The Denver band Los Mocochetes, which will be playing Westword Music Showcase on Saturday, June 23, gets people moving on a dance floor with its high-energy funk. But the seven-piece also uses music to spread positivity and awareness of social issues.
Westword caught up with multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Joshua Abeyta, guitarist and vocalist Elias Garcia and percussionist and vocalist Jozer Guerrero about the band’s moniker, working with youth and how the group puts on fun live shows.
Westword: What is a mocochete?
Joshua Abeyta: Mocochete is a compound word we created that combines “mocoso” and “machete.”
Can you talk about the significance of the two words together?
JA: A mocoso is like a snotty brat. Mocos are boogers, and a mocoso is someone who is snot-faced — but it has that connotation of a punk kid. All across the world, as children become adults, they have to pass through this phase, this mocoso phase. At some point they discover things about the world such as, “Oh, wow, here’s a big piece of steel I can use to hurt somebody...or I could use it to start a garden or build a house.” It’s the idea that every tool can also be a weapon, and vice versa. Our music encourage mocosos to use machetes for good.
How do you do that?
Elias Garcia: We carry weight in our words and play for different organizations and communities. We try to make a healthy, comfortable place for people to come and unite and celebrate life as well as talk about social and political issues that need to be spoken about.
JA: In addition to just talking about [issues] and playing benefit shows, most of us are teachers in the band. We utilize our platform as educators to call attention to these types of things. We literally are working with mocosos every day.
In what capacity do you work with youth?
Jozer Guerrero: We all teach different things. One of the main organizations we work with is Youth on Record. I teach poetry, but Joshua and other members of the band have taught music classes. I also work at a theater company called Su Teatro and teach theater. We work for different nonprofits in the city, so we reach these kids in a variety of ways.
What kinds of things do you try to pass on to the kids you work with?
JG: One of the most important things I teach is that our narratives are important and that they matter. And also that we can utilize art as a tool to raise awareness, to create consciousness on issues, and that it’s much more effective than just being violent. I think that’s our main message.
JA: All of the organizations we work for have a central theme of self-empowerment and upward mobility. A lot of the kids that we work with are what they call at-risk or underserved youth. That’s what brought us together under that mocoso ideal: A lot of us grew up struggling in one way or another and not having a place like Youth on Record or Su Teatro to go to.
Now that we’re part of these organizations, we’re able to open a safe space for youth. This weekend we had a student that I dropped off at the homeless shelter. That’s where he’s staying now. We have kids dealing with the harshest realities of life. And so, sure, it’s cool when we can teach them a guitar scale or a chord progression, but more important, we’re making a real familial connection. They feel like someone cares about them, and that can be the difference between someone’s life or not.
Tell me about your live shows.
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JG: We’re so thankful and blessed that we get a lot of opportunities. We are definitely trying to capitalize on almost any situation that we run into and be able to spread that message further.
JA: At our live shows, we have a lot of fun. And we’re always pushing each other to improve, to step up in different ways.
Some of our songs are totally in Spanish. Maybe fans have a conversation with us later and we’re able to say, “Oh, this song was about these students who went missing in Ayotzinapa. We tell them the story about Cuarenta y Tres. I think that’s why we have such a variety of friends who are fans is because we do it in English, we do Spanish, and we cross a lot of genre boundaries. But all of it is meant to be fun at the end of the day.