After stopping and restarting, the Mavericks reach a milestone
Since they returned to action in 2012, the Mavericks have become a relentless touring machine, tapping a singular repertoire that melds a truly staggering range of musical styles — honky-tonk country, Tex-Mex and Latin, big-beat rock ’n’ roll, blue balladry, soaring classic pop, swinging lounge — for incendiary, exhausting performances that typically stretch to two hours and beyond.
Their upcoming tour, which stops at Indian Ranch in Webster July 14, will be a little different: It will mark the band’s 30th anniversary. That seems like something worth celebrating, but Raul Malo — the Mavericks’ frontman who writes many of the songs and sings them with what is arguably one of the best voices of our time — didn’t see it that way at first.
“I was like, no, I don’t want to celebrate this, it never seems like 30 years to me, it just seems like you’re always working, you’re moving forward, and you don’t really have time to sit around or rest on laurels,” he observes during a phone call from a California highway. But in talking to bandmates and friends, he changed his mind. “Not every musician can say that they’ve been doing this for 30 years and are still going. It’s pretty amazing.”
Those three decades actually encompass two distinct chapters. During the first, the band was signed to a major label and trying to make a go of it in the world of mainstream country; a lack of radio play ultimately led the label to drop them, and financial and other pressures and internal divisions led to a breakup in 2005. Malo turned his focus to his solo career, but people kept coming up to him at performances and asking if the Mavericks were ever going to get back together. Eventually, he found himself wondering about the possibility, and how it might work the second time around.
Fans repeatedly put the same question to the Mavericks’ sharp-dressed guitar man, Eddie Perez, to the point that he finally decided to do something about it. “I thought, somebody has to break the ice, because none of us had spoken or seen each other in a really long time,” he says during a separate phone call. “I just started trying to take temperatures, and once we started talking, it just seemed like the timing was right.
“But initially, I think I was the first one to put up the bat signal,” he says with a laugh. “It was like ‘Mavericks, assemble!’ and it just seemed like everybody was feeling the same thing.”
The result was that, seven years after splitting up, the Mavericks came back to life. Perez thinks that with the second run, the band has finally learned how to work as a band. “I think that we finally after all these years have realized what our strengths are personally and what our weaknesses are personally as well.”
Malo contends that the music has gotten better since the band reunited. “Man, I definitely hear a difference,” he exclaims. “I think this is a far more interesting and accomplished band than the one before.” He notes that post-breakup, he went on what he characterizes as a “musical quest,” learning about other kinds of music, participating in the Latin supergroup Los Super Seven, and collaborating with traditional folk artists at the Celtic Connections festival. Everybody in the band was out doing stuff as well. “I think when we got back together, all that wealth of knowledge, the music we had all been playing informed this version of the Mavericks, and it made us better than any other version.”
For the anniversary tour, the band’s website promises shows that will be a bit different from what fans may have seen in the past. Given that a hallmark of Mavericks performances is difference — they typically change up their set lists not only from tour to tour, but show to show — how they are going to meet that promise?
Malo gives a loud chuckle when the question is posed to him. “I think you’ve probably nailed us on Music Business 101, just hype up some [stuff] like Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.” The difference, he says, will be in bringing back some of the old songs, “little nuggets from the albums” that have never been played live before. Perez expands a little; the idea, he says, is to dive into the Mavericks catalog to rediscover those nuggets and represent all of the music, not just by playing the songs, but also by highlighting musical differences.
“It’s been a long journey,” Perez says. “It’s really an effort to try to celebrate and tie it all together.”
The Mavericks 30th Anniversary Tour
At Indian Ranch, Webster, July 14 at 1 p.m. Tickets from $35, 508-943-3871, www.indianranch.com