Vocalist John Garcia is well known for desert rock band Kyuss, who’ve evolved into Vista Chino. Now his other monster, Unida, is back, and as loud as ever.
John Garcia’s work with Unida is some of his strongest, and it stands alongside the group’s debut album, 1999’s Coping With The Urban Coyote as one of those perfect releases. It’s an album in the true sense of the word that takes you on a journey from beginning to end, and while it’s not the bass-driven sounds of Kyuss, the guitars are just as inspired and the song writing just as strong.
Growing up in the Californian desert rock scene, Garcia already knew fellow Unida members Arthur Seay (guitars) and Mike Cancino (drums) were “exceptional” musicians and song writers prior to starting the band. After Kyuss broke up in 1995, Garcia played a part in the short-lived Slo Burn project, releasing 1996’s Amusing the Amazing EP, before he reached out to Seay and Cancino to start a band – Unida was born.
“I really wanted to jam with them and I knew that they could play and it was basically as simple as that,” Garcia remembers.
The line-up has featured several bass players since 1998, including ex-Kyuss member Scott Reeder who was with them when they went on hiatus in 2003. Seay’s nephew, Owen Seay, is now currently in the position.
Even though Unida has been touring, with Garcia in main project Vista Chino and Seay and Cancino both in House Of Broken Promises, the band’s future seems hazy.
“Unida is going to be on a permanent idling position and every once in a while we’re going to put some gasoline in the gas tank, we’re going to rev up, and we’re going to take it for a ride because it feels good to ride in that car again,” Garcia says. “I would certainly love to take a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner for a ride every once in a while and that’s exactly what we’re planning to do.”
The band’s name is really a symbol of their surrounds than anything else. “Unida in Spanish means united,” Garcia explains. “When looking for a name, and being that half of the band is Hispanic and we’re from Southern California, it was very fitting – there’s a camaraderie in the desert amongst musicians that continues still to this day.”
Comparisons are always drawn between Garcia’s projects, partly due to his distinctive vocals and also a shared sound and location that links all his acts together, but Garcia differentiates: “There’s an intensity in Arthur – I don’t know if it’s more metal or if it’s just more of a heavier rock. With Vista Chino, I think there’s a more mellow feel, just a different energy. There’s a certain harmony with both bands for sure but they’re two totally different monsters.”
Garcia adds that both Seay and Vista Chino’s Bruno Fevery are two of the best guitarists that he’s ever played alongside. “I am very fortunate to have worked with both of them and I’m glad to say that I still do,” he says.
Regretfully, it seems that Unida’s second album, which was scheduled for release in 2001 and has never seen the light of day, is dead and done. It never had an official title though an internet leak is known under two names – The Great Divide and For The Working Man. In its absence, the band has set about re-releasing The Best Of Wayne-Gro (a 1999 split with Dozer) and their debut album Coping With The Urban Coyote (1999), now available with added rarities including “some very early stuff and possibly even some live tracks, making it something unique and special,” Garcia adds.
What of the prospects of a new Unida album?
“We’ve talked about it and Arthur has presented some ideas to me and that’s as far as it’s gotten,” Garcia admits. “We’re not presently in the studio. Vista Chino is taking up a good part of my time and I enjoy playing with Brant Bjork and Bruno Fevery, and we do plan to come back down there for sure.”
Until then, fans will have to be comfortable with what they have already, which is already a blessing.
On Vista Chino’s debut release, John says: “I’m super pleased to announce that Australia gets something special. Not only will Australia get what America, Europe, UK, Asia and the rest of the world get, but Australia gets some extra bonus tracks because we have a special place in our hearts for you guys down there.”
On the 2013 release date: “In America I believe it’s early September but I do not know when it’s coming out in Australia. It’s most likely going to be very soon after the North American and European release, hopefully not more than a month or two.”