SOUNDS LIKE: The house band for the end of the world playing the last basement party on Earth.
On the patio of the Cement Building, the austere, gray rehearsal complex under the Hawthorne Bridge, the communal pipe is going around, and the talk among the members of Máscaras is getting a little emo.
"I had a really bad tour," says bassist Theo Craig, explaining why he stopped playing music for five years. "I was on tour with my ex-girlfriend, and it just went really poorly. I came home, and I didn't want anything to do with music."
"Aw, homie," says Papi Fimbres, the band's gregarious panda bear of a drummer, packing a fresh bowl with nugs from a small tin box. "I didn't realize it was so dramatic."
"It wasn't dramatic," Craig says. "I just kind of set it aside. I was sad, and I forgot about it."
For Fimbres, that concept must be hard to compute. He currently plays in more than two dozen bands. "Setting music aside" isn't an option. To be fair, Craig may have hung up his bass, but he didn't go into hiding. He put his focus into booking, building Rontoms' weekly Sunday Sessions into the city's premiere showcase for emerging local music. Two years ago, though, he began to feel the itch again. Jamming with Fimbres, who drums with the same ecstatic force he carries through life, and guitarist Carlos Segovia, Craig got his groove back. "I was like, 'Why did I quit doing this?'" he says. "'Why would I stop doing something that brings me so much joy?'"
None of them expected the project to go much further than those initial jam sessions. Instrumental psych rock built on furious polyrhythms and riffs resembling Link Wray dabbling in Peruvian chicha doesn't have a particularly high ceiling for success. But joy is an infectious thing. What comes through most in the music of Máscaras, cacophonous as it can be, is that feeling Craig experienced when he first picked up his instrument again—the rush of getting in a room with some good homies, and just letting it rip.
It's a feeling that permeates the band's live shows, especially. Though the trio doesn't improvise much onstage, Fimbres' free-form flailing and inside-joking banter can make it seem like you're huddled in their practice space with them, watching as a song gets bashed into existence. It's a quality that's allowed Máscaras to win over a house of hardcore metalheads ("we were called 'funky' that night," Fimbres recalls) and persuade another to strip to its underwear ("I think I broke the ice on that one," he adds).
It's also probably why you're reading about them here. "We were all pretty surprised that people liked what we were doing," says Craig, who says he never intended the group to be heard outside the walls of the Cement Building.
But now, it might be going overseas. In September, Fimbres is leaving Portland for a yearlong sabbatical in Germany. His hope is "to have all 30 of my bands come play Europe with me.â
Even if Máscaras don't make it over, at least they're leaving something behind: a full-length album. Not just some dashed-off home recording, either, but an actual studio album, which two real labels, Party Damage and Resurrection Records, asked to put out. (They'll co-release the record in June.) Says Craig, "It's that next level of 'I can't believe people are this into it.'"
SEE IT: Willamette Week's Best New Band Showcase, featuring Divers, The Domestics and MÃ¡scaras, is Friday, May 15, at Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave. 9 pm. Free. 21 and up.