By Molly Barber
Photos by Molly & Courtesy of Vaughn Lindstrom
Our story begins in California, with an arm. Not just any arm but the arm of a man who was becoming increasingly more annoyed with his housemates. After sitting through months and months of them trying to come up with a name for their band, he couldn’t take it anymore. “You guys just need to shut up. Call yourself…” It was at this point he looked down and randomly pointed to a tattoo he had on his arm- it was a Diego Rivera tattoo where Diego paints himself as a child holding an umbrella. “Literally call yourself whatever, call yourself, I don’t know, Diego’s Umbrella.” Tyson Maulhardt and Vaughn Lindstrom, the founding members of this nameless band, at that moment heard a choir of angels singing in the background. From then on their band would be known as Diego’s Umbrella.
The current quintet of Diego’s Umbrella is comprised of founding member Vaughn Lindstrom on vocals and acoustic guitar, Jason Kleinberg on violin, Jake Wood on drums, Kevin Gautschi on electric guitar and vocals, and Red Cup on bass. Though the band started with an inclination for Latin infused vibes, while touring around Eastern Europe, they started pairing up with Balkan bands and thus began their affinity with Balkan music. “We not only found an affinity for it but learned we could play it and play it well. We feel that’s in our blood.” Vaughn said of their Balkan influence. Another musical genre that effected them was Klezmer. “Maybe eight years ago we had a summer where we played like three straight Jewish weddings and they all had very specific music requirements and so we learned a bunch of very traditional, very cool, Jewish wedding music.” Vaughn explained. “So that’s where a lot of our Klezmer influence came from because we started playing these Jewish weddings and it was not only so fun but we got to learn.We got all this sheet music for just all these wonderful Freylekhs and Horas- just great Klezmer music; that again, was kinda like us being in Eastern Europe and picking up on the Balkan theme…So it’s kind of one of those things we put in our handbag and we’ve been carrying around ever since.”
This is a band who’s not afraid of taking unconventional instruments and exotic sounds and fusing them with bewitching beats, energetic stage presence, and a sincere love for this music that becomes contagious to those listening. These “Ambassadors Of Gypsy Rock” have a live show as unforgettable as their music and will make any event they play a “singular, ecstatic experience.” This being said, it’s inevitable when putting on a show of that caliber that sometimes you have battle wounds. “We are constantly getting hurt, nobodies fault but our own but our violin player has had a few of these (accidents). I think he’s just a little too trusting in the crowd and what happens when you crowd surf is if you start going too fast in one direction, people can’t keep up. So what happened was, the momentum started picking up and he basically kinda out-surfed the crowd and we didn’t know he landed on a pint glass.” Vaughn said remembering that they knew he was kind of hurt but the show went on. No one in the band was aware he had landed on a pint glass, but because they had a big festival to play the next day they spent the night driving. In the morning at the festival, Jason, still in pain went to the medical tent. “He got this triangle of glass, this like inch long triangle of glass pulled out of his back from the pint glass the night before.”
The “Mexi-Cali Gypsy Pirate Polka” sound can be found on their EP & 5 full length albums released by the band. Their newest “EDJKA” was released in March and with tunes like the energetic and catchy Never Take Us Down mixed with the melodic, latin/reggae fusion sound of Don Quixote. This album is yet another treasure for music lovers, seeking a new sound. If you find yourself intrigued enough to give them a listen, it’s hard to recommend just one song but a good introduction to their music might be Thrash Mexican Budapest. I know what you’re thinking, “What the hell kind of a song has the title Thrash Mexican Budapest? Well… this one.
Vaughn, who writes a lot of the lyrics for the band often keeps notebooks with him, so he can write down the inspiration when it hits. “If I see two words or three words that I really like together, I’ll just write them down” He’d been on tour in Europe at the time and he was going through his notebooks. “And I kept coming back to this page that said ‘Thrash Mexican Budapest’… I was just really drawn to every sound of all of those words and how they worked together and how it doesn’t necessarily make sense but just the three words, how they sit next to each other and how weird it is to juxtapose them together.” He decided then and there that he would write a song using those three words. “I kinda took that and molded a song to it just so I could call the song, Thrash Mexican Budapest. Which doesn’t make any sense if you look at it but all the words sound cool in my mind and I made a song that made sense around that.”
Having been given this insight into the band, would it surprise you if I told you that one of their most famous covers is of a Sonny and Cher song by the name of A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done? Well, it’s true, they even made their way on to Sonny and Cher’s wikipedia site for it. Vaughn said, “I remember hearing the song years and years and years ago and I remember thinking, that it was the coolest song I’d ever heard” Most of their covers are songs that the general public probably wouldn’t know but have found a new home in the hearts of Diego’s Umbrella fans everywhere.
The wandering troubadours, known as Diego’s Umbrella, tour frequently and attending one of their shows should be on every music lovers bucket-list. It’s an experience unlike any other. They have a sound you can’t help but move to and a stage presence that emulates their love for this music. They play EVERY show with the heart and enthusiasm of their first or last. It was a concert I will always remember and this is a band I will see every chance I get.
You can download their albums on iTunes or on their website. That’s also where you can sign up for their newsletters and check out their tour schedule. If you’re interested in reading the full interview I had with founding band member Vaughn Lindstrom go to MountainValleyLiving.com. Ideally, this article has planted a seed of curiosity about the anomaly that is Diego’s Umbrella and I hope that seed grows into a full blown love affair for their music because like the band says, “There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love Diego’s Umbrella and those who don’t know them yet.”