Much praise has been given to “This Fool” The Hulu comedy, loosely based on comedian and show co-creator Chris Estrada, was hailed by critics and fans alike for its honest portrayal of working class life in South Los Angeles. Though “This Fool” does feature cholos, it eschews stereotypes and goes out of its way to give dignity to its characters.
It’s also a very referential sitcom.
“The way we pitched the show was it’s ‘Friday’ but directed by the Coen Brothers,” Estrada told Times reporter Yvonne Villarreal. Indeed, Season 2 is replete with cinematic tributes— the first three episodes are an homage to Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” and Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon.”
Less talked about is how central music is to this “This Fool.” Julio Lopez, the main character of the show portrayed by Estrada, literally wears his punk rock identity, often donning T-shirts for bands and acts like Rage Against the Machine and Jay Reatard. Season one’s soundtrack also had the distinction of featuring both Ramón Ayala (“Entierrenme Cantando,” recorded with Sus Bravos del Norte) and Cornelio Reyna (“Me Caí de la Nube”), the first time the former partners have ever been featured in the same season of an English language, American television show.
On the heels of Friday’s release of season two of “This Fool,” De Los caught up with music supervisor Hilary Staff to discuss some of the standout tracks. We’ve also embedded a Spotify playlist at the bottom of this story featuring the majority of the licensed music heard on the show.
Here’s what Staff had to say:
“Hoy Platique con Mi Gallo”— Vicente Fernandez
That was Chris’s top choice for that scene. It was at first looking like it might not happen. There are some issues when you license songs. The owners of the song were worried about the fact that there was a gun and a beer in the scene. As we were trying to figure out how we could assuage their worries, we pitched Chris a few other questions. “Pelea de Gallos” and “Mis Tres Animales” were two other options that were entertaining because they also talk about roosters.
“Hoy Platique con Mi Gallo” was the top choice because Vicente Fernandez is beloved by all. It checks a lot of boxes, for a song and for the show. A lot of people have strong connections to him and his music, especially people who might be watching “This Fool.” Even I, as a gringa, understand his music transcends those boundaries as well.
It was kind of iffy for a while. It actually took a lot to convince them because some people just don’t want their music used in anything that has some sort of sinful activity. They also were like, “Is this an ad for that beer?” And we told them it was fake beer, that it was a fake beer label that was created for the show, that it wasn’t an ad and no one gets shot in the scene, that no one actually gets hurt. We were pleading with them, “Please, let us use it because it’s the one song we really want to use!” I think Chris ended up writing a little letter to them. That wasn’t the only song we did that for, but I think people just want to know you actually care. I wasn’t able to speak directly to the estate, but I think they just want to know that the song won’t be made fun of and that it’s being used to promote bad stuff.
“I Love L.A.”— Randy Newman
This was, even more so than “Hoy Platiqué con Mi Gallo,” this was like the “will die on the hill for this song” of the season. It’s featured in both Episodes 2 and 3, and it kind of connects everything together. The show creators were like, “We need this song. If we don’t get any other song we want this song!”
It was by far the most expensive and hardest song to get because I don’t think Randy Newman frequently licenses his songs. He is really protective about this song, especially. if you’ve seen the episodes, the show kind of riffed on the video for “I Love L.A.,” but replaced all the ritzy and glam parts of L.A. with South Central and the Watts Towers. It’s a more realistic version of L.A. for Julio. It’s the people’s version of L.A. Chris [Estrada] also wrote an essay for that song, and convinced Randy Newman and his people to let us use it. He spoke about how important the city is to him and how he planned to use the song as a love letter that showed a part of the city he grew up in, superimposing it with a classic song that is often associated with more ritzy, upscale parts of L.A.
It’s a great song. We love it.
“Mi Lugar en Este Mundo”—Ausencia/ “Love Me Forever”— The Skatalites/ “Somebody Please” — The Vanguards/ “Hasta la Miel Amarga”— Los Tiranos del Norte
Episode 7 is the one that has the most music we licensed. It mostly takes place at a party. When they go into the house, we have a couple of Southern California and L.A. based Mexican hardcore punk bands that we used a little bit of last season that I wanted to bring that back this season because I’m a fan of them Chris is a fan of them, I think it’s awesome and the world at large probably doesn’t hear a lot of like Spanish language hardcore punk.
In that episode there was a brief song by Ausencia, which is L.A.-based. They are on a really small label called Verdugo Discos. We then had a cool dub song called “Love Me Forever” by the Skatalites, which I love, which has a very relaxed vibe. That song is playing when they’re playing beer pong. I just really think it’s a great song and it added and it just feels right for the moment. The Vanguards’ “Somebody Please” is the next song. This awesome record label, Now-Again Records, they do a lot of really great reissues. A lot of jazz, a lot of soul, a lot of Zamrock— African rock that’s kind of like prog stuff. They had the reissue of this Vanguard song, which I thought was like a killer track and I was happy to put that in there.
And then we have Julio’s friend [played by Leo Gonzalez] who is very drunk and who is acting a fool. Basically Julio says, “Do you want to see this guy crumble in a matter of seconds? I’ll show you. It’s very easy.” He puts on “Hasta la Miel Amarga” by Los Tiranos del Norte and immediately his friend, who’s just previously been trying to fight everyone at the party, is reduced to tears and singing along. This song has melted his heart and his soul, and he just turns into like a blubbering baby, which speaks to the power of this song. Chris had a really strong emotional connection with it and I think a lot of people that he knows feel the same way.
“John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”— Public domain
We met Julio Tambien in the first season and when he comes back, his vibe is, “that ain’t it!”. He’s just kind of sweet, but ultimately lame and bland. He’s a milquetoast boy. We were trying to answer, “What is something that this lame dude would be constantly singing that’s obnoxious and just reinforces his lameness?” It fit perfectly because it’s an obnoxious song and no one really likes it.
The episode really dives into how Julio Tambien does all these little things time and time again that really irk Maggie, and this song is the musical encapsulation of that. It’s representative of all the other things in their relationship that are eating away at her and making her realize that maybe she didn’t make the right decision.
“Las Piedras Rodantes”— El Tri
This song was really important to Chris. Much like the final song in the last episode of the first season [Cornelio Reyna’s “Me Caí de la Nube”], he really wanted to end this season with a Spanish language song. And he said that this song in particular, when he was a teen and was just getting into rock music, one of his friends got him into El Tri and he became obsessed with “Las Piedras Rodantes.” He was telling me that he really likes that it tells a story about growing up, but also about growing apart from your friends. As the as the season closes, Julio and Luis are kind of on different trajectories. They’ve both matured, but they’re all also kind of growing apart at the same time.
Gabriel Rowland, Frank Fairfield and Tom Brenneck
I just wanted to give a quick shoutout to Gabriel Rowland, our awesome composer. He’s in a band called Los Yesterdays that’s a local Chicano soul band. He was born and raised here, and he says he’s happy to be able to make music for a show he really identifies with. He just nailed it and he has a lot of talent. He was so easy to work with him.
We also had some folk musicians play live music in Episode 4. Both of them, Frank Fairfield and Tom Brenneck, are insanely talented— musicians and composers in their own right. Brenneck has played guitar with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones. He’s also in The Budos Band and Menahan Street Band. It was so much fun to have these guys on the show and just do public domain songs.