The Speaks have been working with veteran producers on a new album.
The Speaks have been working with veteran producers on a new album. (By Douglas Sonders)
Thursday, December 21, 2006

Washington area band the Speaks think globally and rock locally. The band's five members, all born in the United States and of Asian heritage, have built a rabid fan base in the region while reaching around the world to make a mark on the Asian music scene.

The band's self-released CD, "Life's a Joke," was picked up by Warner Music Asia-Pacific last year, and the group went on a three-week tour in the Philippines, hearing its music played on radio stations and music video outlets throughout Asia.

Here, the band has earned solid support of radio station DC 101 FM by winning the Last Band Standing contest in 2004 and by performing for crowds of more than 25,000, sharing the stage with Switchfoot, Jimmy Eat World and the Donnas.

Singer Rafael Toledo leads the onstage charge, belting out emotional rock anthems (Pearl Jam is an obvious influence) and tender power ballads, with the frequent gale-force support of bassist Jerry Delino, drummer Ben Tufts and guitarists Siegfred Fuster and Archie Dela Cruz. The band has undergone some personnel changes and musical evolution since its first CD, 1997's "Old Man." The band's recent release is more indicative of its sound -- and netted the band two Washington Area Music Association nominations in the rock category this year.

The guys have been in the recording studio a lot this year, working on an album with veteran producers Scott Spelbring (Jason Mraz, Dave Matthews Band) and Chucky Thompson (Mary J. Blige, NAS). Fans can hear some of the band's new material at tomorrow's show at the State Theatre in Falls Church.

Toledo, in an e-mail last week, said that things were not always easy for the band: "When we first started out, being a predominantly Asian rock band in an industry of mostly white contemporaries made it harder for us to be accepted by the mainstream. . . . It was really tough. Let's face it, we're not your prototypical blond-haired, blue-eyed rockers. But as we continued plugging away and broadened our market, it definitely set us apart. We've learned to look at it as an advantage, rather than a disadvantage."

Also on the bill is Down to This, a heavy- rock quartet formed in Northern Virginia in 2003. While touring in 2004 to support their first, self-produced and self-titled CD, the band was signed by Versatile Records and is working on a second album.

Waldorf's hard-rock foursome Minus-One also will perform, with tunes from its multiple independent releases, including its latest EP, "Under the Counter," and show why it reached the finals in this year's Last Band Standing competition.

-- Marianne Meyer

The State Theatre is at 220 North Washington St., Falls Church. Doors open at 7 p.m. Food and bar available. General admission is $10; tickets are available athttp://www.ticketmaster.comor at the theater box office from noon to 5 p.m. today and noon to 11:30 p.m. tomorrow. For information, call 703-237-0300 or visit

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