Austin-based Grupo Fantasma is no stranger to the music scene and has been around for nineteen years. They are currently promoting their seventh album, American Music, Vol. VII (Blue Corn Music) after not being in the studio together in five years. "The very record takes issue with these definitions of identity, border, who is illegal or "other.""
If you are listening to them for the first time, you won't regret it. The great news is that they are making their way to the Sun City to play at The District Pub in central El Paso. Great way to spend an evening if one does not have any major plans going on May 5th and want to check out the Cinco District de Mayo-A 5 Points Fest.
I recently caught up with Beto Martinez of the band to talk about the new album and their stop in El Paso. I started off by asking him about Cinco de Mayo and how he felt about it to which he replied, "I'm from Laredo, Texas and it wasn't a big holiday. Cinco de Mayo is a "holiday" that has turned into a farce like St. Patrick's day. The reason for it is lost and it's an excuse to drink. On the positive side, there is music and people get together." I know for many people Cinco de Mayo has turned into "Drink-o de Mayo" and I wanted got know Beto's take on it since the band is no stranger to their Latinx roots. Beto also mentioned that they are excited to come to El Paso. "The food is great and feels like home."
As for the new album and the process of making it, "the seventh album came out on March 29th. Previous to the five-six years, we were playing in other bands and our focus shifted, but we re-grouped to focus on this album for the band (Grupo Fantasma)." I asked about how the process of this album differed from the others and Beto said that one of the things that is different is that it was recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, which has a "mythical status". The process of making an album for Grupo varies. Beto said, "I don't write lyrics, I write music. I'll work on something and take it to another member." They all contribute to each song in a different way, after all, they are a large band.
As a last question, I asked Beto how he would describe Grupo Fantasma to a new fan. He said, "we are a large band. Out sound is diverse and rooted in music Latina. It's not pigeon-holed in any particular style and we do that deliberately. Cumbia is our heart and soul, but we have expanded."
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Interviews and playlists of local bands and international artists.