Eli Reyes, kinetic drummer in L.A. and Fresno bands, dies at age 40


Eli Reyes, the drummer in innumerable indie-rock groups both in his native Fresno and in Los Angeles, has died at age 40. Reyes earlier this week suffered a massive heart attack and had been hospitalized at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, friends said.

Both the bands in which he played and the fans who witnessed his performances knew Reyes for his pummeling style, hearty laugh, bear hugs and relentless enthusiasm, not just for his own projects but the other musicians in the scenes he inhabited.

“Eli hustled. He was excited for every show. He was enthusiastic and proud to play in every band that he played in,” said Mike Mancillas, frontman in the L.A./Fresno band Rademacher. “Dude was a sonic wall that played drums as hard — literally — as he could. He brought the party. He was always down. He was a great friend.”

Besides Rademacher, Reyes played in the Fay Wrays, the Quiet Americans and the Pretty Flowers, among many others.

Fay Wrays frontman Ben McEntee wrote on the band’s Facebook page that Reyes had a tattoo of the Albert Camus quote: “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” Said McEntee: “That quote captures what it was like to be Eli’s friend. And Eli and I walked beside one another through a lot of life moments. He will be dearly missed. He is still dearly loved.”

Reyes’ life as a drumming workhorse was the stuff of legend in Fresno. At the 2011 Fresno Urban Sound Experience, a local festival, one night was dubbed “Eli Fest” because he drummed for five consecutive bands over the course of the evening. By the end of the multi-hour performance, he couldn’t walk.

“Eli was Fresno’s most prolific drummer. If you didn’t have Eli drumming for you, you had to question if you were even a band at all,” said Mike Seay, longtime blogger at The Fresnan. “He played so awesomely loud. Gave everything he had. Such a good and kind person. I was lucky to have known him and gotten to hang out with him.”

Reyes was the original drummer for L.A. indie-rockers the Pretty Flowers as well. “Eli was an integral member and champion of the band from the beginning, as well as a good friend and positive force in the L.A., Fresno and SF music scenes,” frontman Noah Green said. “Nobody I’ve ever played with hit drums harder than Eli did, no matter the size of the room. I’m eternally grateful that I got to make music with Eli and craft the songs that would make up our first LP together. He brought such life to the songs, in a way that only he could. I will miss him dearly.”