"This album takes a lot more risks in terms of genre. I am trying to make songs that I like and that’s it."
Last time we talked to Raúl, he was promoting Origenes under his other project, Sotomayor. The interview took place in February 2020, right before the start of the pandemic. However, the events of the pandemic and the inability to give live performances of an under-appreciated gem, in my opinion, did not dampen Raúl's spirit and instead he harnessed the necessity of the time to focus his attention on producing music outside of Sotomayor.
Thus, we have the birth of Tonga Conga. Tonga Conga is a dj, producer, musician, and beats genius (my words of choice). It is the alter ego of Raúl which, as he mentioned during our conversation, came about pure spontaneity and need for a name as a producer. He used the time during the pandemic to be as creative as ever. He did not let this derail his ambition. He, instead, started to produce music for and with other artists and is 1/2 of the lo-fi project, Flora Vida.
If you are really interested in setting the mood for this interview then I recommend listening to his latest single Mira Bien and/or the dj set below. Earlier in March, Raúl and I met over Zoom to discuss not only his first album under Tonga Conga, but also why he chose to take this direction given that in the past few years, his efforts were directed towards Sotomayor. During our conversations, it was revealed that Raúl will release a single, Diablo, on April 8th and an album in the summer: JEVI (pronounced like the word “heavy”). And although the album is not out yet, it's a delicious and savory (yep) album that cannot be boxed in a single category. It’s neither pure Afro House or cumbia or house, but combines all of those elements plus the signature Raúl sound found in his other projects.
The single coming this week, Diablo, will have you vibing… just pure vibing. It is that, a tone-setter. It is even better when you close your eyes and let the beat and vocals carry you to a better setting. In my case, I picture myself at a party by the beach or at a very future-esque, dark-lit café. It further showcases the versatility of this album yet cohesiveness. It’s even better when you listen Mira Bien and Diablo back-to-back.
I started off the interview by asking Raúl how he was and it just went off from there:
Pao: First all, how are you? How’s everything been with the pandemic and all?
Raul: Well, good. I think the pandemic changed many things for me. With Sotomayor, we released an album in February 2020. The album underperformed because it came out during a very complicated time. Right when the pandemic started. That made it so that a lot of the things we had planned could not happen. It was hard getting back at it. It felt like a reset. […] At the same time, we had find a different way to change what we had been doing and adapt. In my case, I changed everything I was doing to producing. Instead of putting all my energy towards Sotomayor, I put it towards producing other projects.
I think the first thing that happened was that I produced a few songs on Cabra’s album. Cabra is Visitante from Calle 13 and he produced the Sotomayor album and we just became friends and started working together. [...]
I also did other albums like that of Los Masters Plus and an album for this girl that sings R & B, Immasoul, plus other things. The change from doing shows to producing music, was the biggest change in my life. It made me realize that that is what I like the most about making music. It is MAKING MUSIC.
With that said, that’s how Tonga Conga was born. Tonga Conga is my production alias. And in the moment of producing stuff for others, there were songs I felt were good but did not fit within the “universe” of the artist. It felt new. I decided to then release it instead as a project full of collaborations- something alternate to Sotomayor. Although there are similar aspects, it is a different concept. I decided to make it something new and little by little it has become something bigger. [...]
One single has come out and another will come out in April. And I hope to have the full album out by summer. And, yeah. I am happy with how things have developed.
Pao: Yeah, I was actually recently re-reading the 2020 interview. It was right before the pandemic and you guys were promoting the album. I actually have it right here. It makes sense that you are producing. I’m actually surprised it did not happen sooner.
Raul: Yeah, yeah.
Pao: One hundred percent. By the way, I feel like I should rip this list of questions up. We just covered a lot of ground. Ha-ha.
Raul: Yeah, it’s been happening to me.
Pao: No, it’s fine!
Raul: I just keep going.
Pao: No, it’s fine! It’s harder when someone gives you a one-word answer. Ha-ha. On that note, why did you choose Tonga Conga?
Raul: To be honest, it happened the day when Vistante’s album came out.
When La Cabra Jala Pal Monte, came out, Eduardo (Visitante/Cabra), wrote to me and said, “what do we credit you as on the album?”. It didn’t make sense for it to say “produced by Sotomayor” because Sotomayor is a separate thing that I do with my sister. So, I decided to use Tonga Conga […] I was looking for something that was new. But it’s hard to put a name it on it. It’s something that starts making sense little by little, but not at the moment you chose it. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s the name of a preset on a synth I have. I thought it was funny when I saw it and the word play makes sense with the style of music. It was funny that little by little…like, Tonga is an island and no one knew about it until the Olympics and then now that a volcano erupted people know about it. It’s funny how something that didn’t really exist/mean anything is given a significance by the world.
Pao: Yeah, cool! I know it’s hard to explain, but it’s cool that in the moment that is what you felt. That is what made sense to you.
And, well, you have been producing with Sotomayor then as Tonga Conga, and you also have Flora Vida. What’s the biggest difference you have noticed when you are working with each project? How does your approach differ? Or if it does at all?
Raul: Each of them have a complex side. For example, in Sotomayor, I share responsibility. Although I am the one producing and finishing it, the lyrical part is delegated almost completely to my sister. We share that 50/50. My job was to make good beats and then adapt that with my sister. With Tonga Conga, I have that responsibility. Although the artists are helping with the lyrics, there is more direction on my part. I am the one that is calling the shots on everything, time, the concept, and how to continue. And with Flora Vida, it’s a strange project because I almost feel like I am cheating. Because they are instrumental tracks, in my universe, they feels like incomplete tracks. That’s why I feel like I am cheating. They are beats I made in half an hour and it’s there. They are demos that I made for other things and we finish them as lo-fi tracks.
Also, funnily enough, lo-fi garnered a lot of importance during the pandemic. A lot of the tracks in my catalogue that have the most plays are the lo-fi ones. Flora Vida has almost triple the plays that Sotomayor has. Sotomayor is a project that has three albums and 6 years of hard work and Flora Vida has 2 EP’s that came out in the span of 6 months and it’s crazy to see how music is changing.
For me, it’s interesting to see the many ways that one can enter the music business. Flora Vida is an escape for me. I like that a lot. I don’t have the pressure of having a “complete” track with a super powerful hook. Like when you make commercial music or pop music, you have the necessity for the songs to be a hit. Not necessarily a hit like that of Katy Perry, but a hit nonetheless. And with lo-fi, it’s niche in a way and you do it and that’s it. You have that liberty of doing whatever you want.
I really love instrumental hip-hop like J Dilla and Madlib. Flora Vida is that part for me. I can make beats and that’s it. They can just come out. Also, they do very well. The special thing about Flora Vida is that it’s not only lo-fi, but it is Latin lo-fi which is something that didn’t really exist. Then all of a sudden, Flora Vida became one of the pioneers in Mexico and streaming platforms started paying attention to that. They supported us a lot. Now, there is a true movement of Mexican producers making lo-fi with a Mexican or Latin American intention. It’s very special to have seen it grow and how important it has become.
All of a sudden, the things I was able to do multiplied.
Pao: Yeah, I don’t think I ever listened to lo-fi prior to the pandemic. And if I did listen to it, it was not that it was categorized as lo-fi or intentional. And was it that popularity of lo-fi that influenced this new album? Jevi right? Sorry I have to ask because I am always scared of mispronouncing an album especially because I once messed up with the word once (means eleven in Spanish but written the same as the word “once”).
Raul: Well, that’s what it’s about. Jevi means heavy like in English like with “h”. However, it’s an expression used in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. They use the word to describe something that is cool. It’s precisely that play on words that we all understand in all countries in Latin America and at the same time we don’t. That’s what motivated me to name the album that. I don’t think it’s that influenced by lo-fi, but it’s more influenced by this idea I’ve always had with Sotomayor such as to combine electronic music with Afro-Latin music. You know, at the same time I didn’t want it to sound like Sotomayor. This album takes a lot more risks in terms of genre. I am trying to make songs that I like and that’s it.
It’s weird when I talk about it. One would think that people make the music they like all the time and that’s it, but that is not true. The whole time you are thinking about what the audience wants, what the label wants, what will work, and what will make us be on a certain Spotify playlist. For example, lo-fi is genre music and if I follow certain “rules” Spotify will put it on “lofi beats” and it will do well. And with the album, it’s the contrary. I believe in these songs because they are good even though I don’t know where to "put them". The best example for this is the track with Mabiland because it’s a weird house song. It’s neither house music or Afro House just “hard” house.
Mabiland is an artist that does hip-hop and R&B and she combines these things very well. She's good at rapping but also good at singing so she combined these things very well. There is a part where she is spitting bars then sings a chorus and the combination is so good, so fresh, and so novel. You would not expect it. That is what I am looking for with these songs, novelty. You can really feel a transition.
Like I feel the transition that happened during the pandemic. I am not the same person I was three years ago. I am way better at producing. It is a necessity for that to be reflected onto these new tracks.
Pao: Of course! You can tell. It’s like you said it’s Afro-house and at the same time it isn’t. It’s a mood, it’s a vibe. Ha-ha. I hate to be wording it like that. But yeah.
Raul: Ha-ha. But that’s what I am looking for. With everyone that I discuss the album with, I try to send them the full album. It really doesn’t make sense when you listen to just one song. It’s been the hardest part for me. I am releasing singles and you listen to one song and it’s cool and all, but it does not evoke the full message like when you listen to three songs on the album. You can see the musical intention behind it. You see all these artists from different countries, and it all starts making sense. It’s no longer just an isolated song. I do think it’s important to construct a vibe.
Pao: Yes, of course. Like the trend in recent years has been to release single by single with all this space in between that it doesn’t really automatically capture the whole vibe of an album or it’s direction or what one should feel when listening to the whole thing.
Raul: Yeah, especially with collaborations. We are in the era of collaboration. If your song or album does not have a collaboration, then it’s “weird”. People are expecting the hype of that collaboration. It’s different when an artist releases random collaborations than when they all make sense. I see this more as a Gorillaz album. Even though there’s like fifteen to twenty collaborators, in the end, those collaborations are chosen in such a way that the palette of the album is Gorillaz. It’s an album. That was very important. You won’t get it until the whole thing is released.
Pao: And speaking of collaborations, how was it that you chose these collaborations. I imagine that with Vanessa (Zamora) it’s because you recently worked with her, but what about the other collaborations for this album?
Raul: Well, they all came about due to different circumstance. With Vanessa, she reached out so I could produce some songs on an album and in that process, we became good friends. I showed her a few tracks and when I showed them to her, she did not say anything. She told me to send them to her and then a few days later she sent me some lyrics. It was very organic and it was very important to me that things happened that way. The friendship aspect is more important to me than them simply turning in a product. With that track it was all good because she was the only artist on there from Mexico and I could work with her here in Mexico.
On the other hand, with Mula, I knew them via the internet. I mean I still don’t know them in person. I sent them the album and they liked the idea. They chose a song they liked and they quickly sent material to me. They were very proactive. In that case I sought them out and it all happen so quickly.
For example, with tracks like the one with Mabiland, Mabiland recently works under the same management as me. In order to release this album, I signed a deal with Virgin Records which is part Universal. And that deal was like an exclusive artist type deal and at the moment of signing, the management changed and it coincided that Mabiland was under the same management as me. Mabiland was actually in my list of artists I would like to write to. In her case, management helped with that collaboration. It’s crazy because even though Mabiland is a new artist, I think she is going to be huge like the Latin American Little Simz. She has her attitude and approaches to music that is very unique. It’s been interesting working with her and seeing all these things happening in her career.
Now, the track with AcentOH. AcentOH did a track with Trending Tropics on the album that was made by Visitante and Vicente Garcia. And I knew him via the album and the relationship between Eduardo (Visitante). I wrote to him, and he quickly returned something.
TolumiDE is a Nigerian artist and I met her at the Grammys because a few years ago I was invited to be part of a committee in the U.S. For example, there is a group of people that qualify or check that songs in a certain category are correct. Since it's all voting based, there is a chance that it’s not in the right category. So, the Grammys organize committees with people that are experts in certain categories, and they make a decision as to the artists nominated. I was invited to the participate in the category of world music (Global Music), now three years ago, and that’s where I met TolumiDE and she was like the representative of Nigeria. I also wrote to her and she quickly sent a track.
It’s been a challenge because not every artist has the capacity to record themselves. If the pandemic had not happened, then I would have probably travelled to those places to record them myself. But with the pandemic, it has been complicated and it has had to be resolved with them going to a studio, or them recording it themselves, or sometimes in person. […] It’s also been challenging because it all hinges on when an artist responds back. I’ve had to be patient with the timing of things. The pandemic slowed things down.
The rest of the conversation with Raúl was overall lovely and more so felt like catching up with a friend. He was very detailed and kind. Through the continuity of the conversation, we discussed the artwork for some of the singles which was made by Jimena Estíbaliz (@jimena.esibaliz), an emerging illustration artist in Mexico. Honestly, the covers are fantastic and really reflect the singles and album as a whole. Raúl mentioned that the artwork for Diablo has two figurines. If you look at it closely, it creates this devil face with their bodies. Raúl also described this idea where eventually all the figures on the singles will come together on the album and form a type of Where’s Waldo situation.
Finally, the conversation came to an end. Raúl talked about his admiration for producers like Tainy and he also mentioned that he would want people to experience Jevi live. With the album, he stated that, “I want people to see it live especially because of the pandemic.” He reiterates that it has been almost a solitary process during this time and it's his dream to have all the people that collaborated with him to be together for the show. That is the way Jevi should be enjoyed.
I truly recommend checking out his latest work. Thank you Raúl for the interview. If anyone is interested is checking out his solo endeavors then go follow him at @tongaconga.
Enjambre is a rock band with California roots whose sound is modern yet nostalgic. Enjambre has existed for over ten years and continues to defy all obstacles, including a pandemic amongst other things. Throughout the band's existence the Enjambre essence of it all has remained. Now, with their latest EP, Ambrosia, the band released four songs in English. Each song has it's own theme all connected under the same Enjambre flare that fans know to love. It is the first time the band releases an EP in English. It's actually surprising that it did not happen sooner! Luckily, the band used the pandemic as a chance to finally work on this project that has been on their mind for a while.
I recently talked to Luis Humberto Navejas (vocalist) on the phone as the band made their way to the Fresno, California for the show they were playing last Friday. From the conversation and Luis' voice, I could tell that he was excited to be on the road again. He mentioned that the band was excited as well. The band is back in their element and it just "feels normal". This new tour has a "special meaning" given the band could not do it for the past two years. They can truly feel the pent up excitement from the crowd.
Before proceeding with the conversation, I had to pull back a little and ask Luis about El Paso given that they are playing March 4, 2022 at Raves Club. The band has recorded at Sonic Ranch (a studio about 45 minutes out from El Paso) and has played in El Paso before so I naturally had to ask what was their favorite thing to do in the city. Luis mentioned that when they were recording at Sonic Ranch, they would drive to El Paso to go bowling or go the movies. Honestly, sounds like a great time and in my opinion, if you have not seen the band play, now is a great time to see them! I still remember their Lowbrow Palace show from a few years ago with such fondness.
Next, we talked about the new EP, Ambrosia. I asked Luis why the band decided to release an EP in English and whether they were scared of doing so (i.e. fans reactions). Luis mentioned that they listened to a lot English rock growing up. "We love bands like Nirvana". He also added that the band started when they were living in California and they had always talked about doing an album in English. It was a project they had in the back burner. As to the second part of the question, Luis said that they were indeed afraid about what the audience would think such as that the band wanted to do crossover. Luckily, there was a overall positive reaction and they hope to do more songs in English in the future. That does mean they will stop doing music in Spanish.
I then wondered whether the band's approach to writing in English changed compared to their other stuff. "I had to do some translating," Luis mentioned. He said that although his English has improved over the years, paired with he fact that he's lived in the States, lyrics come easier to him in Spanish so sometimes the translating was needed. It makes sense as someone who is bilingual and grew up in the States. I feel like certain things come easier in one language over the other.
We also talked about the band's favorite thing to do while on the road. The answer was simple: "food". They like to try the traditional foods of wherever they are playing. Luis also made a joke about how they always start the tour in better shape than when the tour ends. However, that conversation almost led to a very controversial In-N-Out versus Whataburger debate.
Lastly, I asked Luis if he had five (ended up being six things) he was listening to at the moment that he would like to share and to that he said:
1. Fat Man Beyond podcast
2. The Ronettes
3. The Shirelles
4. Leslie Gore
5. Nat King Cole
6. Billie Holiday
P.S. A big thank you to the band and Luis for their time. Go check out their new EP, Ambrosia. Check out the video linked below!
** The flyer states Lowbrow Palace but it is at Raves Club tomorrow- March 4, 2022.
Flamél discussed their latest single, "Artificial", and revisited their 2017 interview with Desert of My Eye.
Back in 2017, I interviewed the guys from Flamél and recently, I got to catch up with Sergio (guitar), Daniel (vocals), and Angel (bass) of the band. This frontera space rock/psychedelic/dream pop band released an album, Kymojasaky, in 2020 which included the songs Ciudad Del Sol, La Flor Mexicana, and Tenshi amongst others. Each of the new songs reflect a maturity and in the band. Also, as someone who is homesick, the music video for Ciudad Del Sol was really a treat because it's filled with different shots of very recognizable places in El Paso. However, enough about my personal nostalgia.
The guys and I met over Zoom and the first thing we discussed was how they were affected by Covid as a band. Angel responded that it affected them in all kinds of ways especially creative people. It was soon after this that I went on my tangent about their music video, Ciudad Del Sol, making me miss home. But we quickly segued into their newest single. I asked them why they there was a notable change in the sound of Aritificial compared to the album they released last year. To this, Daniel responded, "actually, Artificial was supposed to be part of Kymojaskay. It was part of the songs we started to worked with Manu*, but it didn't really fit with the EP. Like it was very dark and we did not know how to handle it in the moment [...] and instead we decided to release it with Miguel Mattox*. Kymojasaky was very colorful and happy. We also wanted to release this to show this other "dark" side that we have." The "darker" sound is definitely reflected in not only the theme of the song, but the Daniel's vocals and the synth work.
As evident by the lyrics and music video itself (which was edited by Angel), the song touches on artificial intelligence. When describing the video, Angel in part, stated that, "I had just watched the Netflix series, Dark, and the opening has that kaleidoscope/mirror effect. That's where the idea came from. I told the guys about wanting to make it Dark-like. You know, the song talks a lot about conspiracies and internet theories [...] it was about making this collage of images not only of us as a band, but also images with the message we were trying to convey." It's something that is immediately evident in the music video.
In continuing this conversation, which included their identification in genre, I mentioned that in 2017 they categorized themselves as "spacerock". Given their latest material I wondered if it was something they would still label themselves as given their evolution as a band. Sergio, in part, stated that the "space rock" name came from the band Acid Mother's Temple. "We felt great when they said that. Space rock is still with us. But beyond space rock, psychedelic rock has predominated recently. Dream pop is another one that has predominated. Sometimes we feel like that same combination of psychedelic rock and dream pop sounds like space rock in a way. [...] Like I mentioned, they "baptized" us with that genre. I feel like we have been loyal to our style. [...] but if you don't grow as an individual, you can't advance as a band. What differentiates us is that we advance. If you look at our first album, it was psychedelic rock and on the second album we matured as individuals and so did our music. [...] Now that we changed producers, I feel like that was big step for us. Not that we were in a zone of comfort, but we really liked the formula used by Manuel. However, when went with Miguel, he gave us a little bit more freedom in doing things. It's this journey of self growth that has lead us to where we are. We haven't even reached our full potential. We are a band that can keep going and keep going further. We are taking it a step at a time." The rest of the band pretty much agreed with what Sergio said and just added their own observations and thoughts to it.
When everyone was done sharing their thoughts on the previous question, I went ahead and asked them whether they were going to release anything new such a follow up material within the same vein of Artificial. Angel was quick to answer and mentioned that a reason they left working with Manuel is so they could try something new, so when they did come back they wouldn't end up making a Kymojaskay 2.0 album. The guys, again in sync, pretty much agreed with and made a few comments on that same note. It was further made clear that there is definitely new material in the works, but that is not coming out any time soon.
I wanted to end the interview by talking through some of the answers they gave in their 2017 interview and see if they had changed any of their answers. I told them that back then they said that their biggest influences were: Caifanes, Zoé, Porter, and The Strokes. Sergio chuckled and stated, "all of them except Porter." The guys chuckled and now changed Porter for Tame Impala. Other influences mentioned was Rey Pila, Lo-Fi, and other varied genres. To that, Angel made a comment regarding the different influences and how they have a way of translating to their work. Including their latest experimentation while working with Manuel.
That beautifully segued into my next question which entailed asking the guys if they had a dream collaboration. Angel answered right away. "This answer breaks in two. I have my choice and Daniel and Sergio have the same answer so I'll let them go." Daniel, acknowledging this was a hard question to answered, "The Strokes. [...] There are several." To that, Sergio added that Angel's answer would have been Tame Imapala. "Those are like our dream collaborations, but on a more manageable level. Who would we like to collaborate with? Right now we would like to collaborate with Cuceb that was part of Miró and Goyo from Bandalos Chinos." They also mentioned a few other options and stated that they don't have a definitive answer because they have never really dived into what a collaboration consists of.
Inquiring further, and lastly, I ended the interview by asking the guys what their top 5 songs of the moment were and once again comparing it to their answers in 2017. The guys each gave a list, but some of the songs that were mentioned were: The Eternal Tao by the Voidz, Ode to the Mets by The Strokes, Bestiario by Zoé, Drooling by Rey Pila, Reality in Motion by Tame Impala, Sonate Pacifique by L'Impératrice, and Tadow byMasego, FKJ.
Go check out the video below and follow Flamél on Instagram as: @flamel.band.
* The "Manu" that Daniel is referring to is Manuel Calderon. A revered recording engineer and producer that is also known for projects like The Chamanas and Estereoromance.
*Mattox might not be the correct last name. It was a guess from the band members.
Most people felt lost (and still do) during the pandemic. However, this did not stop Valeria Wolf. As the pandemic began and she experienced the end of what she considers her first real heartbreak, instead of getting sad and indulging in this feeling, she used it a time to start her music journey. Although she is still navigating her way, her music is already so promising.
Valeria recently released her latest single, Aire, alongside the music video (below). It's honestly just a glimpse at her talent and what her future work will offer. Last week I had a chance to talk to Valeria and it was honestly such a treat. We started off with a nice ice-breaker and the rest is down below:
D.O.M.E: So, I see that you released your first single on June 23. Not everyone would think of starting their music career during quarantine/on-going pandemic. Did you ever think of waiting until it was "over" or were you like, "screw it, I'm going to go through with it and release this"?
Valeria: You see, I had spent a lot of time doing "nothing. Like nothing. I was in this funk. When I was in school, I was day dreaming a lot and when everyone graduated, all my friends went off to college and I spent a year without doing anything. When quarantine "hit", that's when I figured out what I wanted to do and I started going to music classes. When the pandemic began, I started taking this seriously. But I was determined to not waste anymore time and that is when I started writing and give it my all. I took [the pandemic] as an opportunity because everyone was in the same position I was [i.e referring to people staying at home].
D.O.M.E: So I was watching a few interviews in which you mentioned that you experienced a heartbreak and it used it as a catalyst to write "Aire". I want to be careful when phrasing this. When one thinks about quarantine and heartbreak in general, it's not really a happy time. How would you say this helped your creative process?
Valeria: I think each person handles a break up differently. This was my first real relationship. And my first real breakup. I didn't know how to handle it. At first I was really sad, then I wasn't. In a way, I think many artists, including myself, are very sensitive and sometimes I don't like showing it. So I have a hard time letting those feelings out. Once I processed the feelings from that situation, I kind of put them in the back of my mind. It wasn't until I sat down and started writing music that I could finally say it the way I wanted. In a way, it was very therapeutic. Sometimes it's good to feel those kinds of emotions because at least you are feeling something.
It was very therapeutic to be able to sort of embrace those feelings instead of pushing them away. I used it to make something cool and it came out. It was my way of processing it.
D.O.M.E: I understand that feeling of "it's better to feel something." I'm glad you were able to express those feelings. So, how did the idea for the video come about?
Valeria: The video came about because my friend, who took my photos for the EP, made a videoclip that I liked and I wanted her to make the video clip for the video. I told her to listen to the song and whatever comes to mind, write it down, and we can go from there. She was the one who sent me the script. I loved it. I did not change a single thing and said, "YES!". Everything she thought of, we included in the video.
D.O.M.E: Yeah it came out so good! So we touched on the heartbreak and all, but in reality, one could say that you are barely dipping your toes in the music industry. So how has your process been so far? Lyrics first? Melody? How was your process in the more technical aspect?
Valeria: I think it was destiny. I always took music classes but never payed attention. I was never good at school. Right before quarantine, I was taking it more seriously. I started talking to friends and professors and they would tell me "yeah you sing well". But in my mind I would freak out because I felt like I didn't know what to do and I started asking more questions.
I always wrote songs growing up but they were those "ugly" songs one writes when one is young. Like when you thought you were Hannah Montana. When I wrote my first song, the lyrics came first. It's called "Cachitos de Mango" (which is on the EP). When I learned more about music, I wrote the instrumentals to it and went from there. I showed it to my school friends and they liked it so it helped me gain confidence. I thought, "maybe I am not as bad as I thought I was".
You know, each song is different. It depends on the mood. With "Aire", I had some lyrics in mind then wrote a few bars on the piano, then messed around, and it came out. There are times I only have the lyrics and there are other times I only have the instrumentals, but it depends on the mood. Usually, I'll have some instrumentals, some lyrics, and then figure it out. And yeah.
D.O.M.E: Yeah it's good that you are finding your own approach to music. In one interview you mentioned that you didn't want to be boxed into one genre, are there other genres you would like to explore? Can you elaborate on what you meant in that interview?
Valeria: Well these are the first songs I have ever written (referring to the ones on the EP), and I wasn't thinking so much about the genre. They just came to be and I wasn't thinking too much in what genre. Now that I have more experience, a year more, I have more confidence in saying, "I like this genre, I'd like to do something here". I don't think it's cool to close yourself up to one genre because I am always changing, we are always changing. I will not box myself up now because I don't know what I will like later. For example, right now I'm very (always have been) into R & B, hip-hop, soul, and all that. That's the vibe I want to explore. Maybe in a year, I want to explore rock. Let's see what happens and if it's cool, we'll do it. That's what I meant.
D.O.M.E: Yeah of course, humans are always changing. Change is good whether it's wanted or not. The reason I also ask is because in an interview, you mentioned that you would like to collaborate with Girl Ultra and artists alike. I'm wondering, are there any U.S-based artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Valeria: That's hard! There's so many that I like. Well, Mac Miller is "my love" and although he is not with us, he would have been my top choice forever. I love Willow, Will Smith's daughter. I like what she is doing. Who else? Anderson Paak. That would be a dream. It all seems so distant but anything can change. I am also a fan of Harry Styles, but I don't think I could do a duet with him because I would feel so intimidated. Ha-ha.
D.O.M.E: Yeah, shoot for the stars! Well... sometimes I like looking up the Instagram of whoever I am interviewing, to see if I find something I want to bring up. I saw a post of yours that caught my attention. It spoke about self love and being authentic to one's self. How did you come to the realization of, "I'm going to be who I am" and how do you keep that self love alive. You know, us as humans, we are hard on ourselves. It's very easy to forget. How do you manage to remind yourself and what advice do you have for people?
Valeria: This has always been a topic I have struggled with. Since I was young, I always noticed things I didn't like. I was like five and saying "I don't like this." It's a thing that's planted in us since the very beginning. It's not like, "yeah I love myself", it's a struggle, but it's something that I work on. On the other hand, I'm so exhausted of being so worried about things like how I look or people telling me I'm weird. It comes to a point where I'm like "I don't care". Nothing is going to happen, it's all a social construct. That's what I also remind myself of. I know everybody's circumstance is different, but I would suggest that one think that people's opinions don't matter and do what you want.
Loving yourself makes people also want to love you more and it's always something to have in mind.
D.O.M.E: To wrap this up, I'm going to ask you a series of rapid questions. Just tell me what first comes to mind.
Valeria: Okay. Ha-ha.
D.O.ME: Favorite book?
Valeria: Hush, hush. Ha-ha. (An honorary mention was El Lobo Estepario and she also mentioned that she was reading a lot of music related books).
D.O.M.E: Favorite movie?
Valeria: Parent Trap.
D.O.M.E: Favorite food?
Valeria: French fries.
D.O.M.E: Top three albums?
Valeria: The Divine Feminine by Mac Miller, Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Entre Todas Las Mujeres (Joaquin Sabina songs sang by women- a tribute album).
D.O.M.E: First place you want to visit after the pandemic?
Valeria: Italy, because I recently watch a Netflix documentary and it made me want to go.
*This interview has been translated. Some questions were paraphrased since they involved "Spanglish" and some small talk in between on my part.*
LANDSCAPE TANTRUMS (Unfinished Original Recordings of De-Loused In The Comatorium), a hidden treasure, is out now.
Landscape Tantrums (Unfinished Original Recordings of De-Loused In The Comatorium) is out now and it's truly a joyous occasion! There has always been so much mystique surrounding the legendary band. The mystery surrounding The Mars Volta and their music has always existed. Even growing up in El Paso, the mystery surrounding them did not lessen. I remember hearing stories about Omar and Cedric. However, the consensus was always how private, nice, and talented they were. I met them once at a signing and they were so nice.
I recall when I first heard The Mars Volta. It was in Mexico circa 2005 and my uncle shared the music he was into at the time. It was an instant connection and you bet I had their music on my iPod. I was hooked. Listening to The Mars Volta felt like a little secret that no one else (in my age group back then) knew about and it was amazing. Their music has accompanied me throughout the hardest periods of my life. Every time I go back and immerse myself in their music, I am taken back to that moment when I first "discovered" them. I feel the same way now that I am going through a hard time in my life and I am able to rediscover their music through a fresh perspective which is Landscape Tantrums (Unfinished Original Recordings of De-loused in the Comatorium).
The Mars Volta released their new box-set, La Realidad De Los Sueños, which includes re-mastered versions of: TREMULANT EP, DE-LOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM, FRANCES THE MUTE, AMPUTECHTURE, THE BEDLAM IN GOLIATH, OCTAHEDRON, NOCTOURNIQUET, plus LANDSCAPE TANTRUMS (UNFINISHED ORIGINAL RECORDINGS OF DE-LOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM), A PLAGUE UPON YOUR HISSING CHILDREN & EUNUCH PROVOCATEUR ON DOUBLE ETCHED VINYL UNRELEASED VERSIONS FROM THE DE-LOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM SESSION, HARD COVER BOOK OF EXCLUSIVE BEHIND-THE-SCENES PHOTOGRAPHY, and TWO PINS. This is every Mars Volta fan's biggest dream come true. Sadly, this incredible one-of-a-kind box-set is sold out (only 5,000 copies were released). However, I did get a chance to listen to Landscape Tantrums (which is now available on all digital platforms) and the two never before heard songs: A Plague Upon Your Hissing Children and Eunuch Provocateur. This box set is definitely a must have.
Fans and music lovers will love Landscape Tantrums (Unfinished Original Recordings of De-loused in the Comatorium). "It was created when the band recorded previous versions of the pieces that Rick Rubin later produced for DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM. Omar Rodríguez-López kept the master tapes of these sessions under lock and key, but now he has given them the green light for release.“It is the right time, to open these recordings up to the public”, he says. “As a work of art in its own right, this set also needs to be seen as the end of a story.”"
As mentioned, Rick Rubin produced the De-loused in the Comatorium album that everyone came to know and love. Although it's one of the most important prog-rock albums of all time, there is a quiet sensitivity and organic flow to Landscape Tantrums that can't be heard in De-loused in the Comatorium. “It is a central part of the band’s history” reports Johann Scheerer, “the recordings prove just how much this band had to share, even so soon after its founding. But they also show just how much force this music could have if you didn’t have a producer like Rick Rubin behind the mixing desk.” I agree, there is a rawness to this that shows how talented and how incredible this piece of work was even before reaching Rick. This comment is not to take away from the master that is Rick Rubin because it was “Rubin's spirit” that enabled the band to move forward the way it did.
After listening to Landscape Tantrums, it's like finally being to see the full painting when you spent your entire life only seeing part of it's magnificent colors through a paper tube. There are many standout moments and things in Landscape Tantrums. Cedric's voice comes through more in the songs. You can definitely hear some of the differences between his vocals here and in De-loused. For example, in Televators (Landscape Tantrums edition), Cedric's voice sounds soft yet powerful. A quality that almost gets lost in some De-loused songs. Fans will appreciate the subtle and not so subtle differences between the albums such as in vocal effects and sound effects. In fact, there are moments where the intstruments have more individual "time to shine". I really recommend listening to the two albums back to back to hear the differences. Johann Schreer, from Cloud Hills who worked with Omar on this said it best, "Anyone listening to these tracks will get a glimpse into that time, into Omar’s soul”. Luckily, the album is out now and this glimpse is now open to the world.
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Interviews and playlists of local bands and international artists.