Xperimento Talks Prince, the '90s, and Dancing
Crossfade recently got a chance to talk to the band, who will be playing at Jazid on July 9, about their crazy mix of influences and their new album "Second Floor."
Crossfade: All five of you were born in different Latin American countries and grew up in Miami. But most of your music is in Spanish. Why did you guys decide to sing in Spanish instead of English?
Emiliano "Chefunk" Torres: We came from a tradition of singing in Spanish from other projects we were doing before. We're most definitely going to write more in English as we evolve. I think we're doing it in a natural way, not forcing it really. Sometimes we think of a song in English and we don't try to translate it.
You guys have this huge mix of influences. Where are you planning on going next with your music?
Guillermo "Chamo" Cabral: If I could say there was a godfather of our movement, I would say it's Manu Chao. Sometimes he sings in English and sometimes in Spanish. And what it is, actually, is music of the new era. The world is not the same as it was 20 years ago, or 10 years ago. And I think that's where we're headed, where it's one world, you know. Bob Marley's one world, one love... I think we have a lot of that.
How did you guys find each other and get into this very experimental sort of music?
Chamo: We come from the Miami scene. We've been going at it as individual musicians since 2000, and we had jammed together before. It was a natural step for us. We found that we were ready to make this new project. We felt that we complimented each other very well.
Torres: We came from other bands, but none of the bands were fusion bands. We were in rock bands, and salsa bands and reggae. So I think that the fusion has a lot to do with where we come from.
So all your influences are coming together to make this music?
Chamo: You know we have the cumbia and the salsa. It's part of us, part of being from Latin America. But at the same time, we did grow up here. We were here in the early 90s when hip hop was really good. And we have the rock. We lived here when Kurt Cobain died. We went through grunge; we went through all of these different things. It's all in our subconscious so it comes out naturally. And it's also because we let it. Since we started that has been a part of our philosophy. To be worldly. To have world music with a pop sensibility.
Why choose Xperimento out of all the names that you could have chosen?
Chamo: I think it represents us because it starts with an 'X,' so it starts in English but it ends with an 'O' so it ends in Spanish.
Torres: We just wanted to experiment with different rhythms and add different things. Usually you experiment with something and you don't know how it works until you see it on other people. Then we see the people are dancing, and people are liking it and you see "ok, the experiment came out good." And that's kind of what we did, mixing merengue with English with cumbia with a lot of different rhythms I don't think we ever heard together.
You are mixing a lot of very typical American music, like ska and rock, with this Latin music. But Latin music is more for dancing than American music is. Is that what you guys are going for with your music?
Chamo: We're used to playing music that lifts people and now the cool thing is to mix the whole making you dance but at the same time maybe adding knowledge and information to the lyrics. You know you can have club music that makes you dance. But we like making you dance and also making you think some times about certain things like the world and family.
Your music video for "Candela" features the band driving around Miami, taking people to a secret party. The song, however, seems to be about a girl. What was your idea with it?
Chamo: We met with John Craven, who directed the video. We were teens in the 90's, when videos used to come out with long intros. So that was one thing that we told him we wanted to have, from the get go. He came up with this concept of us being this musical gang, it's us taking over the town and meeting people in the street and taking people to this secret party.
If you'll notice, in the video, a lot of things are black and white. But as we come in we start adding color to the whole city. If you want to see how it has to do with the song, in a way we sort of have this Candela. We're giving this candela to the city and making it more colorful.
What are you guys planning for the rest of the year?
Chamo: Right now we're working very hard on the promotion of the album, both national and international. We have an East Coast tour and we're also going to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic so we're very booked for the remaining of the year. You know, we're in that promotion mode.
Torres: We're also waiting until the end of the year to release our next video. We noticed that fans are very visual. They want to hear, but they want to see too.
How do you guys go about writing songs?
Torres: We kind of have a recipe. Mainly the hook man is Mr. Chamo right here. Usually the verses are Tumbao, the singer. And I usually like to write the music. That's how "Candela" came up.
What's the coolest thing that has happened to you guys since starting?
Chamo: There was one specific night. I had this guy come up in me, he was all dressed in black with shades. He said, "there's a guy that wants to jam with you." And I thought it was a little weird, because usually if a guy wants to jam he himself tells up. So I said, "ok cool, next song," but then I couldn't find the guy. He comes back and says something about "Purple Rain."Our trombone guy said, "this guy is just messing with you." So I told the guy, "bring Purple Rain and he can jam with us." Ten seconds later I see four guys dressed exactly like him in shades and black suits and Prince comes in. And he goes up to the guitar player, who didn't know anything because I hadn't said anything. So he just gave him the guitar and was like "woah." He jammed with us for a few songs. It was cool and it was weird. But it was a great feeling to have such an icon hear us and want to play with us. That was a night we won't forget. It was a guy who did so many great things and he liked our music. It made us feel like we have something here, you know?
Xperimento. Saturday, July 9. Jazid Lounge, 1342 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. Call 305-673-9372 or visit jazid.net.
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