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Where Art Meets Music:

Tato Caraveo

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Downtown Phoenix Based Muralist, Musician, And Bartender Is Quickly Becoming An In-Demand Muralist With Six Currently Viewable In The Phoenix Metro

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By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

July 3, 2014 — Tato Caraveo is one of the most universally well liked artists in the downtown Phoenix area. Part of his popularity stems from his immense talent, and generally pleasant personality, the other part comes from his position as bar tender at the art scenes most popular bar, The Lost Leaf.

The Leaf only represents a job to Caraveo who responded “definitely not a bartender” to the question of which passion comes first: painter, musician, or bartender. But the bar has provided Caraveo a place to showcase both his art when he has hung shows in the past, and when playing with his band Sonorus. The band also includes the Lost Leaf’s owner, Eric Dahl.

Sonorus is well respected funk band that has been playing in the Phoenix scene for more than a decade according to Caraveo, who plays bass. They have released four albums and are generally regarded as one of the most professional acts in the area. Caraveo also plays the bass in another musical project called Sol Orchestra.

“Painting is something you do by yourself. You can do music by yourself but it’s not as fun, I like playing music just as much as I like painting,” said Caraveo.

His love of both artistic mediums sprouted from his youth when music was thrust upon him when he was 5. Art developed a little later in his life: high school days.

“My dad played music, so he got all of us (Caraveo and his three brothers) started when i was about 5. He had us playing guitar, bass, and accordion,” said Caraveo. “He was in a band before we were born, and he stopped playing when my oldest brother was born.”  He said, “At first my dad was pushing it on me but by the age of 12 or 13 i was way into it, then by 16 I was in my first band, Screams of Aggression.”

Caraveo then  was a resident of South Phoenix, and attending South Mountain High School when he joined Screams of Aggression as the band's youngest member. The rest of the band were high school grads, fairly well established musicians and living in West Phoenix. It was at this time that Caraveo began taking his painting more seriously.

He enrolled in the schools arts program that was for college credit and began working on a serious career in fine arts. Toward the end of his tenure, he was sent off course by a mishap: he left his final portfolio in a bathroom which then disappeared not to be seen again.

“I went and told my teacher and she was crying, ‘that’s your future’ and I didn’t give a shit at the time. I was playing out with the band every night senior year,” he said.

It was at this point Caraveo turned from the fine arts to street art and began doing graffiti. He alleges that he hit underground spots like bridges, tunnels, and train cars, but also  made time to possibly have put his tag on quite a few visible locations within the city. Caraveo claims his alleged artistic activities actually led the city to up the penalties for bombing from a misdemeanor to a felony.

“Everyone was trying to turn me in because they put a bounty on me. I had cops at my house every day, they thought it was me but couldn’t catch me in the act,” he said.

Nowadays, Caraveo makes sure to keep all his art on the up and up painting his murals in his self described “whimsical” style only in places he has permission, such as his half a wall mural in the lot on Third street and Roosevelt.

“The skyline is Venice, and the rest is just weird shit, I don’t know,” he said.

He even found a way to fit his own music into the project, as he said he was listening to Soul Orchestra while he was painting the violin player that is in the mural.

Caraveo actually said he regularly mixes his paintings and music, saying he likes to work on a painting and then play music while looking at it and contemplating the composition and color pallet.

He said “the ideal studio is to have my bass and paint in the same place.”

Caraveo is currently working on putting his ideal studio together because he was lucky enough to impress a benefactor. Mike Elliot, the person who owns the building with the Venice mural on it was so impressed by the mural that he offered him a free studio space inside.

Even with the space to work however maintaining two burning passions is still no cake walk for Caraveo.

He said “Painting keeps me from practicing my music sometimes. I spend hours and hours into a painting and maybe an hour into practicing bass because I'm burnt. I can’t master any of them because I am juggling between both of them.” 

Jeff Moses a senior contributor at Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at jmoses@moderntimesmagazine.com.
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