Hector Saldaña

Hector Saldaña
Krayolas
Photograph by Al Rendon

In the early seventies, Hector Saldaña founded San Antonio’s Krayolas, whose British Invasion/Tex-Mex rock and roll made them a regional phenom through the early eighties. A 2007 singles compilation, Best Riffs Only, led the band to re-form; their comeback album, La Conquistadora, garnered national acclaim in 2008. They’ve just released their follow-up, Long Leaf Pine (No Smack Gum) (Box).

How did the band get started? The Krayolas came out of Lee High School. My brother and I were a two-man rock and roll band; friends from school rounded out our earliest incarnation. We played the Beatles, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, the Who—and a couple of mine. One day this tall, long-haired kid named Van Baines rolled in a big Marshall amp, turned the whole rig backward toward the wall, plugged in, and wailed. I’d never seen that. When Van left, my mom said we sounded “professional.” The next thing I knew, my dad came home one day and said we were going to make a record. He took us to the West Side to ZAZ studios. They had a deal: two sides, four hours, three hundred 45’s for $300. In those days, ZAZ was the kind of place where you’d see Flaco Jimenez hanging out, sitting on an ice chest and drinking a beer.

The K in Krayolas was in tribute to your favorite band, the Kinks. Was the band an anomaly in the seventies? There’s disco all around us, and here we are with matching Rickenbacker twelve-string guitars. Audiences didn’t know what to make of us. But the Krayolas rose through the ranks very fast because we were very young and very cute. Musically, we were often a calamity.

Was there a rivalry between you and your brother, like the rivalry between Ray and Dave Davies? We had guys quit the band because of how much David and I fought. We love each other, but that’s just the way we talk to each other. I broke my hand on his face in a fight we had coming back after our first tour in New York. I remember my brother chasing me around the inside of the house with a baseball bat. I told him, “If you swing that thing, you’d better kill me.” He swung it. We’re physical guys.

How did the 2007 compilation lead to [the] band re-forming? And were you all surprised at the success of La Conquistadora? I never liked the sound of our [old] records, and it took me years to realize we could only sound like us—and suddenly that was all right. The records that I had run away from now held a charm and freshness. There really wasn’t any thought about playing [again], but [producer] Ron Morales told me how much he liked the songs. I was stunned by the response to La Conquistadora. When music writers you admire, like Dave Marsh and Ben Fong-Torres, are telling you they love it, it’s not real.

The new album is a high-energy delight. What have you been doing to support the release? And what is it like to be doing this in your fifties? A French promoter wants us to go over to France this summer. We’re going back to New York soon. It’s weird that the Krayolas are in the present tense. It’s as fun and crazy as it ever was.

Being from San Antonio adds a unique quality to the band. San Antonio has soul and a sound; it has a legacy for Chicanos that links them to the start of rock and roll. Being from San Antonio made our music tougher and quirkier. It’s the home of some of the greatest music ever. Why do you think everyone’s always trying to steal and adopt Doug Sahm’s music? They want a piece of that. But we got longer memories down here.

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