Papaya Riot, composed of Jennifer Lucero on keys/accordion, Beatriz Cruz de Leon on violin, Estefania Robles on vocals, and Monica Alvarado on percussion and vocals, is the unique band encapsulating the culture clash of the border in their music.
Papaya Riot is “not a typical rock band,” says Alvarado, because of the accordion and its unique fusion and blends of genres. But the quirks don’t stop there. The band name makes an impression.
Sounding like a play on the band name Pussy Riot, the name has been a literal and figurative play-on-words.
“They ask us if papaya is another word for vagina and it kind of is, kind of, but it’s also a cool word cause it’s like p-a-p-a-y-a,” said Lucero. “What does it mean, we’re like we’re just playing around.” Robles added, “it comes out of everything, and it is the source for life,” resulting in the band breaking out in laughter.
They have been working in their practice room/ studio, which is painted wall-to-wall by El Paso artist, Roman Martinez. The guitar riffs, the bangs from the percussions, and the vocals gliding with the violin’s notes create their own indie symphony performing for the painted cacti and desert scenery of the room.
The four women are close friends, and that resonates in their music and their shows. As Robles said, Papaya Riot is “eclectic,” and their genre is “rock, folk, soul- so different we do whatever.”
Their sound is smooth and nostalgic, it makes listeners across the Sun City think of happier times, or at the very least of eating papaya con chile.
Cruz recounted how the band came together piece by piece, saying she met Robles while working at the Stanlee & Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts in the UTEP campus. She would always hear Robles singing and complemented her voice, trying to convince her to sing.
Cruz met Lucero at the Farmer’s Market one weekend, encountering her playing the accordion and suggested that they start playing together. And thus the original members of Papaya Riot were set, for when Alvarado would join.
Papaya Riot has played shows all over El Paso, citing their performance at the iconic Tricky Falls in July of 2014 as their favorite. They have also played at venues such as Lowbrow Palace, and even at the Lawn, at the Fountains at Farah.
Their first show had their first big show in 2013 at the venue Black Market, where the CVS across from Lowbrow Palace now stands. Reminiscing Alvarado said “Rest in Peace” at the mention of what use to be their favorite bar.
Papaya Riot is currently recording their first album. Throughout their span together, the entire band has continued to work creating the need for true dedication to the music.
“We would love to tour but it’s hard. We need to raise money and we all work,” said Alvarado. The band life is not an easy one to start off in and takes dedication.
Cruz wrapped up what Papaya Riot has been up to since their last show at the Back to School event the Lowbrow Palace hosted August of 2016, “perfecting our music; every time we practice our goal is to make our music better.”
– By Antonio Villaseñor-Baca