Swashbuckling Good Times: Gypsy pirate polka band, Diego's Umbrella, is back with more pop and polish | Sound Stories & Interviews | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Swashbuckling Good Times: Gypsy pirate polka band, Diego's Umbrella, is back with more pop and polish 

Diego's Umbrella returns to Bend to play at Players in March.

In the fall of 2010, Diego's Umbrella played a show in Bend and then promptly wrecked the group's old van while heading south out of town on a "semi-infested" Highway 97.

They love playing in Bend so much, they're back for more - this time at Player's and in a "nice big Ford from 2003," says Tyson Maulhardt, the unofficial voice of the band, during a recent phone interview.


The self-dubbed gypsy pirate polka crusaders were victims of black ice, explains fellow bandmate Ben Leon, who joins us for the call. And it's really the least of what they've seen together after touring nationwide in their van for more than a decade. They claim to be experts in managing stink, noisy travel partners, bad directions, shitty driving and sleep deprivation. Laughter seems to be their cure all.

Traffic accidents aside, if you need any pointers on long distance road trips, hit up Diego's Umbrella, because they are real professionals. Currently, the six-piece Bay Area band is on a Western states tour - with Bend just one of the 22 scheduled shows - but they're already looking ahead to one of their favorite festivals of the year: Austin's South By Southwest music and cultural festival where they will play a show on St. Patrick's Day.

"We don't miss it," says Maulhardt, who plays electric guitar and sings.

"Yeah, we love Austin," Leon says, chiming in. Leon adds vocals, electric guitar and percussion to the all-male band.

"It's basically a raging non-stop party for five days," Maulhardt says, before mentioning that the boys will, more than likely, be black-out drunk for most of the festival.

Also professional partyers, the band of best friends have formed an uncommonly strong bond, no doubt thanks in some part to the long hours spent in the close quarters of their trusty van.

Even with all the driving, partying and playing, Diego's Umbrella has managed to start work on a new album, their fourth full-length offering and their first working with producers, The Rondo Brothers.

"They're quirky dudes," Maulhardt says. "But everyone in the room is quirky."

The producers are not exactly small time. The Rondo Brothers have created commercials for a number of large vehicle manufacturers, as well as the NFL Network, and the polished sound is evident on the new track "Richardson." The video for the song is kind of weird, but it involves pirates, bottles breaking over heads and sex appeal, as well as quality songwriting and the fast-paced, old-world Eastern Bloc musical style that has made the band famous.

"We explored things and took more time on this album," Maulhardt explains.

While Maulhardt says he can't reveal too many juicy tidbits about the new album, it should have more mass appeal with its rock-punk pop sound.

"It's different than anything we've done before, in a good way. It's like a spaghetti western on Mars," says Maulhardt.

Diego's Umbrella has been described as sounding similar to the gypsy punk ambassadors Gogol Bordello and DeVotchKa, but the good-time troubadours masterfully weave both childish playfulness and a smoky sexiness into their own music, which often features a stand-up bass, an accordion and a violin.

Don't be fooled by their casual approach. Their music is tight and their shows and albums are well orchestrated. In an effort to better understand the roots of gypsy music, which factors so strongly in the sound of Diego's Umbrella, the band has made touring Europe something of a priority. If you want to kill some time and are looking for laughs, give their blog post entitled "Croatia" a read. The story tells of homemade wine gifted in a gas can, a dodgy van, a wild boar, a French family, push ups and running out of gas in the hills of Normandy.

"Every time we get over there, we get some musical influence," says Maulhardt. "It is a shit load of fun."

Aside from their international rapport, Diego's Umbrella is now a big enough deal that they've been able to share a bill with big-ticket names like Santigold. The Bay Area band played a huge New Year's Eve show in San Francisco with the New-Wave dub superstar, as well as Beats Antique and good friends MarchFourth Marching Band, both of whom recently played well-attended shows in Bend.

In fact, the day after its Bend concert, Diego's Umbrella is teaming up with MarchFourth at the Crystal Ballroom to help the Portland band celebrate its ninth birthday - on March 4.

In the meantime, though, the raucous gypsy rockers are solely focused on safely piloting their van into Bend and, apparently, getting their mohawk-wearing drummer laid.

"Jake Wood is still single, so if there's any women there that want to jump on his manhood, you know, let 'em know," says Maulhardt "He's got a whole lot of love to give."

Leon then breaks out in a high-pitched a cappella rendition of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love before they both sign off from our phone call with "Happy Easter."

Diego's Umbrella

9pm, Saturday, March 3.

Players Bar & Grill, 25 Century Dr.

$7 at bendticket.com. 21+.

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