Band has new EP, album coming out in next several months

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FARMINGTON — Longtime fans of the Navajo blues-rock trio the Plateros can expect a number of changes from the band as the new year gets underway.

But frontman Levi Platero insists the group’s primary characteristic will remain the same.

“The energy is still there,” he said from his home in Tohajiilee last week at the end of a holiday break from touring. “The direction is all mixed up.”

Mixed up in a good way, Platerno meant. This year is shaping up to be perhaps the most eventful year in the band’s history as it deals with a name change — it’s the Levi Platero Band now instead of the Plateros — and prepares to release two recordings, its first in several years, that will showcase a change in style.

That change was precipitated by the experiences the Plateros — Levi on guitar and vocals, Douglas Platero on drums, and Bronson Begay on bass and vocals — had in 2015 while performing as part of the group Indigenous, a longtime and well-known South Dakota-based blues-rock group that has shared the stage with such heavyweights as B.B King, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, the Indigo Girls, the Dave Matthews Band and Los Lonely Boys. Levi Platero said he and his bandmates broadened their horizons considerably last year, not just in terms of the venues they played as part of Indigenous, but also in regard to the people they met and the influences they absorbed while traveling extensively throughout the United States.

The group will begin its busy 2016 campaign with a show this weekend at Crash Music at the Aztec Theater.

The trio will have a lot of new tricks to show its fans as it largely puts aside its involvement with Indigenous this year in favor of concentrating on its own future.

“We got a little more exposure, were able to meet a lot more people and we upped our repertoire quite a bit,” Platero said, describing how beneficial the tour with Indigenous was. “We did a lot of networking, so that was good.”

Blues-rock will remain the band’s bedrock sound, but Platero said the group is delving into some different genres, including contemporary reggae, folk and R&B.

Platero’s trio plans on releasing a self-titled, eight-song EP in March — its first release since 2009 — and a full album by the middle of summer. Both efforts have or are being recorded at Sanctuary Sound Studio in Albuquerque with Lee Padilla co-producing the discs with Platero. Padilla is a longtime friend of the Platero family, and Levi Platero said his guidance in the studio had a strong impact on the band’s sound.

“Mainly, just clarity,” Platero said. “He also had a few pop ideas and a few country ideas.”

The trio began recording in May, making short, repeated visits to the studio instead of trying to record everything in just a handful of sessions.

Platero said he spent much of last year writing material for the two recordings.

“Lyrically, it’s very different,” he said. “Most of the songs are about positivity. There are songs about relationships, hope, even sex.”

Platero said when he began playing with the group at age 12, he focused almost exclusively on melodies in his songwriting. Now, at the ripe old age of 23, he’s learned the value of good lyrics.

“It just kind of hit me the past few years,” he said, explaining that he’s learned to express the things he’s seen from different perspectives.

Platero cited the work of former Albuquerque resident and rock ‘n’ roll legend Jim Morrison in describing his artistic aspirations.

“He tried to incorporate poetry into his rock ‘n’ roll because he was a poet,” Platero said. “That’s the kind of thing I’m trying to portray.”

Platero said the EP is nearly done, with just a few finishing touches needed to be added, while a substantial amount of recording work still needs to be done on the 13-song album. He described the EP as a transitional piece of work — perhaps serving as the end of the old Plateros era while introducing listeners to the new style. Its songs will cover a number of genres.

“I have a really heavy blues song, a traditional 12-bar blues tune and some pop, folk and folk-rock,” he said.

That mix of styles is likely to make the Levi Platero Band harder to classify than the straight blues-rock of the Plateros, but Platero isn’t concerned about that.

“I don’t want to be mainstream,” he said.

Platero said he feels like he’s riding a creative wave right now, something he welcomes after seven years of going without a new recording.

“I just want to get as much material as I can out there,” he said, explaining the thinking behind releasing two new products only months apart. “And as soon as I’m done with this album, I’ve got a lot more I plan on doing. I want to record some live sessions, shoot some video and I’ve already got another album in the works.”

That’s a lot of change, material and ambition for the band’s fans to absorb in a short time, but Platero dismissed the idea some of them might be put off by all that.

“No, I’m not worried,” he said, laughing. “I’m still going to be shredding the guitar the way I always do. I’m just learning a new direction. I’ll be expanding that and perfecting it.”

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

If you go

What: Levi Platero Band concert

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16

Where: Crash Music at the Aztec Theater, 104 N. Main Ave. in Aztec

Tickets: $15 online at crashmusicaztec.com, by phone at 505-427-6748 or at the door

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