Jorge Graupera played guitar in Plains, whose 2011 self-titled record was named the New Times Broward-Palm Beach's best local record of 2011. The group itself took the title of Best Supergroup in Miami New Times' 2012 Best Of edition. Before that, he played guitar in Guajiro, a visceral, politically charged Cuban punk rock act that opened for the likes of Flogging Molly and Rancid. And before that, as the guitarist for The Brand, Graupera found himself at the heart of the early-2000s indie-rock scene in South Florida, along with bands such as Humbert and The Bikes.
Now, at the end of his career, Graupera has gone back to the beginning.
Back in the 1990s, Graupera played in the Inside, a grungy outfit that also included drummer Fernando Sanchez, singer Omar Garcia, and bassist Drago Strahija. The band recorded one album's worth of material before moving on to other things. Graupera and Garcia would form The Brand with drummer Juan Oña. And the Inside, and the album it would have released, gathered moss.
That is, until Oña tried to sell a reel-to-reel tape player. "It was a fluke. It wasn't something we planned," Graupera says. "Juan Oña wanted to sell this reel-to reel-machine, and he had to see if it worked. So, he put a reel in it and it was some drum recordings."
"Juan works as an audio archivist," Garcia adds, "so he started dumping it over, figuring out what all he was missing."
"I gave him a few things, and Omar, who is now in Seattle, had the majority of the stuff in a closet in his mom's house," Graupera says. "And Juan wanted to know if we wanted to put it out."
Garcia moved from Miami to Brooklyn in 2005, and from there to Seattle four years ago. Coincidentally, he had been practicing genealogy, archiving the history of the Garcia clan. "And so, this really seemed to just be an extension of that. The Inside existed, this album was gonna come out, and it's a small part of Miami music history," he says. "We're the only people who have the tapes, so it was up to us to do it, just so it's out there."
"Plus, we thought it'd be a fitting tribute to our bass player, Drago, who died in a plane crash a few years ago," Graupera adds. "We're proud of it and we want to share with the old fans of that band and just leave a document, I suppose, of that time."
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After painstakingly mixing the album, Garcia, Graupera, and Oña have produced Fiction, the album that almost was - the album that now is, just the way Garcia and Graupera had intended 15 years ago.
"It was good to have some closure on that chapter of our lives," Graupera says. "A lot of nostalgia involved. Once I left The Brand, I just lost touch with Omar and we didn't talk for years. We were inseparable, but things happened that drove us apart. I think we both were hesitant to rekindle a friendship, but it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. It felt natural."
And while the relationship between the guitarist and the singer is not the same as it was - nothing ever is - it has produced one last record for the two of them. Certainly, it's a last record for Graupera, who will celebrate the release with a show this Saturday, and then hang up his axe. "Even though I never reached superstar status, I did get to do what I loved, toured in other countries and even got paid for it a lot of times," Graupera says. "So I can't complain; I had it good. But now I'm 40, I have a family and really satisfying work in video production that I want to focus on. Also, I got married this year. I mean, we've got an 8-year-old daughter, so it's about time. I want to find more time to spend with my family, with my career. I hate to say this, but I just don't feel the same passion for it, the same love affair, that I did before. So, I'm hanging it up and I'm glad I can celebrate that marker in my life by finally releasing this record."
Still, there is hesitation.
"I was just talking to Mike [McGinnis, singer/songwriter of Plains] the other day and he asked if I wanted to perform at the [Museum of Contemporary Art] - a couple Plains songs, but mostly new stuff he's been working on for a year," Graupera says. "And I love that guy and ...
I mean, it's hard to say no to him, and ...
Maybe I'm not ready to say no just yet.
But I think this is it. I think."
-- Dan Sweeney
The Inside's Fiction Album-Release Party. With Haochi Waves, the Brand, and Humbert. Saturday, August 24. The Annex, 9811 NW 80th Ave., Hialeah. The show starts at 8 p.m. The album will be available for download, but only 100 CDs will be pressed, and will only be sold at this show. Donations will be accepted, and all proceeds will benefit Strings for Hope, an organization that visits orphanages to teach children about music.
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