Las Pesadillas recharges, reunites

After a nearly decadelong hiatus, the Sacramento band is back

Las Pesadillas are so money they can hire a stand-in for violinist Damian Sol.

Las Pesadillas are so money they can hire a stand-in for violinist Damian Sol.

photo by luke fitz

Catch Las Pesadillas at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 25, at Harlow's Restaurant & Nightclub, 2708 J Street. Honyock is also on the bill. Tickets are $7. Learn more at

In 2006, Las Pesadillas was entered into the Sammies Hall of Fame after winning six awards in five different categories—a rare feat. That same year, arguably at the peak of the genre-defying band’s popularity, Las Pesadillas broke up.

The team of Noah Nelson (vocals, guitar), Damian Sol (violin, keyboard), Jason Cox (drums) and Jon Mack (bass) called it quits for vague “interpersonal reasons,” as Cox says.

Or, as Nelson says, “It got kinda tedious.”

Las Pesadillas had, to its credit, been together for a whopping decade. During that time it released two full-length albums, two EPs and one creepy soundtrack to a zombie flick. Its songs show influences of surf, punk, gypsy, Eastern European, country, new wave and rock—sometimes many at once. Las Pesadillas provides adventurous listening.

And now the band will provide such adventures once again—Nelson, Sol and Cox have reunited as Las Pesadillas, with their longtime friend Glenn Newport on bass.

Who to thank? Mark Gonzales, booker at Old Ironsides, who kept badgering the guys to bring back Las Pesadillas for the venue’s 80th anniversary party last fall.

In the end it came down to convincing one member in particular.

“Of anybody, I was the one who needed convincing,” Cox says. “I kind of gave up on music for a few years.”

Cox says he largely wanted to leave Las Pesadillas because of tendonitis. Playing the drums proved to be an enormous physical challenge—he switched to guitar when Cox and Nelson formed their subsequent band, Radio Orangevale, with Newport.

“Part of why I wanted to do Las Pesadillas was to get [Cox] behind the drums again because I hadn’t seen it in 10 years,” Newport says.

The guys initially planned to just do the Old Ironsides gig. That progressed to maybe playing annually. That progressed to entering full-on band mode. And tendonitis isn’t getting in Cox’s way this time.

“It feels like I’m rebuilding my life,” he says. “It feels like I’m 16 again, playing in the garage.”

Part of that nostalgia is probably due to Newport’s presence—they were buddies in high school.

“It’s pretty amazing to find people you’re willing to be around for 20-something years and have it not fall apart into arguments,” Newport says.

And it didn’t take long for Las Pesadillas to get back into the swing of things—though, “our first practice was squirrely,” says Nelson—and relearn its lengthy catalog. Las Pesadillas also has a couple of hours of unreleased demo recordings, and an old idea for a concept album: an apocalypse brought on by water. A fitting idea now, given California’s drought.

“One day, we’re going to tackle all of that,” Cox says.

For now, the band is already—and quickly—writing new material. Over the course of one practice, Las Pesadillas will sometimes bang out a complete song—it’s happened four times since the reunion.

Has the band’s sound changed? Maybe, maybe not.

“A lot has happened in the intervening eight years in music that I think influences your taste whether you know it or not,” Newport says.

As far as influences go, Las Pesadillas members can’t really name any acts that influence them now nor influenced them a decade ago. Instead, Nelson says he’s most inspired by an idea: “To be a band that sounds like no other band.”