Santa Cruda: Holy Hangover!

Most bands found themselves taking a hiatus when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With venues closing, opportunities for bands to play in front of audiences vanished virtually overnight. But some musicians found creative yet responsible ways to bring music to the people. Guitarist Bruno Proal recalls that he and fellow guitarist Shawn Yanez “started jamming outdoors at the corner of Rockview Street, right in front of the ocean.” The duo would return every Thursday, playing to the socially-distanced audience.

But while popularity is usually a good thing, in this case it had a negative effect, at least in the short term. “The police came and shut us down,” Proal recalls. “They had to, because of the number of people that were showing up.”

That could have been the end of things, but Proal and Yanez knew they had a good thing going. “So when things opened up,” Proal says, “I started booking us as a duo.” Soon they added a third musician, Nick Disalvo. “And then the band formed,” Proal says. “Now we’re a five-piece, full band.”

They playfully named the band Santa Cruda, which very loosely translates as “holy hangover.” Proal describes his band’s sound as a feel-good mix of “Cali reggae, mashups, hip-hop and even some rock.” He says that the group’s set is divided between original songs and covers. “But the covers we play, we make them our own.” And the band adapts to its surroundings: a brewery gig might feature a duo or trio format. “The trio sounds amazing because of our vocal harmonies,” Proal says. “And the full band plays bigger shows at places like Moe’s Alley.”

Santa Cruda’s highest profile shows to date have been a set at the 2023 Ink at the Bay Tattoo Festival with Eli-Mac and a sold-out show at The Catalyst. In between gigs, the group is hard at work creating new songs. “We’re in the collective process of writing new material,” Proal says. He emphasizes the band’s original music’s message of unity. “Music brings people together,” he says. “We put aside our differences, and hopefully the music brings understanding and love to people.”

Studio work is in Santa Cruda’s future; they look forward to making their first album. “But we’re a gigging band,” Proal says. “Our intention is to work and actually make a living performing. And it’s happening. We love what we do, and the response and support from the Santa Cruz community has been filling our hearts.”