Do not try to label DW3 because everything is in their music

Published on March 24th, 2021

By Jim Dail

When Eric and Billy Mondragon were kids, there was really only one thing that they knew about their future – it would involve music.

“We always knew we’d be musicians,” said Eric Mondragon. “I mean, we kind of stopped when we hit the teen years and hung out with friends, but then got right back into it. We were in bands professionally when we were 15.”

Their band, DW3, will kick off the 7th annual Temecula Wine & Music Festival at Vail Lake Resort on Saturday.

As their success rises, both nationwide and globally, it is easy to see that growing up in a musical household certainly helped.

“Our parents got us started,” said Billy Mondragon. “They were both musicians. Eric played the guitar then the keyboards and I’ve always played the drums and sang. They were clearly a huge influence on us.”

The band will be one of the performers at the 2011 Temecula Wine and Musical Festival. Currently, their latest album, “On the Floor,” and single have been doing well, especially overseas. Their latest single, “I Got You,” has hit Number 1 in London.

“We were totally taken back by that,” Eric Mondragon said. “You just never think that you will have a hit in another country.”

A unique thing about DW3 is that there are very hard to pigeon hole, considering that their music at times sounds R&B, soul, Latin and oldies all at the same time.

The band formed in 1994 and quickly asserted itself as part of the local Los Angeles scene, playing cover songs from a variety of genres, including R&B groups such as Usher and Alicia Keys, old school style performers like Stevie Wonder and The Gap Band, and Latin artists such as Santana and Gloria Estefan.

The band consists of Eric on keyboards and lead vocals, Billy on percussion, David Montelongo on lead vocals, Anthony Goss on guitar, and Bryant Siono on bass and Ronnie Guiterrez on drums.

However, they are more than a cover band, and all of the musicians have been sidemen for such famed artists as Jessica Simpson, Warren Hill, War, Jeffrey Osborne, to name a few.

As a band they are part of the broad range label of smooth jazz, but don’t think they are straight-laced instrumental band. 

“Smooth jazz is just R&B played instrumentally,” said Eric Mondragon. “We are an R&B band and we do our own arrangements and covers that allow us to express who we are.”

Again, they are still feeling the power of the music they listened to growing up in Southern California. 

“We have always been influenced by the R&B sound,” said Eric Mondragon. “We’re Latino and we grew up in Los Angeles. We grew up listening to Motown, Earth Wind & Fire and bands like that. We just did it our way, keeping that soul and essence.”

They have managed to have a fresh sound despite the influence of performers that emerged decades before they did.

“We are kind of old souls,” Billy Mondragon said. “We did the oldies stuff a lot. There’s also an oldies feel to some of our music, and what comes out on the records is what we were exposed to.”

They quickly embraced the style of bands that were not necessarily pop superstars.

“I think our goal was to be more like Tower of Power and groups like that,” he said. “We had the idea of being a rock star of course but ultimately we just wanted to make good music.”

And they developed their chops on the stage, focusing not just on playing good music but creating a fun experience.

“It was our parents that really instilled in us the idea of entertainment, the fact that it really is an art,” said Billy Mondragon. “Our parents were entertainers on and off the stage. They were always hobnobbing with people, always entertainers. So we learned to be entertainers as well. Really, everything has been played before. What you have to do is have a style in your music and on the stage.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a business side to the live performances.

“We love being on the stage because we are a live band first and foremost,” he said. “But where you play is often directly connected to where you are getting played. If we are getting played in Canada, we want to make sure we play Canada.”

Ultimately, it’s about understanding the crowd.

“Some times there are crowds you just can’t reach.” said Eric Mondragon. “You have to be smart about and be able to adjust or just realize it can’t be perfect every time. I mean, you can do originals at a cover club.”

It could also come down to the songs.

“Not every song has the same impact on the same place and audience,” he said. “You have a lot of different sets depending on how you are connecting to the audience.”

That’s why DW3’s set lists are simply guidelines.

“George Duke used to just go with the flow and turn to his band and say, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this one,'” said Eric Mondragon. “The band would go crazy because they would be playing of note charts and have to scramble to get to the right song.”

Whatever the band is doing, they are doing it right as record sales and concert attendance continue to rise.

“This is the beginning, really, for us,” he said. “We’ve accomplished a lot and we are just starting to sell out bigger venues. The record has helped.”

Part of that is evidenced by their invitations to play numerous local venues, sites overseas and even performances for the troops in Iraq.

It doesn’t hurt having some extra star power either.

“Paul Brown produced half the record and Gerald Albright played on “I Got You,’” he said. “The more we are able to build on what we’ve done so far, the better. I don’t think it’s ever enough to just sit back and say look what we’ve done. You just want to get better.”


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