Once again, El Grupo Mezcal has been named the "Best Spanish Language Band or Performer" in The Taos News’ Best of Taos readers’ choice poll. The group has stood at the top in this poll for 19 of the past 20 years.
Mezcal formed in the late 1980s and solidified as a band with brothers Ernesto (Ernie), Antonio (Archie) and Adonais (Níte) Marquez and Rex Martinez in the mid-1990s. They are known for their original Spanish songs written by the Marquez brothers and inspired by life aquí en Taos.
Lead guitarist and vocalist Ernie characterizes the band this way: “We’re all brothers, so we get along really well.” He calls Rex an “adopted brother.”
El Grupo Mezcal has released eight CDs of original songs and one more with its greatest hits.
“On our CDs, all of our songs are original,” says Ernie. “When we play live, we play cover songs, too, but all of our recorded songs are original. We’re pretty proud about writing our own music. We’re known for being original. That’s not to say we’ll never record anybody else’s songs, but we haven’t yet.”
The band is currently working on its 10th album. So far, they have recorded eight songs for it, and Ernie says they are planning to record two more before the record comes out.
The band is working with sound engineer Omar Rane, who is based in Arroyo Seco, Mezcal’s home turf. All three Marquez brothers live in Arroyo Seco, and Rex used to live there as well, before relocating to the Questa area.
Archie plays bass and sings. Níte plays keyboards and sings and Rex plays drums. All of the members of Mezcal keep busy with other work when they are not playing music.
Ernie has his own ranch where he cares for his Arabian horses and Angus cows, and irrigates and cultivates the land. He also works as a home inspector. Archie fixes walk-in coolers and refrigerators. Níte is a chef, who has worked at many of Taos’ fine dining establishments. Rex is a carpenter.
“Farming and ranching is a lot of work and it’s pretty fulfilling,” says Ernie. He is contemplating writing a song about his ranch and animals.
Ernie talked about a song he has written that describes his love for the Taos valley. It’s a country song with lyrics in English.
“I talk about coming over the horseshoe pass, and you look at the most incredible view, and right in the middle of all the beauty is home sweet home, Taos," he describes. "On one side, you have the Sangre de Cristos. And, on the other side, you have the gorge. And, then, right in the middle — in the heart of it all — the sweet little town we call home.”
Mezcal's latest CD, “Se Los Llevó,” was released in 2012. It received instant airplay across Northern New Mexico. The CD was nominated for 13 awards at the New Mexico Hispano Music Awards, and Mezcal won five. “Se Los Llevó” translates as “He Took Them,” and refers to the parents of the Marquez brothers who died at a young age.
Asked what has contributed to Mezcal’s longevity, Ernie responds, “Well, it has to be family. And, we have some very loyal fans here in Taos. We have fans all over the Southwest who like our music. And, then, we love to play music.”
Ernie adds that faith has also played an important role in the band’s success.
“We thank God for our talent and for giving us the opportunity to express our talents through music. We’re pretty religious and we’re happy about that.”
Ernie leads the choir as program director for Sunday Mass at Holy Trinity Church in Arroyo Seco. He and his brothers attend the historic church regularly.
“I love playing in church,” Ernie says. “I’ve been leading the choir for the past eight or nine years, but I’ve been playing there for a long time.”
Mezcal is frequently booked for private events. The band recently played at the Sagebrush Convention Center for LMNOC Broadcasting’s Mother’s Day dance. The band’s next public concert will be for the Taos Fiestas parade this summer. Stay in touch with El Grupo Mezcal through its Facebook page.