By Sunita Budhrani
The first time I saw Lupe Flores I was shooting a band at the Comet Tavern in March of 2012. Lupe was drumming for openers Sugar Sugar Sugar, a psychedelic Bellingham garage rock band (who subsequently broke up and only recently announced they were getting back together.) My lens was immediately drawn to her. I was floored by her performance.
The long-time Washington resident appears one with her drums, hair swinging in full force. Drums are her passion, her release, her therapy, and the cymbals are mere bystanders of her ferocity – she has absolutely no sympathy for those cymbals, which she has broken so many times that Dream Cymbals has told her that they will no longer honor their “lifetime guarantee.” She’s broken that many.
“Is this part of the act?” I wonder out loud.
Nope. There is no pretense here – she is as much of a spitfire off stage as she is on.
When we meet for a drink, she is playful and intense. I see her fingers tap the table furiously as she recounts her drumming journey. Her roots are part Lebanese – great family, good food, belly dancing and rhythm are in her blood. Lupe’s dream forced her to venture out and buy her very first hand drum kit at the age of sixteen. That night, she slept spooning her new best friend.
Our banter is lively. Lupe shares how she got her foot in the door of the Northwest music scene. At a bar show in Bellingham, a few drinks in, she worked up the courage to speak to the solo guitarist on stage. She walked up and simply stated: “I’ll be your drummer!” His response? “”But the name of the band is ‘Lonebird. This is a one man band.”
Lupe didn’t accept that answer. Her confidence led not only to a close friendship with Andrew from Lonebird, but also the start of Sugar Sugar Sugar.
Lupe does not travel the beaten path or conform to traditional drumming rules, not even the common (4/4) beat and time. Prior to Sugar Sugar Sugar’s first band practice, Lupe had only played hand drums…she literally had never held a drumstick. With Andrew by her side, teaching her how to hold the sticks and about the rhythm of rock, Lupe was learning, and she was learning fast.
Over the years, Lupe has set the tempo for various bands. She can dynamically alter her technique based on the band’s sounds and styling needs. She is not bound by old school rules; she plays with her soul. She learns as she goes and the best part is… she is only just getting started.
After watching Lupe perform several times and getting the chance to meet her in person, I am left wanting more. Lupe is sweet and considerate with a feral edge. Her passion is infectious.