Funky Latin Fiesta: Spellbound By Rudy Mangual

Latin Beat Magazine (March 2007 / Volume 17, Number 2)

Paul Thomas and Bobby Moon are the founders and leaders of the Los Angeles, California-based Latin funk band “Spellbound.” For more than a decade the prolific duo has been independently producing cutting-edge alternative original music with a Latin tinge and mucho sabor. The following conversation took place during a video shoot of Hot Sauce, one of the tunes on Thomas and Moon’s latest CD, Poolside Fiesta.


Rudy Mangual: Paul, when did you initially get bitten by the music bug (metaphysically speaking)? (sic)

Paul Thomas: I believe that music has always been in my soul, my blood, all around me. My mother encouraged me to learn to play the piano at age five, and by my 12th birthday, I was playing the guitar and bass guitar. I really enjoyed my music teachers throughout the years. That’s probably the main reason I stuck to it and learned a lot from all my instructors. By this time (my teen years), I needed no more encouragement from my parents towards music; I was hooked and convinced of becoming a musician. And I played guitar.


RM: What about you Bobby? How did you get into music?

Bobby Moon: As a kid growing up in Seoul, Korea, I remember being mesmerized by Western cultures and music, especially rock ‘n’ roll. My mother used to listen heavily to Elvis Presley and other North American popular singers and artists. By the time I came to the United States (at age five), I was already familiar with much of the popular music of the times.


RM: How did you guys meet?

PT: We met in junior high school in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. Bobby was new to the school and I was the first person he met. Even back then, we talked about forming a band because Bobby used to play the violin.


RM: When did you finally form your first band?

PT: It was around 1985. I was already playing in a band called “Interval” (a progressive/psychedelic rock band), which I was rapidly getting bored with for many reasons. The band featured Jake (bass) and Trevor Feldman on drums (the sons of jazz musician Victor Feldman). We used to hang out at their home, which was frequented by many top musicians like Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (of Steely Dan fame). We received a lot of pointers and encouragement from Victor Feldman and his musician friends. After Carl, the lead singer of the band, was involved in a car accident that put him out of commission, I decided it was time to form my own band, seeking a new sound and direction. Bobby, who was always hanging around rehearsals and writing lots of lyrics for songs, fell right in as the new band’s singer/songwriter.


RM: What was the name of the band?

PT: Our first band was called “Life After Death.” The sound and style of the times was “new wave.” Electronics, synthesizers, sequencers, and drum machines were becoming the latest instrumentation of the new wave bands. We wanted to try something fresh and the new wave movement felt right at the time. After about two years of many gigs, much partying and lots of girls, we decided it was time to become serious as musicians, so we evolved into what became the group “Spellbound.”


RM: Describe the music of Spellbound?

PT: Initially, the Spellbound sound and style was new wave dance music.


RM: When did Spellbound release its debut recording?

BM: It was in 1990. Our first CD was called Bound For Groovin’, an independent production issued on our own label, Selfish Recordings. After years of being rejected by all the major recording labels for being too original or not original enough (depending on the label), we decided to self-produce.


RM: Lookin back at your first album almost 17 years ago, how do you feel about it?

PT: It was sad! [Laughter from both Paul and Bobby] The most interesting aspect about it was perhaps the cover, which featured a young woman in a short dress on her knees and with her hands bound. There were a few funky tracks in this first recording that eventually gave birth to a small following of fans. With no distribution whatsoever and only word of mouth and mail order sales, we sold a couple of hundred copied here and there.

Two years later, we released our second CD titled Will, and this project took on a more eclectic musical direction than our previous work. It was in this production that we started to emphasize on a Latin tinge in our compositions, much to the enjoyment of our listeners and fans, such as on the track I’ve Been Looking. Booby and I had been listening quite a bit to the recordings of Fania Records, enjoying the Afro-Caribbean rhythms and amazing vocals and brass arrangements of this wonderful musical genre. As we continued to compose new material, our direction leaned more and more towards the funky side of Latin music and its exotic rhythms. By our fourth CD (Funqueros), we had included three tracks with Spanish lyrics and boogaloo was the flavor of the month for us.

By this time, there was no turning back, Spellbound had become a bonafide Latin funk band fusing elements of urban dance music with the rhythms of the Caribbean and Latin America. With the aid and guidance of bandleader/multi-instrumentalist Johnny Polanco (who leads one of the top salsa bands in the West Coast, Conjunto Amistad), we continue to incorporate more Latin rhythms into our compositions. We also feature the talents of guest musicians from the world of salsa and Latin jazz, including Johnny Polanco, Artie Webb, Candi Sosa, Manny Silvera, Mike Daigeau, Robertito Meléndez, Papo Rodríguez, Michael Turré, and Rudy Mangual, among others. Spellbound has also featured several female vocalists throughout the years in the band, including Charo Salinas and Sonora, adding a unique femme flavor to the mix.


RM: You guys are currently enjoying the release of your ninth CD recording.

BM: Yes, as of this writing, the ninth CD Poolside Fiesta should be gracing the airwaves of the free world, without a doubt the best production ever from Spellbound. Personally, I feel this recording is our best due to the selection of its material, vocals, arrangements and overall mix.

PT: To me, this production has been the most fun and fulfilling as a composer musician. We were also able to include a few cover tunes, which I think reflect and work well with the Spellbound sound (The Doors classic Souls Kitchen and John Sebastian of The Loving Spoonfuls’ hit song I Don’t Want Nobody Else).

BM: A bit of synchronization (sic) is also present in this recording, via the work of photographer Henry Diltz (the official photographer of Woodstock), who shot the first album of the Loving Spoonfuls as well as many of The Doors’ albums, and also shot many of the photographs in this new CD, Poolside Fiesta. As of this writing, we will have produced a music video of the track Hot Sauce, which should be getting airplay in several local cable video channels in the next couple of months. Spellbound will be touring this spring and early summer from coast to coast.

For tour and booking information visit



Bound For Groovin’   (1990) Selfish Recordings

Will               (1992) Selfish Recordings

Spellbound         (1996)

Funqueros          (1999)

Respete El Pasado    (2001)

Tropicalifornia       (2002)

Spellbound Sampler  (2004)

Encantos           (2005)

Poolside Fiesta       (2007)

Latin Beat Magazine, March 2007