"It marks the importance of Latin heritage."- Raul Sotomayor.
You want to talk about a vibe check or a change of pace? Need new music to dance to? I got you. I will introduce you to the brother and sister duo known as Sotomayor, which is made up of Raul and Paulina Sotomayor. Last time we spoke to them was in 2018, after they played a show at the Lowbrow Palace in El Paso, Texas.
Sotomayor is based in Mexico City and the two siblings had previous projects before fully embarking on this journey together. Orígenes marks their third studio album and it is very special. This album is special not only because of its look, but its invigorating and immersive sound. They also recently signed to Wonderwheel Recordings, a Brooklyn based boutique label, which really matches to their genre and essence. Somehow this album succeeds in magically blending dance hall, cumbia, dembow, and more. Esta chingon! It's truly meant to make you dance from beginning to end.
I recently talked to Raul in order to discuss this new album, its challenges, and the music industry. The following phone call took place as follows:
Ana Pao Calleros: Hello, how are you? First off, I love the album. So, Slang released an interview with you, which is titled "Sotomayor se enfrenta a una época en la que ser Latino está de moda" (Sotomayor faces an era in which being Latino is "in style") and you have a song titled "Latin History Month", what does that mean to you?
Raul Sotomayor: Thank you so much. It's complicated. It's also something good. This kind of music took over everything, but mainstream "ate" it all. You know it's hard to compete with people like JBalvin or JLo or people pertaining to the genre in the mainstream realm. Actually, I chose to name it "Latin History Month". It matched a lot of the messages that Pau's lyrics had. The song itself was written during Black History Month and the last one to be made on the album. It's also one of my favorites.
Ana Pao: It's one of my favorites too! I am aware that the process of making this album was different from the last two. Eduardo (a.k.a Visitante of Calle 13) produced it and had a "heavier hand" in making the album whereas you did that for the last two. How was that experience? I also heard that the process of this album started off with a lot of back and forth e-mails between you and Eduardo. Were you guys ever concerned with the process?
Raul: What happened, as a difference to the previous two albums, is that I didn't have that much control over it. It was not made "on the box", so I couldn't work on it whenever or wherever. Eduardo is a busy person and this wasn't the only project he was working on at the moment. It took about a year and a half to finish.
*side note: Raul mentioned that a lot that went into this album. Eduardo is from Puerto Rico and once him and Pau had a chance to go to Puerto Rico, that was when the album got finalized. For Raul, it was like working in a "reverse process" from what he is used to, but he is nonetheless grateful for the opportunity and for the learning experience. After all, Eduardo is a highly respected figure in the music industry.
Ana Pao: I adore the album cover. Why did you guys choose this? Is there a reason for the color?
Raul: The color was an artistic choice and we had a palette in mind. Funny enough, Tame Impala and Justin Bieber released an album that day and they also had red covers. We worked on this cover with Orlyanan. She has done a lot of work with different musicians like Bomba Estéreo and Lido Pimienta. We wanted a very "ancestral" look, but no specific attached meaning or look to the figures.
Ana Pao: What are you looking forward to most on this tour?
Raul: Trying to reach a wider audience. [With their style of music] doors have opened for us in places we had never imagined. It's important to showcase these sounds around the world. As a result, we are very well received. It marks the importance of Latin heritage.
Ana Pao: Finally, I know you mentioned that this was a career of "resistance" and that the public can be "muy rough". What has been the biggest lesson you have learned in regards to making music? If you didn't make music, what would you do?
Raul: I actually studied industrial design and I've always been drawn to music. It's hard to stay away (from music). I can't imagine it any other way. It's important to keep going. It doesn't matter if you think you have seen or done it all, you haven't. There is always room for more.
As a final note, Raul and I talked about the music industry and its major changes. He invites everyone to give this album a chance. To go beyond just twenty seconds of listening to it. It's another reggaeton album, in its own right yet different than the "popular" stuff. We also talked about how simpler times we and that the introduction of Spotify brought the democratization of music. However, there are so many options that it can be overwhelming at times.
Check out the links below to keep up with Sotomayor:
Eight albums, many shows, and thousands of loving and dedicated fans are all attributed to La Gusana Ciega. La Gusana Ciega is "considered one of the most prolific groups in the history of Mexico, with a collection of many songs and stories that have traveled through the band's career of over more than 20 years." There is no doubt as to the lasting impact this band has had and continues to have on the music scene.
As this never-stopping band continues to thrive, they also continue to tour. As of this moment they are doing the "Borregos en la Niebla" tour. The band also released a new video to their single, "Pasiflorine", in which they teamed up with a foundation that helps women. It is always refreshing when bands team up with foundations that cover topics like domestic violence and abusive relationships amongst other things. Often times, topics like these get overshadowed by others.
Last week I got to talk to Lu, bassist of La Gusana Ciega, to discuss the band's latest project and current tour. As a band that is playing back-to-back shows, it makes it hard for them to explore the cities they play in, but they always manage to grab a bite from a local place or go shopping if possible.
As part of the interview Lu and I discussed the general evolution of the music industry and the major changes it has had for the better or for the worse. As a positive, he mentioned that there is "more contact with the fans". He also added that with "more power comes more responsibility". Once again referring to social media.
Besides also covering the fact that they once opened Lenny Kravitz, we went on to discussing their single "Pasiflorine" and the very important message behind it. Lu said that"the origin of the song, including lyrics comes from Daniel. "It's a powerful song." It reflects man and these horrible tendencies. "We (as the band) do not sympathize with violence." He also added that the director of the video heard the single a year prior to making the video and he always had this idea for it, including teaming up with this foundation known as Fundación Origen (www.origenac.org).
Overall, the band is super grateful for tall the fans that have stuck with them throughout the years and they hope that they keep tuning in. Join them next week as they head to the Sin City and the Sun City!
La Gusana Ciega social media:
Once again, all the way from Monterrey, Mexico hails this indie-rock/dream-pop band: Bilbao. This band is made up of four talented young fellas: Abdiel Alonso Torres Hernandez (guitarist), Aarón Eusebio Lozano (vocalist), Carlos Ariel Lozano (drums), Álex Iván Hernández Salazar (bass and back-up vocals), and the recently added keyboardist: Alejandro Cortez. They have still not lost their all A's streak.
The band is getting ready to release their first single of six and they are currently working on the second one. Right now, the band is really influenced by dream-pop and with people like Mac de Marco. It's not uncommon for a band to change or tweak their sound until they find something that works for them.
"Tardecita Sin Ti" is the name of this first single, which reflects a feeling of nostalgia as the name suggests. Aarón wrote it post break-up and based on a relationship he had last year. Although, it's meant to make one feel nostalgic and written from a place of necessity, it will still include those loved synths and chorus' that make dream-pop so enjoyable. "Tardecita Sin Ti" will premier on January 31st. It will also be accompanied with a music video that is produced by an agency in Monterrey.
Near-future plans include touring and recording a live session that is not in the "typical" studio setting. This five-piece group of friends are excited to get things off the ground and hope people tune in for this journey. They also made sure to share that if one visits Monterrey, it's cool to check out spots like Barrio Antiguo and Paseo Santa Lucia.
Bilbao's Spotify link: open.spotify.com/artist/0auztALogdXmk4KYvF1FoT?si=rnK7uijESnuea6v6jSo4Eg
Great voice, talented, disciplined, old school, and fashion-forward. These are all things that can be attributed to El Paso's own: Elia Esparza. Not only is she a talented young singer, but she hosts the Restless Podcast, vlogs, and teaches some vocal lessons. It's a new year and what better way than to start with someone who enjoys her craft and proudly represents la frontera one way or another. She is a great example of someone who gives it her all and never gives up, which is a great thing to keep in mind this new year and new decade!
I recently reached out to Elia and below are a few questions I got to ask this past week. Enjoy.
Heading into a new year and a new decade, do you have any music-related goals?
Of course! I feel very refreshed and motivated to create more than ever, especially consistently writing new material and really diving into the craft of writing, even it's not for myself. I’m also working on a 5 song EP to hopefully release later this year, but I’m not in a rush like I used to be. I really want to take my time crafting these songs in order to truly represent who I am as an artist. Along with the songs, I want the visuals to match the level of detail that have a deeper meaning. I’m also constantly working on my vocals and presentation, so I definitely want to take some risks and up my game in 2020.
What does being an artist from the frontera mean to you? Do you think that being from the
border has greatly influenced how you approach your music?
It means a lot. I’ve also lived in San Diego and New York City so having the collective perspective and influences have really showed me how my roots shine through. Although I don’t often write in Spanish, there’s still a flavor sprinkled into my music.
What has been the biggest rewards and challenges from pursuing your passion?
I know that when I wake up each day, I’m not doing something I hate. I’ve worked hard to create a life where I get to fill my day with different creative pursuits and it all ties together. I’d rather struggle doing what I love than be using my energy for something I don’t. It’s a lot of rejection, a lot of not knowing what the next thing is going to be, and a lot of trial and error. All I know is that moving forward is the only way to find out. I don’t ever want to be in the position of "what if’".
Your last single was "With You", what is the meaning behind it?
‘With You’ is a song I wrote in 2019 about past relationships I’ve been in, not necessarily just one person. I wanted to express the feeling of yearning for someone who wasn’t good for me and not even knowing why I wanted them when it was clearly a trainwreck. I went through a pattern of drowning in the thought of someone when in reality it wasn’t what it was. So the song reflects that cycle of losing clarity because I was so consumed in the thought of someone.
This year you released "Karma", "Are You Coming. Back" and "With You". Do these singles connect in some way?
I do write from experience and although they were written at different times, I wanted them to represent the timeline of going through a break up. ‘Karma’ is very aggressive, in your face attitude, not needing them anymore, leading into AYCB, which is when the initial confidence wears down and is almost begging for them to come back. Finally with ‘With You’, it shows the denial phase of it really being over and now I’m all left with are the memories.
Biggest musical influences at the moment?
I’m old school. I love listening to older albums I grew up with and then throwing in new music. Right now, I’m really into Dua Lipa, John Mayer and H.E.R.
Lastly, anything you would like to add for the readers?
A huge thank you to anyone who has supported me through the years and to stay tuned for a lot to come in 2020, I have a feeling this year will be life changing.
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
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Interviews and playlists of local bands and international artists.