“I’ve been stabbed. I’ve been shot. I’ve stabbed people. People have stabbed me.”
Rafa Reyes says he proudly claims the Sherman Grant Hills Park gang he joined at age 13. His street-savvy tattooed choloness mixed with his fondness for lipstick and the Pet Shop Boys has made his tough-but-pretty duo Prayers the darling of New York and L.A. fashion hipsters.
...and the cholo-goth life
“I love playing fashion shows and art galleries,” Reyes tells the Reader. “When you play at a bar it's hit or miss. People are often there to get drunk or pick up chicks. At art shows it’s a whole different energy. A whole different experience.”
Along with his bearded, soft-spoken techno maestro Dave Parley, the two were playing an art show at L.A.’s Known Gallery late last year when Prayers got fast-tracked.
“Travis Barker’s [Blink-182] photographer happened to be there. He told Travis about it who reached out to us on Instagram and told us he really liked what we were doing.”
The upshot is that the duo recorded their new album, Young Gods, for Barker’s LaSalle Records label with the Blink-182 drummer replacing the drum machine they use on tour. Barker also played drums at the sold out Young Gods record-release show June 23 at the Roxy in West Hollywood.
Also in the Prayers orbit is Eddie Huang, the New York restaurateur whose book Fresh Off the Boat inspired the ABC series about Taiwanese immigrants. Huang produced a yet-to-be-released Prayers biography for Vice magazine, which Rafa says is launching its own cable channel and who produced the attached video.
Just as Ingrid Croce’s namesake café and music venue helped launch the Gaslamp District, Reyes’s Pokéz vegetarian café and performance space defined its neighborhood before there was a recognized “East Village.”
“I started it with my father when I was 18, long before vegetarian or vegan was as popular as it is now. We were pioneers as this Mexican vegetarian restaurant.”
Reyes says following his father’s death he sold Pokéz to his brother.
“We started doing punk shows [in the ’90s]. I was in the music scene long before I was playing music myself.”
Unlike nearby neighborhood gangster musicians Mitchy Slick or Tiny Doo, Reyes says he never got tagged by law enforcement. “I’m gang affiliated, but my music was not about that lifestyle. I’m not your traditional gang member. I don’t think the police have wrapped their mind around what I’m doing.”
- Friday, July 10, 2015, 8 p.m.
3519 El Cajon Boulevard,
$12 - $15
Reyes says he joined a gang to make his family safer. “It made life easier for my family.”
But then... “Last year we were at the Soda Bar and some guy jumped onstage and tried to bite my nose off. I felt his teeth clamp around my nose. I pushed him off. He started slinging at me and I beat the shit out of him out of self-defense and sent him to the hospital... Yes, I have had death threats. Violence has always been around me, but I don’t live my life in fear. I will always be a gang member but I am not a criminal, I am not a bully, I am not a thief.”
Prayers appear Friday at the Hideout.