle to make something unique and the adventure of doing so!”
Alejandro Cortes was born and raised in the South of Spain and resided in Madrid for many years, always playing guitar, and eventually falling in love with classic rock and the blues. He dreamed of a life that embodied the musical beauty he saw in individuals like Bruce Springsteen, Mark Knopfler, and Eric Clapton.
As time would go on, he would play more and more gigs in Spain and became not only exposed to, but immersed in, the music of Hispanic culture, such as Mediterranean Rumba and Flamenco. He played in many musical projects in Spain throughout the years, some of them being as varied as funk and even
reggae endeavors. Yet, in 2012, with visions for a musical dream outside of Spain, Cortes came to the United States, landing in Washington, D.C., with a smattering of songs in his pocket and excitement in his veins.
After some years of attending open mics in the DMV, playing his songs for other musicians, and contributing to assorted gigs in the area, Cortes found himself at 7DrumCity on U Street one night in 2016, where he met Dan Aaron (drums) and Jack Froude (guitar). It was instant musical synchronicity, and the seeds of Sonic Castaways were sewn. Aaron has a background as a jazz drummer, and Froude as a blues and rock guitarist. This coupling was a fantastic addition to the songs Cortes had already been writing and performing for years.
Anyone who has seen Sonic Castaways perform live at classic DMV spots such as Tropicalia, Bossa Bistro, Vinyl Lounge at Gypsy Sally’s, Velvet Lounge, Marx Cafe, or Haydee’s, knows just how much fun this group can be. It is difficult to capture how exciting their live performances are in video or audio, which is one of the markings of a live act that is something truly special. From audience interaction, to channeling Spanish folk sounds, to Cortes’ amazing storytelling between songs, Sonic Castaways, with Cortes’ vision, are an act that not only embodies Hispanic Heritage in their execution, but in the many connections they hold to the Hispanic World.
Before the pandemic, Sonic Castaways recorded two singles – Cita en la Ciudad (Rendezvous in the City) and Aldea Global (Global Village). They also recorded a video for NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, and are currently working on their debut full length album. Whether you catch them live or listen to their recordings, Sonic Castaways never fail to impress and are exciting, relevant, and poetic in both their approach and delivery of a beautiful synthesis of a variety of sonic possibilities. Look forward to much more coming from this inspiring and talented group of individuals led by Alejandro Cortes!
Linc Bradham is an American multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, audio engineer, and songwriter originally from Savannah, GA. He has resided in the DMV for the last three years and has served in the active-duty Army for the last 12 years. He is in the process of switching Army careers into the Army Field Band as an audio engineering professional, with long-term goals of promoting music education in America and the Middle East.
A songwriter by the age of 15, Karla Bonhoff has been entertaining audiences for decades. Native to Southern California, she came up in the L.A. circuit of the hippie era, where artists such as Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and so many others were continuously floating in and out of one another’s orbits. Bonoff and singer/songwriter Livingston Taylor will jointly perform at the Birchmere in Alexandria Dec. 11. Together, they will tackle new and established variations on Christmas favorites, as well as toss in their original tunes.
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