"Live Your Fantasy" by Israel’s Arcade is a Cult Classic Catching Fire

Taylor Overstreet

My first experience with local, desert-made music came at the most unexpected time - Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Major artists had traveled from across the world to play the world-renowned festival, but my friends and I had trudged out of the musical mecca on a nice little cocktail of drugs and alcohol to see a different type of show, something even more promising. Led by a local, we found ourselves packing in an abandoned building-turned-art-gallery a few miles away from the festival grounds. 

What we experienced was an absolute romp. A Coachella-based band called Israel’s Arcade took the stage and gave us, arguably, the best performance of the weekend. The towering, long-haired, dark-featured Israel Pinedo was a behemoth behind the microphone, with his equally imposing band made up of strings and his untiring drummer. The instruments and elaborate stage setup took up more than half of the room, and the bass thumped into our chests and vibrated under our feet. It felt like all of Coachella’s underground showed out, and danced, and moshed in the room that was like an oasis in the desert. The style of the music was some type of Latin Banda mixed with rock and tailored to the desert’s grungy, western, blue-collared personality. Each song was crafted to bring people together to dance, and charged up with bold instrumentals for a live listening experience that made for a killer show. 

The small-town acclaim Israel’s Arcade has found in the desert has begun to foray into the big city. Israel is the stylish, stoic face of a band eager to expand into their full potential. They’ve packed out shows in Los Angeles at Echo Park Rising, the Paramount, the Moroccan Lounge, the Roxy and the Echoplex among others. Now, in the immediate aftermath of the band’s debut album release, Live Your Fantasy, the album is gathering accolades from publications and new fans alike.

Live Your Fantasy is a melancholy, drum heavy, quick-paced 8-track album that is indescribable, but sounds something like Mexican Ska. Upon first listen, their sound seems inspired by The Growlers, King Krule, Turnstile, Joy Division and Tijuana Panthers. However, Israel Pinedo, lead singer of the band, says there’s a deeper, more storied inspiration to it. Israel contemplates, “Our post punk sound comes from growing up with Mexican rock bands like Caifanes, not so much American bands. Caifanes was probably the first dark music I had ever heard, and it is my parent’s favorite band”. Even Israel’s voice reflects his influences from an older time, with a deep bravado heavy with yearning drawls and full-bellied bellows that are usually not achieved by young musicians like the 21-year-old Israel.  

“I’ve always thought of a lot of my music as being Mexican rock with English lyrics” Israel said, which seems to make the larger appeal to Mexican Americans and Latin fans. The cultish nonchalance and cadence of the band’s discography also has a classic rock sound, something almost Hollywood-friendly, like Nirvana or the Strokes. It certainly helps that they aren’t afraid of an electric guitar, or bass, or horns and drums. While Israel’s vocals may be dark and melancholy, the instrumentals backing him are not; quickening and growing louder to maddening heights at their peaks. 

Listening to Live Your Fantasy feels like riding down a 2-lane highway with a six shooter in your belt on your way to a show held in a barn. As an outsider, it feels like an unpretentious, effortless expression of art coming out of the tumbleweed-laden California desert that neighbors the border and encompasses so many cultural aspects of the area that make it authentic. The pride they take in their music and their community is self-evident at their local shows, and they have a sort of celebrated identity within themselves that so many other crowded, suburban sprawl California counties could only dream of manufacturing for themselves. The band leans into their western and Latin heritage in their dressage, their guitar twang, and Israel’s timeless vocals. The bands visuals, music, and representation is made with the brand of the east side roots of the Coachella Valley constantly in the forefront of the mind. 

The 34-minute album starts off right with a bold track with shouted lyrics that devolves into a full on instrumental jam. On track one, Isreal exclaims, “YOU CAN’T HURT ME IM NOT EVEN REAL”, but manages to taper down by track six into a mostly instrumental, 5 minute and 17 second long “Dry Wind Memories” that yearns on a past lover. Some of the strongest tracks from Live Your Fantasy showcase Israel’s articulation of meaningful lyrics and penchant for power ballads.  On “Devour”, Israel sings (with a healthy amount of self-loathing), 

“I wanna unlearn what I once learned/I’m not a stupid little whore/ I’m not a monkey with no self-control/ I don’t wanna be that kid anymore.”

In “Hacker”, the track with the most memorable hook and unique use of horns, Israel belts, “Sometimes I hope this isolation/ Would spread throughout this whole damn Nation/ So I can feel closer to you/ You make me real, you really do”. Israel is quoted as using the word “real” often in this song comes from feeling detached and dissociated in his adolescence, and his music is set to ground him and his listeners back into reality. 

Going even darker, on the final and title track, “Live Your Fantasy” the lyrics go- “What a shame/ To find the devil in everything”. The lyrics feel beyond their time, seasoned with pain and experience much greater than such a young band should be articulating, and yet it is believable and irresistible all the way through. 

Ultimately, Live Your Fantasy is a well-recorded, well-produced record that sounds like it’s being played live- even through headphones. Recording aside, no amount of digital listening can touch the sentiment and electricity of the live band and their unrelenting fans. Stream Live Your Fantasy and keep their gigs on your radar for next time they are playing in your city. 

Copy Link

Related Articles