Interview with Gary Viteri | By Doug Nunnally
Gary Viteri is someone with deep connections in the musical world.
Ask him one question about his relatively new project Le Yikes Surf Club and sure, he’ll tell you all about it and their fantastic debut record Apocalypsos—out now on Grizzly Records—but just wait. In addition to that, he’ll also talk your ear off about every band that’s ever played a show with him and how they connect in the grand scheme of things. You’ll recognize names like Against Me! and The Dropkick Murphys when they’re quickly mentioned, but for every one recognizable band, there’s probably 10 others he mentioned that are as foreign to you as the idea of a stable life is to Viteri.
As frenetic as it can be, it’s something people come to expect of Viteri who’s as ingrained as they come in the scene. Well known for his time with Dirty Tactics and more recently for starting the popular Philadelphia venue The Pharmacy, Viteri is soon going to expand on those connections as he unveils his new brand of punk music with Le Yikes.
The phrase “Flamenco punk” has been used to describe Le Yikes and while there are more styles to be discovered on Apocalypsos, it’s a good starting point for a sound that has its roots in Latin music. “When Tactics were recording our first record, my family had this reunion around the same time. My dad’s side is this big Latino family from Ecuador and I just always remember growing up with my dad’s five brothers always busting out the guitars and singing these old, sad bastard songs which were just Spanish folk songs. When I was younger, we used to just run upstairs away from it, but at the reunion, it was interesting to revisit this sound. So I recorded it and a some of it ended up on that Tactics record as samples. When I started writing stuff, I kept experimenting with those things, but it was never going to end up being traditional punk like Tactics so I never took it seriously.”
Though the Latin influence had waned, Le Yikes had already begun with Viteri attaching the name to many of his demos and various projects across different scenes. “Le Yikes was sort of the brand because I’m always saying Yikes. I just attached it to anything I did really and people started to recognize it. Surf Club came later when my buddies started playing these songs with this surfy vibe and then I revisited that Latino influence with it.”
It’s a hodgepodge of sounds with a complicated backstory, but the end result is just staggering with infectious tunes that will keep you humming for days on end. Not every song features the surf and Latino merger, but when it does, there are melodies and hooks that would make even Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago envious. It’s a highlight of Apocalypsos, a record whose namesake is almost as ingrained in the scene as Viteri himself. “2012 was this year a lot of our friends just exploded. With 2012 having all that hype for the apocalypse, it just seemed natural. It was a year that our friends were all drastically changing and Le Yikes really came together.”
With Apocalypsos primed to really kick off 2016 with a bang, it’s finally enough for the constant juggler Viteri to finally get some much needed satisfaction, something he’s been searching for since starting The Pharmacy as a break of all things. “At the beginning, The Pharmacy was me just taking time off after being burnt of ten years of touring. As it became a hub for music itself, I quickly realized that music was my fall back plan the whole time. Everyone always tells you it’s the other way around, but suddenly I just realized music was all I had.”
To anyone even barely aware of Viteri, it seems unfathomable for that to be even remotely true, but with Le Yikes poised to blast off like their friends did in 2012, Viteri’s fall back plan might just become his real plan after all.