I know the holiday rush is very exhausting, but sometimes it is good to sit down and read about what is happening locally. I hope whoever reads this, enjoys one of the last posts of 2019. It is another year of being able to put content online, which is very gratifying. Thank you to all the readers!
The border is filled with so much talent. It is exciting to see new artists pop up. The music scene is ever-expanding, especially as of lately. El Paso even has Sofar Sessions taking place! This week's feature is Nico Antuna who is promoting his latest single "All Is Mind." He is a multi-media artist, poet, and man of many talents.
Enjoy the following Q & A:
Desert of My Eye (D.O.M.E): Can you introduce yourself? (For those that don't know you).
Nico: My name is Nico Antuna and I am a multi-media artist from the El Paso area. I am known as a regularly exhibiting painter and poet and now I am expanding into electronic music. My multi-disciplinary approach allows me to combine my art forms in unique and exciting ways. My album artwork is based on my paintings and my literary background helps me write unique and interesting lyrics about topics I love like the occult and duende.
D.O.M.E: What can you tell me about the new single and the kind of music you make?
Nico: "All Is Mind" is my first single and a great introduction to my style. It is a fusion of modern melodic house with 90s alternative music; think Lane 8 meets Nine Inch Nails. The lyrics of "All Is Mind" are about manifestation; how all reality is created and influenced by your mental state. This is inspired by a secret book called The Kybalion, a collection of occult aphorisms about how you can summon magic powers by aligning with the universe. I love reading about mysticism and magic, and I think it's really cool to combine these ancient ideas with modern musical styles.
D.O.M.E: Are you working towards releasing a full album?
Nico: I'm working on a single series at the moment. I plan to release another song every two months for the foreseeable future. Other songs will also be related to similar ideas and I'll probably unify these in an album at some point. One of the songs coming up is a techno track called "As Above So Below," which is one of the more famous Hermetic occult phrases, and the second rule of the Kybalion. There was a cool movie about it that came out a few years ago, so more people are familiar with that one.
D.O.M.E: Do you find that living in the border and the culture around has somehow affected your work?
Nico: Absolutely. I write in both English and Spanish and I will also be releasing music with Spanish lyrics some time in the future. The border is a place where ideas and cultures connect and overlap, and being raised here I always saw cross-cultural fusion as a very important lifestyle choice. I try to incorporate this in my music, although the flavor of this particular track is not particularly Latino musically. I am also getting an MFA in Creative Writing here in El Paso, and we have the only bilingual program anywhere in the US. Being able to draw on both English and Spanish-speaking traditions has given me a huge boost in my creative inspiration as a lyricist and a writer.
D.O.M.E: Favorite thing about the border region?
Nico: The border is fantastic. I myself am biracial Mexican and Anglo, so at the deepest part of myself I embody several parts of our community. I love how the multi-faceted culture of the borderland encourages people to cross borders to enjoy all kinds of music and art, and not feel too closely aligned to one particular tradition.
D.O.M.E: Anything else you would want people to know about you?
Nico: This is just the beginning of a long musical and artistic journey, and I would encourage anyone to keep up with my work to see it. Many of my favorite musical artists are also poets or visual artists, including people like 3-D of Massive Attack and of course Jim Morrison. My aim is to create increasingly cooler multi-media projects so follow me for news about art shows, music events, and poetry releases.
For more information check out Nico's website: www.nicoantuna.com
This week's feature is XICLON, a three-piece band from Dallas, Texas. The band is made up of Juan C. Martínez (vocals/guitar/accordion), Vicente Tapia (bajoquinto), and Mathew West (guitar). For those wondering, "XICLON smashes American alternative rock and Latin-American sounds, primarily Mexican norteño, to deliver a voice of an under-represented Mexican-American alternative culture."
On December 5th, XICLON will release their first single "Que Difícil" which "serves as a statement for their vision, interlacing contemporary rock patterns and huapango cadences, and driven by a melodic accordion hook, heavy guitars, and bajosexto rhythms." It truly is catchy and a testament to the band's roots. Remarkably, this is only the beginning for the band and 2020 will bring even better things for them.
We were lucky to have Juan was able to answer some questions for us earlier this week.
D.OM.E (Desert of my Eye): What is XICLON, what does it mean to you and what is the correct pronunciation?
Juan: I, and the other members of the band, have a very diverse taste in music, and we tend to pick up influence and ideas as we hear music we love. That leads to our music being a sort of storm or cyclone of elements from different genres and styles.
We adjusted the spelling in order to give it some ambiguity. Over time, we want our band name to take a meaning of its own through our music, rather than be tied to a pre-defined word. Plus, it allowed us to remove the language-specific spellings of either “cyclone” or “ciclón” — We pronounce it both ways.
D.O.M.E: You mentioned that you are first generation Mexican-American songwriter/producer. How did you know that you wanted to do music and how did your parents react to that decision?
Juan: I’ve had an interest in music since playing trumpet in middle school, but I really began taking it seriously shortly after graduating film school (film was my original career choice). I think dedicating your professional effort to creativity isn’t the easiest thing to grasp but thankfully, I’ve always had the support of my parents. I think the biggest surprise to them has been deciding to do something so non-traditional with XICLON after spending half a decade playing norteño music almost exclusively.
D.O.M.E: What is "Que Dificil" and what can you tell me about the song?
Juan: Que Difícil is the first song we’re releasing after about a year of planning, writing, and producing, so we’re really excited to finally put something out for the world to hear. It was the first song I wrote for XICLON, and it has serves as a sort of musical statement for us, as it plays across our spectrum of contemporary rock/alternative grooves and traditional Mexican rhythms and elements.
Lyrically, the song externalizes the challenges and frustrations of accepting a failed relationship. I think sometimes we tend to treat failed relationships as something to suppress/ignore or to feel self-pity for, when in reality it should be something we accept, analyze, and learn from. To me, this song represents the moment right before getting back on your feet after a tough fall.
D.O.M.E: Are there any bands, songs, or artists that influence you at the moment?
Juan: Probably too many to name! Recently, artists like Charlie Puth, Mon Laferte, Jonaz, Highly Suspect, Badflower, Billie Eilish, Chicano Batman have inspired me to chase my own sounds and experimentation lyrically and musically.
Some lifelong standouts that have had a heavy influence on me range from American artists like Linkin Park, Deftones, Panic! At the Disco, and My Chemical Romance to Latin artists like Maná, Invasores de Nuevo León, Rigo Tovar, Los Bukis, and Juanes.
D.O.M.E: What are the band's plans in the near future?
Juan: We’re currently working on our live band/show and also have plenty of music ready for release over the course of 2020. Que Difícil is only the beginning!
D.O.M.E: Anything you would want people to know about XICLON?
Juan: The idea of merging elements of American and Latin/Mexican music isn’t just a musical statement, but also a cultural one. I’ve experienced firsthand the sort of identity crisis caused by growing up between a traditional Mexican household and an American society. The feeling of having to choose between cultures is pretty rampant, and I don’t think it’s indicative or representative of who we are as Mexican-Americans. I believe it’s worth embracing everything that influences us and doing it unapologetically.
A big thank you to XICLON and make sure to stay tuned for what they have in store!
On November 2nd, Making Movies will take part of the Fantasma festival at the Rio Hotel and Casino alongside their friends: Los Rakas and Las Cafeteras. This will make for a very unique experience because of all the blends of genres and sounds that are unique to each band. Additionally, they all carry powerful messages in their respective music.
Making Movies is touring as part of a joint venture with Los Rakas called "Panameri'kana". Both of these artists have Panamanian roots. "Panameri'kana" is a play on word of panamerican. As Enrique Chi of Making Movies mentioned, this "different" spelling of "Panameri'kana" kinda forces one into the right pronunciation of the actual word. This will be the first time Making Movies play in the Sin City and they are beyond excited.
This weekend I got to speak with with Enrique Chi (lead singer and guitarist). As a band that is constantly on the road, Enrique said that life has been great. Their favorite thing to do on the road is to grab some of the local food of wherever they are playing and sort of become "flies on the wall". Through touring they have also met amazing communities of artists.
Enrique was quick to say in addition to touring that, "we can play in Latin America, to a Spanish-speaking crowd, and appeal to Americans in the U.S. and share these messages." He said that to someone who is Latinx, they understand the band's message and they don't have to constantly explain themselves whereas someone who isn't Latinx, might not not understand the message right away. I asked Enrique if he is ever worried that the "right" people won't be listening to their message, especially during a time of political chaos and confusing to which he said, "The chaos. Locura Collectiva talks about that. Music is the space where I find encouragement. It unlocks a lot in people. You can trigger that political thought with music. If you can use music to tell a story, it calms their defenses. It's trippy. Music opens up the human part in ourselves."
Music is a powerful key and it is the answer to almost everything. "Music is key to human survival" as Enrique mentioned. It is always refreshing when musicians utilize their music as a tool and actually make a change. Making Movies has had great and positive impact with their "We Are All Immigrants" message and this is only the beginning.
As a band that has been involved in a lot of projects since the last time we got to talk, they have done collaborations with musicians like Las Cafeteras, Rubén Blades and others. I asked Enrique if there is any advice or anecdotes of sorts that these collaborations have left them with. He mentioned that working with Steve Berlin of Los Lobos has been very inspiring from the beginning. Enrique noted that even though Los Lobos would get boo'ed in the early days for playing certain songs, they wore their identity proudly and navigated hardships. That really resonates with Enrique.
Another lesson learned was from none other than Rubén Blades who told Enrique to approach his music as if it were a book. There is the title, the chapters and the stuff that goes in those chapters. It's what you decide to put on those pages that create that impact. It was "eye-opening" for the band. Something else Enrique mentioned later in the interview is that it is important to have a mentor in the music world whether it is for connections or anything else.
Lastly, as the phone conversation came to an end I asked him what inspired the band lately outside of the political turmoil we see everyday and to that he said that the band is working on a song about being in the moment. There is nothing more inspiring than being present.
For more info on the band: mkngmvs.com
I recently got to speak with Kordelya. She's a vibrant artist who is driven by the sounds of percussion and synths. Her wardrobe as well as her music, draws inspiration from Mexican Indian Tribes. Kordelya will be playing at the Peppermint Club in Los Angeles tomorrow and you don't want to miss out on it.
She told us a little "secret" and mentioned that she will debut "Consentido", a single that will be premiering on all platforms at the same time she plays it on stage, and another new song she did not name. Definitely don't want to miss out!
I mentioned that Kordelya draws inspiration from Mexican Indian tribes and it coincides that two days ago she posted on Instagram saying that her favorite cartoon character growing was Pocahontas. I asked her about that, she giggled and mentioned that "Colors of the Wind" was the first song she learned. She added that her parents would play her a lot of these movies when she was little and thus helped her learn English better. It was that song that indicated to Kordelya herself that she could sing! Not only that, but Pocahontas, as Kordelya pointed out, is a strong female figure and such a "free spirit". That admiration for Pocahontas definitely reflects on her today.
As stated, percussions and synths are something very present in Kordelya's style and to that I asked her if she had a specific writing process and she said that she tries to approach each song differently. Part of it is in effort to make each song very unique and not have her material feel redundant. That response was what lead into her almost-released new single, "Consentido". She made it clear that the usage of the word consentido refers to a vice, which is the central focus of the music video of the song.
Quien es tu consentido?
The direction Kordelya is taking with this song and the album itself is very interesting. Almost like a self-reflection of sorts. When asked, Kordelya said that each song on the new album Mal Hecha will focus on an imperfection. Being that it's written by her, it will focus on what she considers her own imperfections, which takes this new album on a whole new personal level. I think that that type of introspection in music is what makes a piece of music feel so relatable and human. It's truly great. We all have are flaws and we need to recognize it and what better way to self-reflect than when listening to music.
Cuco came to the Sun City not to long ago for the "El Paso Firme: Action Against White Supremacy". A special event in response to the El Paso shootings. The event consisted of artists like Cuco, La Santa Cecilia, Ana Tijoux, DJ Trillo and more. I know I don't speak only for myself when I say that it is amazing when artists take time out of their schedule to not only comfort a community in pain, but also play for an important cause. It wouldn't be the first time Cuco has done something like this. Earlier this year he played at the Selena for Sanctuary, a concert in support of immigrant rights. Chicanx artists like Cuco is what gives me hope for the future. Someone younger generations (and older) can look up to.
For those that are hearing about Cuco for the first time and are looking for something to do tomorrow night, he is a 21-year old self-taught musician and self-produced musician that has been gaining more and more popularity by the month! I would describe Cuco's music as a daydream indie-pop with a touch of psychedelia here and there. Not to mention, some bilingual lyrics as well! He recently released an album called Para Mi, which was released via Interscope records. This album really shows a maturity in Cuco's sound and an expansion on the types of genres involved. For example his single, "Bossa No Sé", which intertwines the Bossa Nova genre with the Cuco touch.
Tomorrow, Cuco will take the Lowbrow Palace stage. A stage (depending if it's the UTEP or downtown location) that has been graced by acts like The Marias, Helado Negro, La Santa Cecilia, Phantogram, and Girl Ultra whom Cuco has a song with! As someone who has seen Cuco before, you don't want to miss out on it. It will be full of all the right kinds of energy and Cuco's fans are the best when it comes to just being in that moment. See you there!
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Interviews and playlists of local bands and international artists.