by Zachariah Zendejas
It has been said that a thing, whatever the thing, is more than the sum of its parts; still, looking at those parts does help. Nightwolf is the summation of great talent and a great connection between the members which helps propel the sound and lyrics into the hearts and minds of their audience. The band Nightwolf has been likened to the sound of artists and bands like Carlos Santana or Los Lobos (whom they have opened for). I can see where those comparisons come from, but their music is so uniquely theirs. It’s sort of like watching a dance filled with a raw pain mixed with moments of love so sweet it makes you feel like an intruder, and all of it is wrapped in a sensuality that propels their music.
My favorite song of theirs is the instrumental “Cry,” one of their most known songs. “Cry” is aptly described as a blues song and is appropriately named. However, the song is more than just some emo-style/depressing music that makes you want to wear dark clothing and sob. The song is like a person who has an open wound, fresh and agonizing, but holds in the tears and discomfort for so long that it boils over and forces that person to give a cry chock-full of the pain of the wound and the anger and frustration over the one who inflicted that pain. It is like the Mexican gritos, terrific and resonant yells from deep within the soul of the anguished and hurt.
Conversely, also a favorite is the song “Kimberly,” a love song that was written by Anthony Valenzuela, the lead guitarist. This song was first performed by him to and for his wife on their wedding night. Soft and melodic, “Kimberly” truly embodies the simplicity of the love one has for another and a tenderness that is both poignant and a bit heart-rending, though that is a personal opinion.
Based in Fresno, the band consists of Ernesto Cordero, who is the lead vocalist, Anthony Valenzuela, the lead guitarist, Jim Davenport who plays bass, and Ruben Gaitan their drummer. The band formed about 15 years ago with current members Cordero, Valenzuela and Gaitan (who met in high school) and started out playing covers in bars, clubs and so on. According to Valenzuela, members have come and gone like former band member Mike Diaz whose space has been filled by Jim Davenport. However, playing covers was no longer satisfying the band, so in 2003 Nightwolf decided that it was time to start playing their own music.
In the original configuration of Nightwolf (which consisted of Cordero, Valenzuela, Gaitan and Mike Diaz), the members each brought different styles of music to the table: Blues, R&B, Rock and Spanish. With these different styles, the music being written by Cordero and Valenzuela, and their producer, Bill Sayre, they were able to, in 2004, record their first CD, Just For You at Fastraxx Studios located in Fresno. On the album their most popular songs were “Cry” and “Kimberly.”
“We really enjoyed playing our own music, and gaining real fans, who wanted to hear our music,” says Valenzuela. “We enjoyed many shows at Club Fred, Starline, and many other venues in our area. We also hooked up with CDBABY and began selling our music all over the world. We now have a global fan base.”
In 2007 they released their second album Crazy Moon which was more rock-driven than their previous album. Their hits from that CD are “Serpentine” and “Tu Eres Mi Vida.” Though the release of a second CD was big for them, they also became friends with the band Los Lonely Boys. They hope to one day open a show for them. In 2010 they were invited to open a show for Los Lobos and Ozomatli at the Mexican Heritage Festival in San Jose. They also plan to go to Fastraxx again later this year to work on their third CD.
When asked about the meaning behind their name, Valenzuela responded that a drummer came up with it. “There are times when you feel left out in the cold by people or just this world in general,” says Valenzuela, “but what can you do? A wolf goes up on a hill in the middle of the night, and sings his song for whoever will listen. That’s pretty much us.” Of course, he also said that there was really no deep meaning to it.
Regardless of meaning, the band is going strong. According to Valenzuela, “We will let our music continue to speak for itself. And in the end, it’s how we each want to be remembered. So on those dark lonely nights, we will be on that hill, playing our music, Nightwolf music, for anyone who wants to listen, and giving it all we got.”
So, if you’re interested and want to learn more about the band or about any upcoming shows, check out their Facebook page or if you would like to listen to their music, check out their page on Reverbnation. However, if listening is not enough and you would like to keep listen to their songs on your iPod or computer, their music is now available on iTunes, so check them out.