I had considered doing an overview of my favorite guitar instrumentals, with The Meters, Joe Satriani, The Ventures, Davey Graham, Santo & Johnny, and Van Halen represented. Then I decided that the more recent gem, eccentric niche Spanish “instrumental horror surf band” Los Tiki Phantoms, deserved their own post.
For those who are not familiar with this mysterious quartet, Los Tiki Phantoms play fast-paced, liquid reverb surf/rockabilly/spaghetti western, “and even a few Thin Lizzy riffs,” which they perform wearing skull masks and matching predominately black outfits with snazzy waistcoats, and employ kitschy ‘60s tiki bar visual motifs and the kind of B-horror film imagery favored by The Misfits and The Cramps. The band is similar to Los Straitjackets from Nashville, who perform guitar instrumentals while wearing lucha libre Mexican professional wrestling masks. Los Tiki Phantoms formed in 2006 and have managed, like The Residents and early Daft Punk, to hide their real identities from the world. The Barcelona music scene has been admirably good at keeping their secret. The pseudonymous members are El Beat on lead guitar, El Canibal on rhythm guitar, El Kahuna on bass, and El Bravo on drums (and cocktail shaker).
The band have their own amusing mythical back story: They started playing music in Hawaii 250 years ago. After spending two hundred years dead and buried under a volcano, the four were resurrected by the great Tiki God, who granted them magical powers. They decided to return to the world, pick up their instruments, travel the world, and make everyone dance.
There are plenty of rapidfire Dick Dale, Link Wray, Shadows, and Ventures riffs on their six albums (‘Regresan De La Tumba,’ ‘Y El Ejército De Las Calaveras,’ ‘Mueven El Esqueleto,’ ‘Y El Misterio Del Talismán,’ ‘Aventuras En Celuloide,’ and ‘Disco Guateque’). The older rockabilly/surf guitarists I have introduced to Los Tiki Phantoms have been thrilled that a new generation is carrying on the Dick Dale-influenced tradition of their youth in a note-perfect fashion, with zombies, robot vampires, and other monsters thrown in. The band’s most recent release, admittedly a contractual obligation album, ‘Disco Guateque,’ includes Tiki-fied cover versions of pop songs like A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’ (‘Tiki On Me’), Spanish actress Concha Velasco’s 1965 hit ‘La Chica Yeye,’ and Wham!’s ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.’
Los Tiki Phantoms are obvious festival favourites in their hometown and all over the world, and one of the high points of their sets is The Tiki Conga, where an audience member gets to crowd surf on top of an inflatable swimming pool float. They have their own personally curated and hosted festival, Phantoms Fest, around Halloween, which sounds like the best Halloween ever.