A punk rocker from Los Angeles has gotten the attention of local leaders for taking on a couple of issues that just about every Angelino can relate to: crowded freeways and public transportation. But first there are a couple of things you need to know about Eddie Solis: he lives in L.A, loves the band KISS and does not own a car.
"Being someone who's from L.A. and having a few cars in my past, I saw the city much differently through a different perspective, through the eyes of a bus rider," says Solis.
Just steps from the front door of his home across the street from a tortilla factory in L.A.'s Boyle Heights neighborhood, Solis catches a bus that connects him with the city's subway, and the commuter train he catches to his day job at an indie record label in Hollywood.
"It just opened me up to little neighborhoods, galleries, clubs, bars, just seeing what's out there in little pockets of the city," explains Solis. Solis' journeys aboard L.A. buses and subway cars informs a lot of the material on "The New Los Angeles Part I: Through The Eyes Of A Bus Rider," the latest release by the singer-guitarist's band It's Casual.
In Solis' vision of a "new" Los Angeles, people abandon their cars, climb aboard public transit and rediscover their communities. One song extols the virtues of the L.A. County Metropolitan Transit Agency's EZ Pass, and the urban underbelly it introduces to the rider.
"And that's an homage to the people who beat the system and steer away from spending money on gas and oil profits and all that," says Solis. The song's message is delivered in short, sharp bursts of lyrics that get straight down to business.
"'Fifteen dollars is all it takes to for me to witness racial tension, for me to witness illegal aliens,'" Solis quotes from the song. "I'm talking about what I see. It's not to paint a negative picture. It's just my perspective of what is seen."
"We're gonna go downstairs and in about 5 minutes we're gonna get on the Red Line going northbound," explains Solis as we hustle past other commuters and a jazz saxophonist playing for pocket change.
The metro Red Line snakes from North Hollywood to downtown Los Angeles. It's the train that inspired It's Casual's signature tune and spawned a viral Internet video. It was partly filmed late at night on a moving train as it hurtles from station to station. Solis thrashes away on his guitar and barks the lyrics, which celebrate the Red Line and mock the congested freeways that coil around Los Angeles. "The thread that comes out of the record that ties everyone together is, be alive," Solis exclaims. "Don't be a victim of having a car!"
An MTA spokesman said he couldn't comment on Eddie Solis' furious pro-Metro message. But the "Red Line" video was a hit at the offices of Move LA. It's the public transportation advocacy group headed by former Santa Monica mayor Denny Zane.
"Eddie did a good job, thank you Eddie," says Zane. He liked watching the juxtaposition of Solis blissfully riding LA public transit in one scene, with scenes of the band using its music to rage against those notorious freeway jams. "I mean (music) is one of the most important ways that messages really penetrate into the culture. Eddie is all frantic when talking about highways and so mellow when grooving on his skateboard, the bus and the Red Line," says Zane. "There's a metaphor for transformation, from; oh my God I gotta get out of the traffic! To; hey, this is cool I can mellow out."
Or, you can blast a tune like "Too Many People" as you claw your way across LA by car, bus or skateboard. Too many people could also be a motto for It's Casual. Over the years the band whittled itself down to a power duo of Solis and a rotating cast of drummers. So you may think the burly, bearded punk rocker just can't get along with freeways, with people, or his native L.A. Not true.
"I love it, I love everything about it," laughs Solis. "I've traveled throughout the U.S. many times, and I could never look forward enough to coming back. The weather, the different cultures, the landscape. I'm like, 'You know what? Now I know why everyone moves to L.A!"
Solis will bring the love and the volume during a "Red Line" mini-tour next month. It's Casual will play a different venue within walking distance of several Red Line metro stops from Union Station to West Hollywood.
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