Editor’s note: Drinking With Clowns appear at 9 p.m. Saturday, in the Alibi Ale Works – Incline Public House.
Baldo Bobadilla grew up in a remote village in central Paraguay known as Puerto Casado. It lies in dense jungle along the river separating the country from their Brazilian neighbors to the north. Most people arrive there by small plane or boat.
“My town was about 4,000 people, but there’s still not a real road there to this day,” says the singer and guitarist for Drinking with Clowns. “You have to go through 200 kilometers of jungle. You never know if you’re going to make it through. I’ve gotten broken down with the nicest of cars. It’s very isolated.”
Bobadilla’s father was a singer-songwriter who played regional folk music in the village. He started talking guitar lessons from a local teacher at age 8.
“We grew up during the dictatorship (of Alfredo Stroessner, who ruled from 1954-1989),” he says. “Our music was protest music, conscious music and poetry. Just growing up over near the border with Brazil there was also a lot of romantic carnival influences.”
In the early 1990s, somebody handed Bobadilla a dubbed black cassette tape.
“It was Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ album,” he says. “This opened my world to music in English. But it wasn’t until we moved to Reno as an exchange student that I got more into funk and rock.”
After graduating from McQueen High School, Bobadilla met his bandmates through connections at University of Nevada, Reno, where he studied engineering. The other members are of Colombian, Mexican and Irish-American descent who work in the Reno technology and construction industries while playing music on their days off.
“I never danced salsa in my life before I met our drummer,” Bobadilla says. “But Mexico is full of rhythms and Colombia is one of richest music places in the world. It was one of the main slave ports back in the day, so African music from all over the place came through there and mixed with the indigenous culture.”
The group has melded its varied influences into[pullquote]It’s a circus, man. While they’re lying to you the politicians pretend to care but they don’t. Then at that point, who is clown?”[/pullquote] a unique Latin rock fusion that cannot be cornered in one continent, let along a single genre.
“The philosophy of our band is that we are always open to change,” Bobadilla says. “If you listen to a whole album, we mix weird genres together. It’s one of our favorite parts of making music. We are ever-growing in that sense as a band, the main reason being our commitment non-judgment and openness.”
The group’s diversity lends itself to a one-of-a-kind sound that takes something from each member’s upbringing and life experience.
“We will take the funky part of a lick I wrote and mix it with some Brazilian bossa nova and take the best part of that,” Bobadilla says of the band’s compositional style. “We pick our favorite parts of all of this music and make it our own. That’s why I love the writing process.”
The boys took their name for the band from a Spanish phrase that doesn’t exactly translate.
“The best way I can describe is as a sarcastic statement about the world,” Bobadilla said. “From that, it’s not particularly pointed out at anyone or anything. It’s meant to be silly and fun. We are not talking about drinking alcohol, but more so making a statement on other things.”
Although the Clowns vow not the take themselves too seriously, the name and the purpose of the band does have a deeper connection to the state of the world.
“Look at the politics or the world and the state of the world since forever,” said Bobadilla, now growing animated. “Who’s in power? Where the resources are going to? It’s a circus, man. While they’re lying to you the politicians pretend to care but they don’t. Then at that point, who is clown?”
– Sean McAlindin