In December 1975, Stan Richards walks into The Sting at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel to take a “peek” at the “off night” band; they call themselves The Nomads and he was told that they were a very good R ‘n B band. He walks around the disco just once and leaves. The band, although disappointed, hopes for the best because, after all, Stan Richards is the owner of The Point After - the hottest disco in Honolulu with sister clubs in Seattle, Dallas, Boston and Anchorage. They try to optimistic but realize that there has never been a “local” act hired to perform in that club - only bands from the continental U.S. circulate between the sister clubs - and even if they are hired only to do the “off night” gig it would be a stepping stone for bigger things! Much to theirWithout fail, Aura packed the dancefloor that evening. Everyone I talked to recalled how Aura was the band to see, and The Point After—the legendary nightclub where Aura resided for a decade—was the place to be on any given night of the week. I had only heard of The Point After, and found out it closed sometime in the 1980s. But while the club's status as the pinnacle of 1970s Waikiki nightlife remained a mystery to me, Aura's story slowly started to open itself to me. At that reunion show, the band was selling T-shirts and a retrospective zine. I bought both. Inside the zine were artist promo photos, flyers, stories from the band members, and photos of their mom and dad — as you might know from my previous post, Aura is a family band comprised of eight siblings. In retrospect, I wondered why the band didn't play any of the songs I knew that evening. The songs from their 1979 album — "Magic Lover", "Winds Of Love", "Short And Sweet" — these were all hallmark tunes of the Aura I knew. But, as I later found out (a recurring theme in learning of Aura's story) in interviews with Vince Mendoza and Beverly Mendoza, the band rarely played these originals live, save for their popular disco rendition of "I'll Remember You". The following year I decided to blog about a few tracks from the album. In January 2012, I posted three tracks (two of which eventually became the AGS-7003 7", releasing this month on the Aloha Got Soul label).
, Mr. Richards decides to have them perform at The Point After in Dallas, Texas for two months, beginning January 1976. Although hoping to land a spot in the Honolulu club, this is still a big break...and there’s the excitement of traveling to unknown territory! The band does so well there, Stan decides to but the gig short and bring them “home” to perform in the Honolulu club. Wayne Harada, entertainment columnist of The Honolulu Advertiser, writes “this is history in the making...the first local act to play that room”. The group went on to receive numerous awards from Honolulu’s entertainment industry, year after year, for their superb talent and ability to “pack the room”. (link)
I don’t think there’s a Hawaiian funk album as heavy as Aura’s—blazing horns, duo female vocalists, the heaviest dance cuts to ever come out of Hawaii. But a funk/soul group is only as good as their love ballads. I mean, if a band like Aura can take listeners to new heights with songs like “Let Me Say Dis About Dat”, then you can bet they’ve got just as much talent when the tempo slows down. (link)https://youtu.be/j4t8GS5_Vcw In 2013, as the fanbase of Aloha Got Soul grew and the idea of launching a reissue label started to surface, Vince Mendoza — who played sax on the band's 1979 album and, as I would find soon enough, later switched to drums when Mike Kennedy left the group — coincidentally posted a comment on one of the posts I made the year prior.
Thanks so much from the depth of my Family’s heart. Back in the day we had put our hearts n soul into that album. We will always dedicate our work to our Father, Julian B. Mendoza and our Mom Agnes A. Mendoza. Blessings Mahalo Aloha. Yours truly AURA the Mendoza family : )Ecstatic, I quickly found Vince on Facebook and sent him a brief message to say thank you. Nothing really came after that, although I did eventually found a vinyl copy of their LP at Jelly's (now Idea's), its slightly worn grooves telling me that its previous owner gave it plenty of play. To have the LP in my collection meant I could finally start spinning it at DJ gigs around town. https://www.instagram.com/p/5dn_HFkvXK/?taken-by=alohagotsoul Time went by. It wasn't until 2015 that I finally reached back out to Vince to pitch the idea of working on a reissue together. This was right around the time of releasing the first 7" on AGS, Mike Lundy's "The Rhythm Of Life" b/w "Tropic Lightning", so I felt as if I had "something to show" for the blog-turned-label, especially when approaching Aura, one of Hawaii's hottest bands of the day. Vince was interested. We hopped on a phone call ("You don't remember The Point After? ...Wait, how old are you?") and he was happy to learn that a young guy is interested in keeping their music alive for others to hear. "Back then, you could tell what bands were from Chicago, Detroit. Hawaii had its own sound. Now, everyone sounds alike." I would learn even more about the band once Vince and I finally met in person, in March 2015. And now, 2016, as we are finally ready to release the first Aura reissue, AGS-7003 — a 7" featuring two standout grooves from their LP — I've had the opportunity to piece more of the Aura story together using interviews with Vince as well as his sister, singer Beverly Mendoza Orbello. AGS-7003 is available now in the shop on vinyl & digital formats. Also available online June 17th via iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and other major digital outlets.
The original eight band members: Del in the middle, Vince kneeling bottom left, above him is Christine, above her is Dennis, then next to him is Michael, then Brian, then Beverly and then Clifton kneeling bottom right.Roger Bong: What are your earliest memories of performing as “Beverly & The Nomads”? Beverly Mendoza Orbello: The band being named after our Dad's 2nd pride & joy, his Chevy Nomad! I say 2nd because the band was his 1st! The band needed to have a name change due to "trouble" a couple of Go-Go Girls got into on one of the military clubs & the only name Dad could think of at that moment was The Nomads. What kinds of clubs were the Nomads playing at that time? Were you gigging in Waikiki? How old was everyone in the band? B: We started playing at small parties, school functions, battle of the bands & on Filipino Fiesta in 1965 on the local TV station. We eventually started playing the military circuit all the way up to 1973. During the last couple of years doing the military circuit, we also started to do some outer islands (& on Oahu) gigs in small hotel/motel lounges. In 1973, Jack Cione hired us to do an hour show at The Dunes (before his Cabaret Show started) & then a couple of sets doing Top 40 dance music. All of the Mendoza siblings started performing at an early age (between 12-14 yrs.) but the youngest started at age 10 & that was our brother Del. He created Aura's "sound", all the musical arrangements as well as vocal harmonies & he was the lead we followed. When Stan Richards (Point After owner) saw The Nomads at The Sting in December 1975, how long had the band been together at that point? And what was the band's repertoire like then? B: The band had been performing together for at least 10 years. Our repertoire was always R&B, Top 40 with a dash of Jazz & Blues every now & again. What impact did your residency at The Point After have on the band and its success? Did TPA help catapult Aura to the top of the Hawaii nightclub scene? B: The Point After definitely had a hand in The Nomads/Aura rising to the top of Hawaii's nightclub scene! Stan Richards owned a string of Point After clubs on the continental U.S. & the norm (before we started playing at the Honolulu club) was to rotate the bands every 3 months between the clubs. However, because we had an amazing "draw", he decided to leave us at the Honolulu club. There is tremendous energy in Aura's 1979 LP, it helps young listeners like me imagine what Hawaii was like in the 70s and early 80s. What was the music scene in Hawaii like back then? Would you consider it a special time for Hawaii's music? B: It was definitely a special time for Hawaii's music scene — something that will not likely ever be seen again. It was fun & exciting — Waikiki was lit up! Every major hotel had a Disco Club with live bands performing. Vince Mendoza: This town was so busy, so many great entertainers, music was everywhere! Back then you could make a decent living just playing music. Aura's always been a hardcore funk band,
Aura at The Point AfterWhat were the recording sessions at Broad Studios like? B: It was a truly learning experience, also exciting, stressful/tiring at times & "long" nights...but we wouldn't have traded it for anything else in the world! You guys had a lot of creative freedom on this LP? B: Yeah. Gary would be like, “That was cool! Try that!” So, who do we sound like? What is this sound? I thought some songs should’ve gotten airplay. “No Beginning, No End” should’ve gotten airplay. Please tell me about the song, "No Beginning, No End”, to which you wrote the lyrics. It's incredible! B: Thank you so much Roger! I actually wrote the lyrics thinking of a couple I knew personally who were always in an "on again/off again" relationship. I loved them both dearly & it was just so sad because I knew they truly loved each other but just couldn't "handle" the relationship — perhaps because they were young & somewhat immature. Do you feel the album was a true representation of the band’s live performance, or a departure that displayed a different side of Aura’s abilities? B: I think it was both. Although it was a little more jazz oriented, the musicianship/vocals truly displayed my brother's/sister's abilities & talent which was always there in our live performances. Was the album successful upon release? B: The album was not marketed as best as it could have been so there was very little air play. Everyone knows if a recording does not get air play on the popular radio stations, it is not going to be successful. There were several good ballads (Let Go It's Over & Winds Of Love) as well as a couple of good dance tunes (Yesterday's Love & Can't Waste No Time). There was also really great R&B, Jazz tunes that really displayed the band's musicianship/vocalizations/talent (Short 'n Sweet, our rendition of I'll Remember You, etc.).
The back cover of the original Aura LP.The liner notes say the band is looking forward to more albums. V: In every record, the producer has a lot of say. We’re huge fans of Earth Wind & Fire, moreso than Tower Of Power. TofP is more of a musician's band. They were hard to dance to. EW&F is more commercial