L.A. will be hearing more Latin music with a touch of funk and R&B from a new band that hits the clubs and streets with its namesake: Elé. Pronounced like the city’s nickname, Elé consists of lead singer Adelaide “Addie” Benavides, who also plays the trumpet and second guitar, lead guitarist Andre Frappier, bassist Aaron Barnes, drummer Mark Paul, and keyboardist Akane Tada. Like a casino buffet, Elé plays a variety of music genres — from Top 40’s to cumbia and salsa — that everyone has something to sample and like.
Addie and Dax Reynosa, who is the band’s manager, started Elé in 2013. “Prior to Elé, I had been working in the Latin scene with various bands, including my own bachata band, Pily & Bachata Real, and Mariachi Divas,” Addie said in an online interview. “About a year ago, I took a few gigs with some Top 40 bands and really began to enjoy performing more pop, R&B, and funk with some Latin music as well. After working with a number of groups, I began to get the itch to have one of my own.”
Addie met singer and songwriter Dax Reynosa through the local Los Angeles circuit of top 40 bands. “He approached me and said that he thought I should have my own band that not only did Top 40 music but original music as well. And he said he would help me to do that. Thus, the idea of Elé was created, and we went from there. Now we are gigging on regular basis and working on original music.” In fact, Addie posted on Facebook that they just added five original songs in each of their last two rehearsals.
Although Elé is picking up momentum in L.A. with their “funky” Latin beats, Addie and the band had to face many issues that most musicians encounter, especially since they play different music genres and hits. “One of the challenges that I think every new project faces is how draw a large fan base by giving them what they want and still not losing your original agenda or personal style,” Addie said. “The audience wants something they can relate to and heard before while still hearing something new and different that inspires them to be moved and enticed to hear and want more.”
Each performance Elé plays is always different because the crowd is always different, which is one challenge the band is learning to deal with. “In deciding what we will perform live, this is the challenge for every performance. Not every event or venue draws the same crowd so each performance cannot be the same. Elé has a large repertoire of songs and styles. So I think part of our early success has been due to our ability to adapt to our crowds. We give them want they want, but we still throw in our own twist and feel that gives the song the ‘Elé’ sound,” Addie explained.
Unlike most Latin bands that play mostly or only traditional folk music or Spanish-speaking music, Elé blends a variety of R&B, pop, funk and blues with Latin music, such as cumbia, merengue, and salsa. “We want to the crowd to move and have a good time. All of the styles we play embody that idea. Being that we are in Southern California, whether you are Latino or not, you have been around Latin music so it is naturally a part of our song repertoire. At an Elé show, you will hear huge variety of music from Aretha Franklin to Bruno Mars to Selena to Celia Cruz, whatever the party calls for.”
What makes Elé’s lead singer Addie unique is that she plays a trumpet and a guitar in most of the band’s performance, marking her a well-rounded artist. Unless some musicians, she did not grew up in a music household or raised among musicians.
“Out of all 40-plus grandkids in my extended family, I’m the only one who chose to do music,” Addie said. “I grew up in the countryside of Austin, Texas, riding and training horses, and the plan was that I was going to be a horse trainer. However, we did have this awesome jukebox in the living room. I remember being in preschool jamming to greats such as Santana, Stevie Wonder, and Gypsy Kings.”
Addie joined the school orchestra and played the cello in fifth grade. In middle school, she switched to the trumpet, which she was “really excelled at.” While in a jazz band during her high school years, Addie realized that music has become her priority. How many lead singers can sing and play different instruments in one show?
“I started studying drum set, timbales, congas, and singing. By sophmore year, I was in the trumpet section, percussion section, and was the vocalist for the jazz band. The more music I played, the more I wanted to hear and and learn how to make. I often hung out at the local record stores, live shows, music festivals, and went to as many music camps and workshops I could get into. My two loves were funk and salsa music, which also led to me to visit Cuba twice to study independently.”
She graduated from Texas State University with a Bachelor’s in Music in Jazz Studies and holds a Master’s in Afro-Latin Music from California State University, Los Angeles. Despite her academics in music, Addie’s hunger for more musical knowledge has not yet satisfied.
“Last fall, I started to learn to play the guitar and have implemented that into the Elé shows as well. One of the great things about music is that it is consistently evolving and changing, so it never becomes boring for me.”
Elé will be performing on June 1, 2014 at the Hog Fest at La Puente Handball Club in City of Industry, Los Angeles. The band will be also be playing some Top 40 and Latin hits at various clubs in L.A., bringing their fresh, funky music throughout the county, including Downtown Disney on August 9. While their official website is currently in the works, fans and club-goers should check out their Facebook page for other upcoming shows and performances.
By Nick Ng
Interview with Adelaide Benavides