For the past three years, local band Nico’s Mystery has worked to add some performative flourishes to its eclectic jazz and futuristic world beats—half a dozen musicians dressed as futuristic space-priests, for example.
Trumpeter Domenico Lacala started the band after graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno and brought on drummer Miguel Jimenez-Cruz and a host of other young, local musicians. The band features a full brass section, electric guitar and bass, keyboard and synthesizer, bongos, and a full drum kit.
Without any traditional vocals, the band’s instrumental qualities layer brassy jazz solos with hard-rock grooves. The expanded percussion section also draws from Latin and tribal rhythms, often switching time signatures. Digital effects provide psychedelic vocal samples and a trance-like depth to the higher register of the sound.
“There’s a sense of spontaneity because we are improvisers,” said Lacala. He writes most of the music before bringing it to the other band members. In live sessions, Jimenez-Cruz said, they workshop the pacing and arrangement of their originals based on the crowd’s reaction.
The band members incorporate skits and poems into their shows, and percussionist Ronaldo de Glymes sometimes performs interpretative dances and expressive poses.
“I’m very inspired by performance art and seeing very heavy stuff,” Lacala said. “I want to make people cry. I want to make people dance and laugh and leave after the night and be like, ’What just happened? I feel like something has happened to me.’”
“Maybe it has some weird reflection of how I grew up Catholic—I don’t know,” said Lacala. “Maybe it’s what we always wanted church to be.”
While Nico’s Mystery found its identity in Reno, two of its members are planning to move to bigger markets, Lacala to Italy and Jimenez-Cruz to Los Angeles.
“In my opinion, you’ve got to be versatile to get work, but if you’re in a band, and that’s all you do, it’s hard to make it in Reno because there’s not a lot of people who really look at Reno like a music town,” said Jimenez-Cruz. “I usually describe Reno—musically and personally—as a glass ceiling. You can see through it, but you just can’t break it.”
But both he and Lacala maintain that the growth of Reno’s music community over the past decade has been valuable.
“I feel like where I’m coming from is a really good place for what I’m doing,” said Lacala. “It’s much more competitive now.” He said he appreciates the influences of UNR music instructors and other musicians in town.
Lacala already has Italian citizenship and relationships with musicians in Europe, and he hopes to play there as Nico’s Mystery. And Jimenez-Cruz sounds like he’s ready for adventure.
“When I move to L.A., I will be able to take any type of work in any style or genre,” he said. “Why? Because in Reno, being such a small town, I’ve played in Nico’s Mystery, which is creative, world music; The Novelists, where I’m singing, you know pop-rock. I’ve done the jazz thing. All these things I’ve built, I come to L.A., and I’m like, ’Here are all my weapons.’”
The band members plan to keep playing together on the first Friday of the month at Pignic Pub & Patio through May. They’re also planning a farewell show.