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Taking a Dive in the LA River

Feb 17, 2011 by Miles Villalon

Tony Diaz had just finished an acoustic set. He’s standing in the middle of The Den Bar waiting for the next act to perform.

It’s a typical looking dive bar in Hawthorne, Hipsters crowd around as the atmosphere is full of energy, beer and music. Diaz is casually dressed, leather jacket, t-shirt and jeans.

He’s soft spoken, with a small Afro that reminds me of John Turturro in “Barton Fink.“

We sit at a small table in the corner of the bar, after the initial formalities were finished.

Afterward, I asked Tony to tell me about his band, the L.A. River Swim Team.

“In Los Angeles it’s like an inside joke that nobody swims in the LA. River, but outside of Los Angeles nobody knows that, It’s the core of LA, back in the day.”

LA River Swim Team is comprised of Tony Diaz on guitar and vocals, bass player Norman Ramirez, and drummer Jonathon Tayra.

They describe their sound like an “Environmental Punk Movement.”

Diaz comments, “My whole background is about being Earthy in creation,” Indeed, moving was a constant for him. He was born in Los Angeles “where the stars come from,” where afterward he spent much of his young life moving across the country.

“I had a really nomadic childhood, constantly moving,” he informed me.

Due to his moving so much, he points to that fact as to why he started playing the guitar, “Because it was the one thing you could bring with you.”

While living in Florida, he made the decision to move to Los Angeles at age 18. “Leaving came at a really weird but strangely perfect time.”

After arriving in Los Angeles in 2008, Diaz started playing some acoustic shows, and it was during this time that he got the idea to create a group experimenting with different LA artists. That lead to the formation of the LA River Swim Team.

For the LA River Swim Team band members, it’s not just the instruments and their talent that make-up the band, but the city of Los Angeles itself which is an important component and constant in how they approach to their music.

“It’s really a magical place, it’s a city where everything is bubbling up,” Diaz enjoins.

Fellow band member Taryra comments, “We just trip out that a lot of bands don’t have names with LA in them.”

The LA River Swim Team is as much a revolving family as it is a band; but you can’t really pinpoint what their sound is because it can be punk as well as surf or rockabilly.

“There are a lot of different changes in sound, and the band is the glue that holds it together,” according to Diaz, who suggests that anyone that isn’t familiar with the band should listen to their song, “Burn the City Down,” which he describes as a “reflection of going all the way, as in lighting a fire.”

The L.A. River swim team is currently working on four more songs for their next demo which they will package for an upcoming EP.

Taking inspiration from John Lennon, Diaz feels that in order to continue to grow the environmental punk movement, he wants to do something for the community. “I am thinking of setting up shows with clean-ups I look up to John Lennon a lot, because he used to do something positive and make a statement with his music and his actions, because we’re all responsible for the symbols and sounds which comes out– that humans, animals and plants are able to hear.”

If you’d like to see them, they’ll be playing at 2Bad Vintage located at 1651 W. Temple in LA on Saturday, February 19 at 9:00pm – February 21 at 1:00am.

As the next band began to assemble on the stage, our interview came to a close, but not before I inquired if there’s anything else the band wanted to say.

All band members concurred that “It’s not easy making music.”

And to that and their namesake, all we can say is, Welcome to LA!!

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Entertainment, Los Angeles, Music, SoCal
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