As one of the few Fairfax County bands to perform in the upcoming Six Points music festival, Springfield natives The Speaks blend uncomplicated harmonies with strong, clear vocals that have made them a local favorite on DC 101, a Washington-based rock station. After sharing a stage with groups like Cake, Switchfoot and The Roots, The Speaks will be headlining at Iota, 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, on Saturday, April 8, with Koshari and Pharmacy Prophets.
Their first full-length album "Life's a Joke," was released by Warner Records Asia in April 2005, and the album's title track was in heavy video rotation on MTV Asia for several months.
The five-piece band, including vocalist Rafael Toledo, drummer Johnny Adelende and bassist Jerry Delino, have been together for nearly a decade, but guitarists Archie dela Cruz and Siegfred Fuster were not part of the initial line up.
Was there any sort of initiation for the new guys when they came in?
Jerry Delino: No, not really. (Laughs) We couldn't haze them, we needed them.
Did any of you dream of becoming a rock star when you were younger?
Archie dela Cruz: I saw The Beatles performing when I was a kid and I thought, "Hey, I want to do that."
Rafael Toledo: I never imagined I'd be doing this. I started singing in college because I thought it would be a good way to meet girls. (Laughs) When I started, it was mostly R&B but I just fell in love with rock.
Johnny Adelende: I got my start playing drums in a wedding band. I think it was at one of these parties these guys heard me.
Delino: You were awesome.
Toledo: I think we all started doing this for fun, but then people started to like what we played. Thankfully, our fan base started to grow.
What was your first show with this line up?
Toledo: I think it was a Halloween show at George Washington. (Laughs) No, wait, with this line up, it was some 16 year old girl's birthday party.
Delino: Dude, say what you want, we rocked that party.
You guys all seem to be having a great time together. Who's the practical joker of the group?
Delino: Well, there was this one time in Boston when we were playing with The Roots. We were all pranking on each other.
It seems like you all do a lot of touring. Is it more nerve-wracking to play around here or out of town? Or was it more stressful when you went to play in the Philippines? [Although all born in America, the Speaks shares a Filipino heritage and has had several hit songs on MTV Asia.]
Toledo: I think it's more nerve wracking playing out of town. You're out of your comfort zone. Here, every place you play feels like home. It was easier playing in Manilla because we were giving them what they wanted. It was kind of relieving to finally be playing shows there.
Adelende: It was such a hectic schedule though. We had radio shows all day and most of the night. We wouldn't get a chance to practice until midnight. We only got like four hours of sleep a night.
Toledo: A lot of acts start and build their success there. It was energizing.
What did you listen to growing up?
Adelende: It's all across the board of us. I grew up listening to go-go music and R&B ...
Toledo: Yeah, everything from Barry Manilow and Lionel Ritchie to classic rock, some Marvin Gaye.
dela Cruz: Tears for Fears.
Delino: My parents loved Olivia Newton John's country eight-track. I heard that over and over again growing up. (Laughing)
So do you have day jobs?
Toledo: Archie works at a bank.
Adelende: I work on cars.
Delino: I'm an access control technician for the State Department.
What in the world does that mean?
Delino: (Laughs) OK, when you walk into any sort of building the State Department "owns," you have to scan a card to get in. I make sure the scanners work. (Laughs)
Siegfred Fuster: I'm a producer of multi-media development.
Toledo: I'm a finance guy for Boeing.
What was your best on-stage moment?
Delino: The first time I saw Archie jump across Johnny's drum kit.
Toledo: Oh, there was that one time at a show in New York when Archie jumped off the stage! I looked over and all I could see were his legs sticking up into the air, he was wedged between the stage and a wall.
If there was one group or musician, living or dead, that you could tour with, who would it be?
Toledo: Oh, that's a good one. I think there's too many to name. I think it would've been great to play with the original Guns and Roses.
Delino: Yeah, that would be hot. I think I'd like to play with George Clinton.
Adelende: I'd have to say Jimi Hendrix.
Fuster: Metallica. The original line up with Cliff Burton.
dela Cruz: Probably Soundgarden. I'd really like to jam with (singer) Chris Cornell.
How did you get involved with the Six Points festival?
Toledo: I guess we just created enough of a buzz in the past year that they invited us. It was really flattering because I know there was some kind of selection process. Bands had to apply to get in.
You have an acoustic show before then. What's the difference between preparing for an acoustic show and an electric show?
Adelende: Attitude-wise, it's the same.
Delino: What works with electric guitars and a full set up doesn't necessarily work with acoustics.
dela Cruz: There are some songs that just can't be played acoustically.
Toledo: But we love to play acoustically because we hardly ever get to.
What are you all listening to now?
Delino: I can't believe I'm admitting this, but the stuff I'm listening to now, a 13-year-old girl would be like, "Oh my God, me too!" (Laughs) For my wife and my daughter, though, I'll admit that I'm listening to Kelly Clarkson. But I balance it out with Megadeath.
Toledo: Lately it's been Fall Out Boy, Third Eye Blind's newest album.
Fuster: Dream Theater, lately. There's also been a lot of '80s downloads. I think I have all the theme songs for all those sitcoms, like MacGyver.
dela Cruz: Pisces Iscariot by the Smashing Pumpkins. I just bought it, it's an amazing album.
Do you remember the first time you heard your music on the radio? What was it?
Toledo: It was 'Life's A Joke,' on DC 101 in 2003. In the fall, I think.
Delino: We were all jumping up and down in our pajamas screaming. (Laughs) No, not really.
Fuster: Rob (Shipp, manager) had recorded it. We played the tape at Johnny's house.
Was there a moment when you looked around and thought, this is it, we've made it?
dela Cruz: At the (DC 101) Chili Cookoff when we performed with Switchfoot.
Fuster: When you share a table with these guys that are well known and they're so chill. They're eating the same stuff you are and talking to you like it's no big deal.
Adelende: (Laughs) I remember the guy from Switchfoot was standing at the bottom of the ramp when we finished our set and told me he liked our show. I had no idea who he was but it was cool.
So why should people come out to see your show at Iota for Six Points?
Delino: There's one element I feel rock music has lost, that danger factor. Everyone seems so safe. We literally don't care. We know what we do, we know we do it well. There are some bands that stand up there and don't move around very much. We're all over the place. We have a good time. If rock were meant to be safe, those parents back in the '50s wouldn't have cared.
Toledo: We give 150 percent at every show. We play every show like it's our last because it could be, that's how fickle the music business is. Everyone knows that The Speaks shows are crazy. But if you don't come out to see our show, you should still go. The D.C. area has so much talent, there's so many good bands to see.