"You can kind of become your own identity by being true to who you are. That's kind of what being a Swell Kid is. It's about the stuff we enjoy and not about winning over anybody when it comes to what we do."
By now a lot of people have heard about The Swell Kids. Two years after having had started this fun music project, the guys are now set to play at Neon Desert Music Festival in May. With excitement flowing, preparations, projects, and new music on the way, it is no wonder why this duo also caught Khalid's attention. In between a packed schedule, I recently caught up with Alex and Eddie of The Swell Kids to talk about some of the things they have going on as well right now as well as in the future.
The Swell Kids have always had a unique approach to what they do whether it is their clothes, music, and so much more! That's one of the first things I noticed when I saw them for the first time and I know I am not the only one. Meanwhile the guys were sitting on the coach and Frank Ocean playing in the background, I asked Alex and Eddie what it meant to be a Swell Kid and after a pause they said, "It's individuality for sure. It's being okay with who you are and not feeling like you have to be somebody else. It also means not having to follow any trends and being yourself. Instead, it's highlighting who you are in your everyday tasks and highlighting that in general as opposed to feeling like you need to fit in. You can kind of become your own identity by being true to who you are. That's kind of what being a Swell Kid is. It's about the stuff we enjoy and not about winning over anybody when it comes to what we do." What Alex mentioned, definitely reflects on how the two of them present themselves as The Swell Kids. Regardless of their clothing, their personalities still shine through their music. As one can see in the pictures, Alex is wearing all white and Eddie is wearing all black giving it that Yin-Yang effect, however, in a subliminal manner it points to their dynamic and why this duo completes one another musically and in their way of thinking.
If anyone has followed along with The Swell Kids from when they started to now, it's easy to see there has been an evolution in their sound, look, and work dynamic. All for the better of course. In October of 2017, the Swell Kids released an album titled Good Problems: A Collection of Feelings and are now getting ready to release new material. I asked them how their sound has changed and immediately Eddie chuckled, "I laugh because it's a complete 180 with what we are doing right now. We are now doing uplifting "lit" music. It's upbeat!" Alex added, "the last project we put out was something you can study to and drive around the city and listen to. I feel like the stuff we are doing now is upbeat and up-tempo and it will be stuff that people are used to hearing at our DJ sets. The projects we are doing now compliment that as opposed to our past projects which have a lot of feeling. It's a new direction with everything that's coming out." When I commented on why they decided to make this change, Eddie was quick to say "I just didn't want to be a sad boy no more."
It makes sense, as they mentioned, their newer projects are aligned to their DJ sets and as a music duo, that makes it fun for them and the people that go out and see them. It's also exciting to see where this new approach is heading, especially since the Neon Desert Music Festival is in two months. "I think something that we want to express as artists is that you are not limited to one genre. I feel like where we are right now, we can do whatever we want," Alex is referring to the fact that no one should feel limited because of a genre label or pressure of any sorts. It's a way to "push the envelope", but it's definitely working for artist like The Swell Kids.
Going further into how their music process works, the guys said it is random. "Eddie will come up with a beat and show me whatever he is working on and from there we go through all the beats and ideas Eddie has and we will pick whichever ones we like. There is no exact process to creating a track, but there is a process to when we start working on something." They further explained that they will have about twenty beats and they will go down the list picking out the coolest ones and working on them and much as they can. Process of elimination. It's evident that Eddie and Alex have a good communication and that they create what is better suited for them. As artists that take their craft seriously, it shows. They really put their touch on whatever is they are doing.
Additionally, the El Paso music scene has been growing rapidly within the last two years and I couldn't help but ask The Swell kids their opinions on it since they are part of the scene. "Recently, I have noticed that the El Paso music scene has been dedicated and very driven in being better music makers." Alex added to Eddie's comment and said that, "two years ago the music scene was there, but people weren't pushing themselves to make something big. I think that being from El Paso, people like Khalid, is kind of the poster child of saying, " Hey I am from El Paso and if I can do it, you can do it too." I think that's what lit the fire under everyone's butt here in El Paso. They saw that and said, "If this guy can make it, then why can't we?"" Both Alex and Eddie agree that the music scene has been really pushing themselves lately and really trying to make things happen. They talked some more about the local scene and talented people they have met along the way. Their love for it shows in how they expressed themselves about it. They guys are also grateful for those people, including Khalid, whom they recently had a chance to talk to and get great feedback and musical advice from. It's so motivating to see El Paso musicians supporting each other in different ways. It makes it more thrilling to see what the future holds.
If you are reading this keep an eye out for The Swell Kids. This is only the beginning. Lots of new projects are coming and as part of their latest "campaign", the guys have been sporting a shirt reading "Fuck the Swell Kids" and I asked them what the meaning behind it was. Alex answered, "Fuck the Swell Kids is something that I thought about. It's something Eddie and I will tell each other about different artists we look up to that do something that we would never have thought of. Even a simple idea like that of Tyler. The Creator's make us say, "Man, fuck Tyler. The Creator we wish we would have thought of that first" or "fuck Kendrick, dammit this guy is so good." This is more of an appreciation. These artists are so ahead of their time that I have nothing to say but "fuck you."" This further shows how much The Swell Kids are striving for more and thinking outside the box. It's mentality like that that brings the well deserved attention they have.
A big thank you to the Swell Kids! Remember to follow them on Instagram as @theswellkids for more information on their latest endeavors and shows! Catch them at Neon Desert Music Festival this May!
This Wednesday, February 21st, Money Chicha and Dos Santos will preform at the Lowbrow Palace as part of their Southwest tour in support of the release of their 7" vinyl "Summit Sessions". As the title suggests, this is the 4th Chicha Summit. However, this is the first one taking place across the Southwest. I recently had the opportunity to talk to Alex from Dos Santos and Greg from Money Chicha about the bands and the Chicha Summit and what it means to them. The following will be split in two parts, one being with Alex of Dos Santos and the other with Greg of Money Chicha and each part relating to their bands and what they had to say.
Dos Santos is a band based in Chicago and they fuse psychedelia, cumbia, Afro-Caribbean Salsa alongside many other genres. Dos Santos is made up of: Alex Chavez, Peter Vale, Daniel Villareal-Carillo, Jaime Garza, and Nathan Karagianis. The band was formed in 2013 and since then they have played around the U.S., including festivals like SXSW and Pachanga Latino Music Festival.
I started off by asking Alex how the collaboration between Dos Santos and Money Chicha came about. He mentioned that he had known the central members of Grupo Fantasma, which make up Money Chicha, for a long time. "We are similar in sound and Money Chicha is more instrumental while Dos Santos is half vocals and half instrumental." Alex said that the collaboration only made sense. "We are like-minded folk."
With that being said I asked Alex where Dos Santos gets it's musical influence from to which he answered that their influences come due to the band members different backgrounds. "Our trumpeter is from Puerto Rico so he brings that Salsa influence. Our drummer is from Panama and he is fan of all types of music like: cumbia, tamborito, and calypso rhythm which anticipates reggeaton. He is just an audiophile. Our guitarist is from Chicago and he is actually Anglo-Greek and he is from a jazz background. Our bassist is transnational. He is from San Luis Potosi but lives in Chicago. His influences include Jazz, Mexican folk and even Puerto-Rican Salsa. I'm originally from Texas. I grew up with border cumbia, Xavier Passos, and Tex-Mex. Not only that, but my father played music for a long time. He was playing musica grupera in the 80s and he also grew up with cumbias." Alex and the his band members have a broad number of influences. I like how Alex mentioned each band membe's influences due to their background rather than list bands.
Last but not least, I asked Alex what he hopes people will take from this Chicha Summit. After a short pause, Alex said that people are each going to take things differently. There is a new musical movement going on. "We are both bands and we don't do electronic music so that in itself is a whole new experience. It's an onda. We recorded a 7" split and for me there is a notion of musical camaraderie. We record together but we display this fellowship as well. "
In this next part of the interview I talked to Greg of Money Chicha. Money Chicha is a band from Austin, Texas and it's an offshoot of the Grammy-award winning Grupo Fantasma. Money Chicha is also an offshoot of the band Brownout. Greg said that Money Chicha has been around for seven years and added that, "our other bands are larger and we wanted to do something smaller. The idea was to start a small band and play Chicha music. We discovered Chicha through a compilation that came out a decade ago. It has Latin rhythms with psychedelia. Chicha speaks to the Andean people." Not only does it speak to the Andean people, but it spoke to them as well.
The band is heavily influenced by "the sound of Peru and Colombia in the 60s and 70s", which is evident when you hear the band. Greg added that, "we respect and acknowledge that sound but we tweaked it (Chicha) and made it our own sound." He continued and gave me a little history on the word Chicha. He said, "Chicha began as something and it turned into something else." Greg also mentioned that Chicha means moonshine in Peruvian and it was an indigenous fermented drink made from corn. He said that the drink was far from good, but the people drank it anyways. They did it within their communities.
If there is something I can take away from this interview is that these bands hope people can appreciate the music they make. They are very talented individuals and they clearly know where they come from and where the music they play comes from. I hope everyone can go check them out at the Lowbrow Palace tomorrow. It is a must!
San Ligre is an indie rock band from Cuidad Juárez. Being from la frontera is not the only that makes this band unique! San Ligre combines rock with with electronic elements alongside other unique tweaks. According to their site, San Ligre has shared the stage with bands like Babasónicos, Kinky, Instituto Mexicano del Sonido, Plastilina Mosh, Austin TV, Belanova, Nightdrive, Parallels, Young Fathers, !!! (Chk Chk Chk), Baths, The Chamanas, Los Tigres del Norte, Timothy Brownie, Dorian, Division Minuscula, Maserati, White Arrows, along side others. This band is made up of Daniel Barraza (vocals), Jorge Aguilera (drums), Luis Sanchez (guitar), Sergio Rosales a.k.a Checho (guitar, keyboards), and Sergio García (bass). The guys are currently promoting their latest material "Where Are We?" and they hope to release more soon.
San Ligre started around 2011 and upon asking about the band's name the guys mentioned that their band name was inspired by their ex-bassist. According to Sergio García, "the ex-bassist chose Ligre because it is a mixture of Tiger (Tigre) and Lion (Leon) and he liked that name. We thought it was cool: Ligre. Once we started playing live shows and adding some electronic to our music, the band took a different route. We ended up mixing more rock with alternative. Also, due to copyright issues for something that already had Ligre as their name then we added something. We found San and we really ended up liking the name San Ligre."
I asked the guys what current projects they have and where they plan on taking it and Checho mentioned that under the direction of Manuel Calderon and Eric Coughanour they started recording some EP's a while back. "Honestly it has taken some time because of personal reasons regarding each member of the band, but now we are all in that final stage where we are checking up on masters and making sure what we release is good. We are looking into the art work and possible videos." Checho also mentioned that they are also planning on releasing that new material this year and that they even have a lyric video on Youtube. They really hope to release that new EP soon. He added that they are not sure whether they want to release it as one EP or two or even an LP.
The new material that San Ligre will put out is a clear collaboration of all the band members. There is no one specific theme to it. The themes of the songs are different and everyone in the band writes from a different perspective. I asked them how living on the border has affected them in any way regarding their music and Checho said, "living on the frontera you have the Mexican music, gabacho, family and friends. We (Juárez and El Paso) are separated by a fine "line" but that doesn't matter to us. We like to write in English but it doesn't mean we don't like music in Spanish and it comes naturally. Living on the frontera is an like an alphabet soup. There is influence from all over."
A big thank you to San Ligre for their patience and time. Make sure to go check them out! Their Instagram is: sanligre
"It's is part of my personality. It's a natural mixture. I don't know what my genre is but just like my personality, it's a little bit of everything."
Hector Guerra is a Spanish-Bolivian rapper with a vision. About eight years ago he embarked on a journey that would result in his trilogy of albums "Amor Desde El Infierno": Amor (2012), Gracias For Existir (2015), and Desde El Infierno (2018). After talking to Hector there is something I have for certain, he wants to make a difference through his music. He wants to convey a message and it's that message that has driven him to make this trilogy of albums. Hector embarked on a spiritual journey through three indigenous communities before making his albums. He was guided by and given permission by Shamans in these communities and he used their medicines and traditions in order to enlighten himself and better understand a vision he had. Hector became a voice of interpretation for los abuelos. (He is referring to the spiritual leaders, Shamans, of the indigenous communities he visited).
As the last album of the trilogy, "Desde el Infierno", did not disappoint. It's full of good beats and danceable rhythms. Not only that, but it has cantos de poder, which Hector got special permission from los abuelos. For those of you who are not familiar with Hector Guerra's work, he fuses: cumbia, trap, electronic, reggeaton, and ritmo Spanglish along with others which is why it's so fun to listen to! In regards to that fusion and why he choses to mix all that, Hector says, "It's is part of my personality. It's a natural mixture. I don't know what my genre is but just like my personality, it's a little bit of everything." This new album has many themes running through it and each song is it's own character with it's own unique twist. Different genres are overlapping each other to form the song's "personality". From the uplifting song "Vida" featuring MARIEL MARIEL with it's lyrics reading "hay tantos motivos para disfrutar la vida" to the song U.S.A Es México ft. Dr. Shenka, Mellow Man Ace and Aztek 732 with it's political undertones with even an intro featuring Trump saying " I love Mexican people" followed by a sick beat.
I asked Hector to walk me through his decision to make three albums and after he finished telling me his story, it was no wonder why he felt compelled to embark on this adventure. He said, "I was in Spain with my collective of musicians at the time and a Cuban brujo came up to us and he made do breathing exercises for seven minutes. It was like a trance and I saw a message. I knew that I had to come to México. It felt so real and I saw an Eagle on fire!" Hector mentioned that wasn't the only sign that he got about going to México. He said that around that time his girlfriend entered a photography contest and she won and part of the prize was two tickets to México and there was no doubt that Hector's destiny was to go to México. Once in México he began his journey to search for the Shaman he knew he had to find. Hector found him, he found Hector and that marked the beginning of what would end up being this project.
I asked Hector what he wishes his fans would get out of this album and he responded, "I want people to see the messages of the los abuelos. They gave me their blessing. I am their voice. A lot of these abuelos are old and many are dying. Their messages need to be heard." Their messages will definitely be heard. The video for the song "Vida" is a great example of the messages Hector is trying to pass on. The video begins with someone asking el abuelo why reggeaton is a popular form of music and el abuelo gives a wise answer saying that the reason why people love the genre so much is that it uses the rhythm of the African drums and THAT is in our DNA. I asked Hector whether he had heard that from an abuelo or whether it's a made-up story and he said that " those are all their words. I am just the interpreter."
As it's pointed out, the album touches on themes dealing with life and love, but there are some political undertones like that of track U.S.A Es México. I asked him why he decided to do that and he gave a very metaphorical explanation. "Europe is the great mom and México is the dad. Imagine that! Imagine a body. The United States is the head, the neck is the border between the U.S. and México, and México is the body. Right now the neck is sliced open. It's hurt and wounded. We need to fix that as soon as possible. We are all from "el miso pueblo", the world needs us to heal and work it out." Hector continued to explain his metaphor and gave great insight on why it's also important to spread this message. He has made it his mission and it's more than clear at this point.
A big thank you to Hecto Guerra for his time, music and insight! Go listen to his latest album "Desde El Infierno"!!
Vetusta Morla is one of Spain's most popular alternative rock bands. A simple Google search will prove that. Vetusta Morla recently released their latest album: Mismo Sito, Distinto Lugar. Not only that, but two weeks ago they released the music video for "Punto Sin Retorno", which was filmed at Hansa Studios in Berlin. The six members of the band can be seen in the video playing their perspective instruments, but as Guillermo Galvan (guitarist) mentioned in our recent interview with him, the goal throughout the album was to not sound like six people playing at the same time. At no point during the album does it sound like six people jamming out, instead it's a fantastic musical journey for the ears .
After listening to the album several times, in different places, and at different times during the day my fondness for the album grew and I've really experienced the roller coaster of emotions that makes this album. From the up-beat song, "Palmeras En La Mancha" with it's dramatic news broadcast introduction and the chanting of "¡Uno, dos!, ¡Uno, dos!" to the more calm "Punto Sin Returno" with melancholic undertones. It's definitely one of those albums that you want to keep listening to again and again. Each song is it's own theme, it's own style, and they are really catchy! This new album is different to their previous work, but it's the type of different that has taken them to the next level.
During a phone interview with Guillermo (guitarist), I asked him how the process of making this album differed from their previous work. It was very different. Guillermo said that, "we realized that we needed to change our whole process." That included their production and even their rehearsals. He also added that they tried to play with different points of view for the songs and "not be so direct." With that being said, I asked why they chose to name the album Mismo Sitio, Distincto Lugar since, although obvious, it can hold a different meaning for everyone. Guillermo was quick to to say that the title of the album is "a synthesis of the process. It's like going back and feeling things for the first time. At the same time, it has to do with the essence of the band."
On that same note and going back to me mentioning that I went through a roller coaster of emotions while listening to the album, my next question had to do with their decision to order the songs the way they did and whether there was a theme to them. Guillermo mentioned that there was no specific theme. They tried to present it like "a plate of food with different flavors." Each song is different to the others and there is no specific to it.
As the interview reached an end, I asked Guillermo how their their fans reacted to this change and the new material. My reasoning behind the question is that Vetusta Morla has been around for a while (since 1998) and it's no secret that they have a strong fan base, which continues to grow. He said, "we thought people would be concerned, but we were pleasantly surprised by people's positive reactions."
Vetusta Morla is set to start an international tour to promote Mismo Sitio, Distincto Lugar beginning in March. They will play in several different countries and even in the famous Mexican music festival, Festival Vive Latino, which Guillermo said was exciting for them. I asked him about touring and what he likes more about it and he said that touring "opens windows" and "it's always amazing to learn from everything."
A big thank you to Vetusta Morla! Go check them out and listen to the new album! Follow them on Instagram at vetustamorla.
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Interviews and playlists of local bands and international artists.