My first exposure to Jesus and the Dinosaurs came in 2015 when I saw the band’s sticker on the wall above the urinal in the Cafe Colonial bathroom. It was black and white with a T-Rex in a leather jacket strutting down an alley. The band name (truly a gem) quietly tucked itself into the back of my mind and rested there for six months before the band circled back into my life—this time not in sticker form.
It was a day-long festival at The Colony, the venue that offered them (and so many others before) a space to play before they had any audience in town. What started as an exciting opportunity to satisfy my curiosity about a titillating band name quickly gave way to a mind-blowing live music experience. You could feel the roomful of individuals, plenty of whom were hearing Jesus and the Dinosaurs for the first time, codify into a collective whole. That kind of singular moment is elusive in the modern world, and I think it’s just about the best service a live punk show can provide.
In the ensuing years, the band has become a Sacramento mainstay, steadily building a following out of live experiences like the one I just described.
Jesus and the Dinosaurs are from Fairfield, but Sacramento has become a sort of second hometown. They play a thrash-y mix of garage rock and punk that feels at the same time classic and very much its own, aided in part by a mix of Spanish and English lyrics, plenty of contemplative sociopolitical subject matter and instrumental breakdowns that lock the listener in to the deepest of grooves.
They’ve released two EPs with four tracks each, all of which are available on a Bandcamp page that I have looped at least six times while writing this article.
Vocalist/guitarist Brian Peraza-Orozco spent his formative years in El Salvador where he learned to play guitar and joined his first punk bands. That was back in 2005, fresh off George W. Bush’s reelection and one year into Donald Trump’s run as host of The Apprentice.
Fast forward to 2018 and that host is now a president who rallies his base with stories about “caravans of immigrants” and MS-13 gang members, both of which are political stories with ties back to Central America and Peraza-Orozco’s home country of El Salvador. Jesus and the Dinosaurs are not an exclusively political band, but Peraza-Orozco says his songs are about the Latin-American experience, which has essentially become politicized in the current climate.
Submerge caught up with Peraza-Orozco by phone in early August. We talked about the band’s origins, lineup changes and what they’re planning next.
How does a Jesus and the Dinosaurs song get written?
Throughout the history of the band, it’s been me bringing a basic, raw idea. I like to have a song that can be played just as well acoustic as electric. Not that it’s a soft song by any means, but the skeleton has to come across. From there we really just jam on it. I basically do a loop, play the same thing over and over, and we just keep cycling until it feels like we have a rhythm and cohesion.
When did you start playing?
I was 14 or 15 in El Salvador. Eventually, I ended up forming my own band and playing in two or three others. One was a punk band that wrote “No Es Democracia” [which means “It’s Not Democracy” and has become a Jesus and the Dinosaurs staple].
When did you come to the U.S.?
In 2010. I didn’t bring any musical equipment because my situation in terms of space was uncertain. I was inactive for a couple of years until I got a hold of a guitar and started playing again. I was shaping a sound but it was geared a little more toward folk-punk because it was just me on acoustic guitar. But I wanted to be in a band, that’s all I knew.
So when did Jesus and the Dinosaurs form?
I think it was 2014. I was about to start putting up signs at school and I met Mario, our old drummer. I told him, “let’s make a band,” and immediately after that I brought my brother in. We were not even called Jesus and the Dinosaurs then [the band was called Las Miserias]. After a few months, the name changed because of a dream I had where I was in a band called Jesús y Los Dinosaurios. I had recorded some acoustic songs and released them under that name. I showed them to the guys and they were like, “Why don’t we just call the band that instead of having two separate things?” We translated it to Jesus and the Dinosaurs and immediately people started remembering the name. Our very first show was Gordon’s Music in Fairfield. That sort of kick-started it.
When Mario and Jesus and the Dinosaurs parted ways last year, was the band’s future ever in doubt?
Mario was one of those drummers who’s out there in the forefront. He was so essential to the band that it was hard to think about it any other way when everything came down, but it made me go back to thinking about that original idea of having the skeleton of the song regardless of instrumentation. The essence is still the same.
Of course, a different drummer brings a different sound, but take a step back and it allows you to reconfigure things and reshape things. It gives you a fresh outlook instead of just repeating what you’ve already been doing. My biggest thing is allowing everyone to be themselves and do their thing. I never wanted Mic [drummer Michael Fernandez] to do anything like Mario did. We told him to just listen to the songs and have a feel for them. He was our friend before he came to be the drummer of the band. We also had the benefit of having G [bass player Mario Granados], who had been playing with Mic for years [in a band called Los Mojados]. It’s almost as if the pieces were slowly coming together without us even knowing.
What prompted the split with Mario?
In every member separation there’s a conflict. They tend to be about musical ideas, but in this case it was more a problem with sharing behaviors—things we did not agree with. It was about not being able to justify or permit certain behaviors in the band.
Both EPs have two songs in Spanish and two songs in English. How does a Jesus and the Dinosaurs song find its language?
A lot of times when it comes to rhymes, certain words and languages cut and flow better with the melody. Other times it comes with a pre-established idea. For example, with the song “Plastic Cheese,” I just sat down one day and was like, “I’m going to write a song.” I was reading an article about The Beatles, and John Lennon was referring to Kraft American Cheese as plastic cheese. It brought an idea and the lyrics, of course, came out in English.
Would you describe Jesus and the Dinosaurs as a political band?
I like to keep things very much how they are in real life. You’re not always thinking about politics and you’re not always thinking about unrequited love. [Politics] is definitely more relevant now, though. These songs are focused on the Latin-American experience. “El Salvador se Quema” is about El Salvador and the political situation over there. “La Difunta” is about an immigrant father trying to come to the States and never making his way, and his wife dying there waiting for him. It’s about the journey from there to here, which thankfully I didn’t have to do because my parents did that for me back in the day. It’s a grueling journey and a lot of the issue has to do with American foreign policy. This doesn’t just come out of nowhere. It’s not just because people want to buy a car and an iPhone.
What’s around the corner for Jesus and the Dinosaurs?
We’re focusing more on writing and less on shows. Our drummer had a baby in November. It’s cool to be out there playing, but you have to realize there are other things to pay attention to as well. We’re getting a feel for the new songs, adding parts here and there. We’re making this EP and we want to look into labels, try to put it out internationally, hit Latin America more. We haven’t had our stuff on streaming platforms, so we’re going to do that, too. With this lineup, I think there’s a consolidation of sound that we are reaching, our life experience. We have that energy, that drive.
For more information on Jesus and the Dinosaurs and to keep up with future shows, visit Facebook.com/jesusandthedinosaurs.
**This piece first appeared in print on pages 16 – 17 of issue #272 (Aug. 15 – 29, 2018)**