There’s a commotion going on in Garland, Texas. One house on a nameless street shines bright orange alone in a mist of darkness.
Walk through the doors to find the usual — young people having a party, drinking, smoking up, the whole birthday cake.
The parents reading this piece are probably rolling their eyes — or around in their graves, peace be onto ye spirits — but wait.
Pay attention to the man standing in the patio. Wearing a blue shirt, black slacks, a fitted cap, backpack slung across his shoulders, Manny Torres couldn’t look more out of place, a yuppie at first glance in a crowd of frat folk. But there he is, an attention magnet soaking in fist pumps and kisses.
One word repeats among a sea of admirers — “Tamales.”
Torres is the leader of the Talented Tamales, a group of go-getters who party as a means of building their brand.
The Talented Tamales belong to an era of do-it-yourself media groups like Odd Future and A$AP, youths flexing their entrepreneurial muscles for big rewards.
Do weekends getting soused for nothing sound less attractive to you? Dare to do better? The Tamales ask: How do you spend your weekend?
“If you surround yourself with people who are active, you will live an active life,” Torres said. “If you surround yourself with people who are just at home all day, then that’s all you’re gonna do. You’re supposed
Torres, who works at a photographer’s shop by day, found inspiration to start the Tamales upon deciding to film his friends’ drunken antics.
“The person that inspired me the most was Fidel,” Torres said of his co-founder, Fidel Laredo. “He can dance, he can sing — he’s a very talented guy, so I was like ‘This is the definition of a Talented Tamale.’”
The name “Tamale” comes from Torres’ old high school band named the Tamales, in which he played bass.
His real passion, telling stories, pushed him into film and photography. The videos on the Tamales’ two YouTube pages, “TALENTED TAMALES” and “TALENTED TAMALES 2,” are infamous for their candid takes on collegiate parties that teeter on the edge of tastelessness.
Picture anything from s’mores with vodka to young girls twerking next to graffiti in Deep Ellum.
“None of it is made up,” Torres said. “I just tell what happened. The videos are a way of documenting.”
The Tamales will go to great lengths for a party, from designating “#TurnUpTuesday” to traveling long distances. Their supreme effort to have a good time has garnered them a scattered following of supporters.
Joseph Keys can tell you as much. Rail-thin with matted hair, the Cleveland native recalls meeting Torres at a party and uploading photos of the night onto Instagram.
One girl commented on his Instagram, “You hangout with the tamales? What other Tamales are there?” Keys said. “Dude, you guys are out here.”
Keys, who raps as J.Keys, is a compelling figure. His eyes frequently bug out of his head during the critical points of a conversation, critical points decided by him in long, one-sided rants about anything.
“Dude, I’m almost famous! All I gotta do is make this song with Afroman! It’s gonna get played in Dallas and Cleveland for free, ‘n’ you know how you gotta pay ClearChannel 40 racks? Pssssssh! F*** that, ‘cause I know everybody,” Keys said, trailing off into other subjects in the middle of his point.
“This white dude, longest mullet too right here, he’s killing the game. And he grew his s*** out too, not just having long hair, but on some ignorant s***. You know how America was just like a trending topic? You know ‘AMURRIKAH!’? You guys know about ‘AMURRIKAH!’, right?”
Torres makes a face that sits between a cringe and obliviousness. Part of the fun of being a Tamale is getting to know “certain people,” he said.
Tonight’s host of the house, Jade Pubill, met the Tamales go-go dancing at the Green Elephant. After dancing, Pubill’s friend got “sick that night,” and Torres helped her find a room “to fall asleep properly.”
It’s that friendliness that’s made Torres the social butterfly of his crew.
“I didn’t intend for that to happen,” Torres said. “I wanted to be the guy behind the camera. My parents are from Mexico. I travel to Mexico at least three times a year. Once you see what you have in everyday life that not everybody has — not everybody has running water, not everybody has a toilet that can flush by itself,” Torres said as he took a long drag from his cigarette.
“It’s things like that make you humble. If you just run away from it, then you’re just hiding from the truth, I guess.”
Torres calls friend and Tamales co-founder, Laredo, the “heart” of the group.
Seemingly always grinning, Laredo complements Torres with his slightly messier take on yuppie wear. Laredo, an Oak Cliff native, started dancing at parties in order to get shy people comfortable on the dance floor.
“Everybody likes to dance, but they’ll be shy about it because they see, y’know, good dancers and say ‘Whoa, I can’t dance like that, so why should I display my skills anywhere else in public?’ But it’s not about that, it’s about self-expression,” Laredo said.
Laredo, who’s conservative upbringing discouraged his dancing, hopes to inspire others to explore their individuality without fear.
“Don’t let any trends stop you from doing what you wanna do. Do what you wanna do at all times. Like, if you hear a song and you just start dancing, snapping your fingers, don’t let anybody, any stereotypes hold
Laredo’s ultimate hope is to open a dance studio for children from underprivileged backgrounds to spread his philosophy. “You have your own rhythm,” Laredo said.
“You listen to it, and your body is gonna do a certain movement to it. It’s not gonna be the same I’m gonna do. It’s not gonna be the same thing he’s gonna do. But you’re gonna bring out some type of expression.”
A.B. Floyd, 22, composes all of the music for the Tamales’ videos. Floyd got into producing through his brother, sending beats to some artists and labels, creating a somewhat
“I mean, I work my 9 to 5, but besides that I make beats, and my beats are actually taking me somewhere,” Floyd said.
Floyd, like fellow Tamale Makungu Musonda is on break from college. Musonda, who raps as Makk, credits himself with introducing Torres to Laredo, thereby starting the Tamales.
“Manny saw that we party all the time and he got a camera and said ‘Let’s f***ing record it,’” 19-year-old Makk said.
Floyd insists there’s more to the Tamales than partying. “Makk isn’t just the token black guy,” highlighting his heavy wordplay raps and humorous skits.
“We got some ‘yellow’ skits,” Makk said.
“We got one skit, where this one girl looking all seductive looking at this dude, and you look down at her thigh and she’s got all this red shit down there,” Makk wheezes. “She’s supposed to be on her period, and the guy’s like ‘Euhh!,’ then said ‘YOLO!,’ and still f**** the b****.”
Does being a Tamale boost one’s reputation?
“It actually has,” Floyd said.
“Someone came up to me at work and was like ‘Oh my god, you hang out with the Tamales, don’t you?’” Makk, an employee at Kohl’s, said.
Stephen Boyles, 21, credits the Tamales with boosting his business.
Boyles, a Santa Monica, California native, runs Endangered Globe, a streetwear company that “campaigns for endangered animals through sustainable materials,” he said.
Boyles, a DJ of two years known as Stevie B, performed shows and parties in Texas before investing his energies into raising awareness for conservation. Boyles’ membership has lent some PR muscle to his hustle.
“We’ve used Manny for video, for photo shoots, promoting events together,” Boyles, who also appears in the Tamales’ videos, said.
Endangered Globe and the Tamales also collaborated for the “Back to Class: Dallas Culture Fest” held on S. Haskell Street Aug. 17.
The event raised funds for conservation group SAFE while showcasing Dallas DJs, clothing brands and rappers, in support of the local indie culture.
Boyles credits the Tamales’ promotion of the event on Twitter and Facebook for the festival’s success in addition to sponsorship from radio show “The Adventure Club” on 102.1 FM.
“We coincide fairly well as far as documenting video and photos of our events.”
The sheer volume of people who interact with the Tamales makes the question of membership daunting.
Boyles doesn’t think the question is important.
“It’s not necessarily ‘who’s a Tamale and who’s not.’ Tamales are a group of people who like to get together and have a good time. Once you have been with the Tamales and you’ve been to a couple of gatherings with the Tamales, then you’re essentially a Tamale, whether you know it or not,” Boyles said.
Strong entrepreneurial spirit and frequent partying might not gel well for some people. Makk personally hopes the Tamales will concentrate less on partying and more on short films in the future. Boyles again offers a more moderate response.
“I can’t say the party directly correlates with what we’re doing, but nonetheless, the people who know us know us through certain aspects, and this is one of them,” Boyles said.
The Tamales’ plans for the future all point to growth. Endangered Globe is expected to “expand to new levels.” Floyd plans on releasing an E.P. with singer Susana, consisting between 120 and 130 beats per meter of mostly house tracks. Torres plans to stick to the script.
“I’m just enjoying life day to day,” Torres said. “You only have one life, so why not live it to the fullest?”