Interview with Chikita Violenta

While recently living in Mexico City, I had the opportunity to sit down with three members of the Mexican band, Chikita Violenta, in their rehearsal space located in Colonia Roma, a beautiful area of the city filled with artistic energy. The band consists of 5 members, Armando David on keyboards, Luis Arce on vocals and guitar, Esteban Suarez on bass, Andrés Velasco on guitar and vocals and Esteban Pacheco on drums – although all members switch instruments around from time to time. Armando, Luis and Andrés sat down to talk with me about everything from the band’s history as it relates to both their strong friendships and the Mexican music industry, the music culture as it has evolved and their experience in working with producer and Broken Social Scene member, David Newfeld, on their newly released album, The Stars and Suns Sessions. While the group has been playing together and making music for over a decade, only recently has the music scene in Mexico begun to notice the independent artists, especially those making music that is anything but traditional. Within their country, as pioneers of the independent scene and songs being written and sang in English, only now is the band finally beginning to see their hard work pay off.

Delusions of Adequacy: When did the band form?

Armando: We’re friends from middle school. Our last year of middle school we met here in Mexico City. We all went to the same high school. And it’s one of those many coincidences that you get in most high schools.

Andrés: It’s an American school also.

Armando: Yeah, that’s where we learned English.

DOA: In the states or…?

Andrés: No, it’s called The American School

DOA: Oh it’s called the American School!

Luis: No, really!

Armando: So yeah, we were all best friends and we all kinda had some musical experience or we were starting to grab an instrument and stuff like that. And obviously ever since we were small kids we used to, well, we used to dig music a lot. Especially obviously rock and roll and stuff like that. So, we got together at Luis’ house to see what it felt like to sort of have a band.

Andrés: Basically like most bands start out no? Just as high school friends and…

Luis: And you’re like…”oh, I know this song, do you know it?”

Andrés: Yeah it’s funny, like a cultural fact, Paul Banks from Interpol used to go with us to high school here with us.

Armando: But yeah, so we were friends, except for Pacheco.

Andrés: He’s the drummer.

Armando: He’s from Bolivia originally, and he came up to Mexico City to actually study a degree in music and we met him like when he was 2 or 3 years into his college program and he’s been in the band ever since. But we’ve basically been real good friends ever since we were 13/14.

Andrés: Yeah we all like studied a degree, a college degree. Esteban is an architect, Luis is in finance, Armando studied political science and I studied Engineering. So we, the band was like on and off and on and off and we left it for some years and like a couple 3 or 4 years ago we got steady.

Armando: The truth is, when we finished high school we were really into the band and we were like, should we really do this, and we kinda got cold feet because we all had a chance to actually study and go to college. And we heard at some point, we were obviously really big Radiohead fans, it was around The Bends era, we had heard at some point that Radiohead had finished high school, or whatever it is they call it in the UK, and they were like, should we do this, and everybody was like if this is really going to be serious then we should probably go ahead and go to our different colleges and then we’ll meet up in 3 to 4 years and if we’ve still got it then we’ll give it a shot. And we sort said that we should follow Radiohead’s advice.

Luis: That seems like pretty good advice.

Andrés: Keeping the distances of course.

Armando: Well they were a big influence.

Andrés: And we sorta thought it was a very reasonable thing to do. So basically the band is kicking off like at a bigger scale like this year probably which is when we released this last album because before the scene was well, yeah so this is probably the first big serious year with the band like we all left our jobs and are doing this steady right now. At this stage we are all 28 or 29 years old so we’re not starting off like off high school being 20 year olds.

DOA: Did the group start as more of a live project or did you always have the intention of putting out an album?

Luis: It was more, obviously, like in the beginning, like any band, it was more of a cover band then we started to put some of our own compositions, like our first songs into the sets and see how people reacted to them. And then I think from ’97 to now we’ve been doing only our own songs in the sets. So, we’ve been doing it for awhile. I mean, none of those songs are still in the sets obviously but it helps a lot because you learn to start pushing your boundaries composition wise.

Armando: We’ve been serious into it for probably the last 5 years but obviously it’s not easy to record an album and it’s not easy in Mexico, worse than other places obviously. There are not a lot of independent studios where you can record a decent material for a decent amount of money. It hasn’t been easy for us. If it were up to us we would be living off the band like 4 or 5 years back but it’s not until now that we sorta see a real possibility. Things have changed in Mexico and also other parts of the world.

DOA: I saw your performance a couple months ago with Krief and The Stills and you guys looked good up there. It looked to me as though you really enjoy being on stage. Is that true?

Andrés: We’ve grown to love it. We’ve always liked it. It’s great. It’s the first time in our career like we have older recordings but they were like from 5 years ago but they were in English and there was not an existing independent scene so you couldn’t get them in stores, only at gigs, it was a very very very small scale. So for the first time we have a record out that’s in every store, we have a label behind us…

Luis: We have a video out.

Andrés: So there’s more exposure around the band and so for the first time we are getting up on stage and having a crowd that knows the songs and it’s really different from when you are playing songs that only you know and you are trying to push them to a crowd then when they already know some material and there is a record out. So that makes it much more fun and much more enjoyable.

Armando: Yeah, it’s one of those few moments when you remember what it’s all about. When you sorta….I mean everybody when you play live you are in your own…

Luis: Bubble.

Armando: …part of the stage and you’re enjoying it but once every few times you turn around and everyone is sort of having fun by themselves, you know, and you sort of connect with the rest of the guys and you start enjoying it a lot and yeah, obviously right now being an independent artist we probably spend more time without an instrument in front of us doing more things for the band than playing an instrument even here in the studio.

Luis: So yeah, that’s when we most enjoy being a band because, well, that’s pretty much the only time we get to be a band.

Andrés: Yeah we get to do booking, management, promotion…like we do everything so we have our hands full. So when we can get on stage it’s great.

DOA: Do you like taking care of everything yourselves, do you prefer it that way?

Luis: There are some times when it’s a pain in the ass because you want to be playing, you want to be trying out the new ideas and stuff for the next album and sometimes you just can’t because you have so many different things and also I mean every detail…and right now the band really is more like an investment like everything that comes in to the band we re-invest it into other things be it the video, be it to go out and play the next city or…

Andrés: The album.

Luis: Or the next album. It’s more like something we have to do, not necessarily something we enjoy doing. So, but playing live is definitely a time when we can really enjoy being in a band.

Armando: But it’s also given the band a lot of credibility. At least amongst the Mexican crowd.

DOA: Any crowd really.

Armando: Yeah exactly, but at least here like the people that listen to our music they like the fact that it’s…

Luis: Independent.

Armando: For some reason they do find out that we are behind all the messages that are answered back on MySpace or on our website or in all the mail that we get and they see us selling our stuff at the gigs and usually in Mexico, the major labels here, like any other place in the world, the major labels used to reign and there wasn’t a single spec of an independent industry as their was in the states like back in the 80’s.

Luis: Well there was, but not in the rock scene. In the Grupero scene.

Andrés: Salsa…Norteño…

Armando: And so bands here they grew to be just a little bit popular and you can still sorta smell the major label industry. You know, they start having management and even though people now belong to an indie label and stuff you sorta see the same structure built around the band and they have to have some sort of management…

Luis: And they have to do the catering thing at gigs and they have to do all these things and you’re sorta like…um, this isn’t the point…

Armando: “Yeah..this isn’t the whiskey bottle we asked for”… And sometimes it’s just really sad and pathetic.

Luis: But yeah, for the younger bands, the bands that are starting out when they found out that we do everything and they sorta get excited and think, “oh yeah, we can do that”. It’s good to see.

Armando: And we do enjoy it actually, it’s cool to be like part of…everything that happens around the project that you work so hard for your music to be out there and it’s real cool to be a part of all the decision making process.

Luis: And at least if we mess up we know it’s our fault and its just part of the process.

Armando: And the market is really, it’s not that big. That’s the truth. I mean, there are only so many cities in Mexico where you can go and play a decent gig at a good place and so, I mean, it’s not like in the states where just in California where you can probably play 27 dates without even leaving the state or something. Here it’s not like that.

Andrés: It’s growing though. It’s growing exponentially. And we’re excited about that because there are more and better bands each time and so that competition, that friendly competition, it brings better and better stuff and so we’re excited that we belong to this new generation of bands, if you want to call it like that, that are bringing and stirring it up and suddenly rock music is popular in Mexico you know. And for a date you can take your girl to a concert and it’s cool to do that. But I’m telling you that like 5 years ago only if it was a big Madonna or Aerosmith concert would it be cool to do that. But now it’s part of the culture and now people will say “hey man, have you listened to the new Rapture cd or have you listening to the new…?” so things are stirring here and things are still small scale in comparison to North American but things are happening and new bands are sending demos all the time and radios are playing and media and tv channels are paying attention to it right now. So it’s kind of a fad right now but we believe it will stay without being a fad.

Armando: That’s always good because a lot of teenagers got into rock and roll thanks to the grunge thing and in the end maybe they weren’t that hot into grunge bands but it was like their entrance into rock and then they started looking for other bands and they started finding their own thing.

Andrés: Because this was a pop and Cumbia country.

DOA: So your music doesn’t follow the typical trends of Mexican music, in fact your music sounds as though it could’ve come from places outside of Mexico like Canada, the US, even Europe…was this intentional?

Andrés: I think it’s the way it’s always been with us, you know, like…

Luis: It probably has more to do with what we were listening to when we started playing in a band. We didn’t really listen to the bands that were singing in Spanish. The local scene…we weren’t listening to it that much but instead were into the grunge era, college radio scene in the US.

Andrés: The Pavements and Built to Spills, Sonic Youths, Archers of Loaf and…

Luis: And not only is their musical style, which was definitely an influence, but also the way they were doing things. We’ve really adopted that mentality, the do-it-yourself approach to the music scene. And obviously for Mexico it turned out to be the healthiest way to look at our career also.

Armando: I truly think that we are really being honest with what we like. Because at some point we’ve even done a couple of songs in Spanish and when we listen to it, for some reason seriously we sometimes feel as if we were trying to do a song in Spanish just so that we can have a song out there that is…

Andrés: Because we have been told for years that like from all the big industry like “Man, you should do it in Spanish man, you guys would be…” you know? And it’s not rebellious…

Armando: No, but if we were to grab the same song and start trying to work a lyric in English, for some reason we feel much more comfortable and we’re obviously aware that in a way, at some point, it could be an advantage because yes, our music could be heard in a different country other than Mexico. I mean, we’re obviously aware of that, we’re not blind to that fact, but it’s not the primary reason. Seriously, all the music we’ve listened to ever since we were like…

Andrés: It’s marketing suicide for Mexico really.

Luis: Yeah, I was gonna say that. If you were really cold about it and wanted to think of what would be best for our career then obviously singing in Spanish would be the best thing to do. I mean, we closed a lot of doors when we started playing in English. And right now the scene is starting to change and yes there are bands that are starting to do the English speaking songs but really when we started out there was nothing out there that even sounded like it. And we got all the doors closed at every single radio station and there was no way to get on board at all.

Armando: And not only that but see if we’re totally honest if you were a DJ in the states at a radio station and you get some material from Belgium or from France or from Sweden and you listen to it and I assure you that they are much more accepting if they get some material from an English speaking Mexican band for some reason. I mean, it works both ways. I feel that it’s probably even hard as a Mexican band to try and share your music with a crowd, at least in the states maybe not in Europe but it happens a lot because there’s also a huge scene for a Latino crowd in like southern states or maybe Chicago.

Luis: When we don’t make like…yeah…

Armando: No and they’re big and Mexican bands go up there and their really big and there’s a huge Latino crowd that obviously wants to know what’s going on in Mexico and the rest of Latin America. And Mexico City is obviously an obligated stop and they’re like “what bands are coming out from Mexico City?” Whereas if suddenly you release a band that’s not trying to be catalogued as Latino rock or something then it’s not easy either. So yeah, we just do the type of music that we would like to listen to.

Andrés: And it’s funny that you know, going on…

Luis: Yeah, it’s funny how we keep going on with a single question!

Andrés: Going back to the Spanish – English thing like recently for a radio station, Reactor, we did a live radio session. So we did our songs and recorded and then we did a cover song off a Mexican band which was in Spanish and we did a different acoustic version and whatever and so it was like, you know, a special edition version for the radio station you know. So one of the dj’s played it once and people start calling and asking for it and suddenly a couple of months later it’s gone into the programming, like it’s on every day. So it’s funny how we did like one song in Spanish and it was a cover song…

Luis: It wasn’t even our song!

Andrés: It was live, you know, and now they ask for it every day in the radio you know and it’s in Spanish…

DOA: No way.

Andrés: Yeah, so it’s kinda crazy.

DOA: Is that frustrating for you?

Andrés: No. No not at all. It was a very cool experiment to do it like that.

Luis: Because we did think of it that way. Because they asked us to do a cover song but they didn’t tell us what song to do obviously and we chose it on purpose. We were already kind of expecting it to happen but that was kind of the idea. Kind of.

Armando: Also in terms of musical styles that you asked about here in Mexico City, there are a lot of bands, like a lot of new bands right now that aware of what’s sounding elsewhere. But I think that like for at least the past 6 of 7 years we’ve always been into, from what Luis said, like a weird distortion petal and we see what we can do with it and we sometimes put it through maybe a keyboard or maybe there are some chords that have different tonings like with Andres’ guitar.

Luis: Tunings.

Armando: Yeah, sorry, tunings. So yeah, it wasn’t very common and for us we always like playing with all these weird gadgets and maybe trying to get a different you know…we love all those shoegazer like bands or at least 3 or 4 of them that we know really well and we love how you can just make a song with a bed of distortion. Stuff like that like 8 years ago or 9 years ago here in Mexico City it wasn’t that common I mean because at that time it was way cooler to listen to these other sort of bands. And right now we have all the like Libertine, Arctic Monkey invasion where you know all the bands think it’s cool to just have a bass guitar, a guitar and maybe if you try to be new waveish you have like a vintage synth but it has to be like a real uncool synth that your parents gave you when you were like 7 years old you know. And in a way, all the Mexican bands they try to be either that or more the emo…darky…thing…

Luis: The emo darky thing!

Armando: And the cool thing about this new era in Mexican rock is that now it’s sort of cool to experiment and do your own stuff and it doesn’t matter what other bands think and stuff and its cool because you are starting to see bands that are playing a bit of post rock and there are good sparks. I think. (Armando throws his arms into the air)

Luis: Is that your visualization of a spark?

DOA: Ah, if only this was a video too. So you guys self-recorded an album in…

Luis: 2002. Yeah, like an EP/LP

Armando: It was like 8 songs.

Luis: Yeah, I guess that would fall in the EP category.

DOA: So were there any independent labels around at that time?

Armando: No, but amazingly a year after we put the record out…

Luis: The first one popped up.

Armando: But not even labels. We started noticing that independent distributors started popping up and most of the labels, at least one of the biggest labels right now in Mexico used to be an electronic label because we were in the electronic era and they used to have DJ compilations and that stuff and they sorta started changing gears and they went into rock and stuff like that. But we found an independent distributor that a year after the album was already out and we had already sold quite a couple copies at gigs and stuff.

Luis: Quite a couple copies?

Armando: Hey man…alright, a few…

Luis: You’re just being modest.

Armando: What did happen is that we were really frustrated because we had finally done a small album and we were really proud of it and we had never been in like a real studio although we had been playing together for quite some time and we didn’t have a way to put it in stores. And we went directly to a huge chain of record stores. They are called Mixups down here. And they said, “No no no, we only buy from a distributor and you need to have a catalog and we need to see a minimum of 5 different albums in the catalog”. And we’re like “but we’re just a band and we have a really decent record out and we printed it and everything and we have the copies there” and they were like “no, we’re not interested”. So only like a year, a year and a half after the album was printed that we could find a distributor that said “hey, we’ll license the album and we’ll get it into the stores”. And around that time a lot of other independent distributors began popping up and small labels and now it’s changed really a lot and I mean now you can find 4 or 5 huge distributors that can get your record out. It’s changed a lot.

DOA: You guys opened for The New Pornographers a year ago, right?

Andrés: Yeah.

Luis: Yup, September of last year.

DOA: So the bands like The New Pornographers that are kind of like the bigger bands within the indie scene…more of those bands have been coming down to Mexico in the last couple of years right?

Luis: Mmm hmm.

Andrés: Yeah, many more. From Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth, New Pornographers…

Armando: Just off Matador there are a lot like Cat Power…

Andrés: Bright Eyes…

Luis: Modest Mouse…

DOA: Has that helped the local bands a lot since they have the opportunity to open for these bands and reach a wider audience?

Andrés: Yeah.

Armando: It’s helped us a lot too. People started rediscovering the local music.

Luis: You know what also happens a lot with those concerts? It’s not the same effect as if you had like The Strokes coming to play and if you had an opening band for The Strokes they would probably do terribly.

DOA: Really, why’s that?

Luis: The audience would go crazy and they would want to get them off the stage

Andrés: Yeah…get The Strokes on! You know?

Luis: But since they hear The New Pornographers are coming and they know it’s like something cool but they’ve never heard it they’ll go and they’ll listen to you also. So it’s helped us a lot because they really don’t know that many songs of The New Pornographers so they’ll actually listen to the opening band.

Andrés: There is always a cult though.

Luis: Yeah obviously but there’s another big chunk of the audience that are definitely just curious. They want to know why The New Pornographers are here.

Armando: And I mean, if it weren’t for many of those concerts right now you wouldn’t get that sort of decent fan base for many of those musicians like Jose Gonzales, he wasn’t known at all till he came down here and many of the people that went probably got free tickets off the radio stations but I can assure you that they left that concert saying “I didn’t know who this guy was but I’m getting the album tomorrow and I’m going to start looking him up on MySpace or his website and…” it really has helped and what I find is that it has really helped to open the people’s perspectives a lot and they sort of start realizing that what they thought was indie here in Mexico is really quite big and goes way beyond what sort of music you had sort of catalogued as “indie” and that it’s just sort of a big pool of different artists.

Andrés: And it’s also good because, well, maybe it wasn’t the case with The New Pornographers because we didn’t really meet them very well but we have built some really interesting friendships you know and links with all these other bands. Like The Dears came down and we produced a show and so we became good friends and suddenly Krief, the guitar player came and with it he brought his friends The Stills and then we’re all friends you know and then in exchange we might end up in the near future going up to play with them up there you know. So its great to meet all these people and it helps us a lot you know to see like, oh my god, it’s a much bigger world out there. Because sometimes you get stuck in the trees here, you know, and you lose perspective that…

Armando: Yeaaaah…”this is not the whiskey bottle that I asked for…”

DOA: So tell me a little about your songwriting process. You kind of already explained why you sing in English but I’d like to talk more about what the actual process is like. Do you think in English, write in English? Is there any Spanish or translating involved?

Andrés: Yeah, it’s curious like we do think in English right off.

Luis: No but Spanish is there the whole time because the minute we stop like, say somebody came up with a real good lyric, because we all sit down and try to write.

Andrés: It’s very democratic.

Armando: But the minute someone has a comment on that, it’s in Spanish. But sometimes we do figure out what we’re trying to do in a song and it’s in English but we argue about it in Spanish. At least in my case, I think a lot of things in Spanish

Luis: No wonder your lyrics are so bad!

Andrés: And we always make like, either Luis, Armando or myself, we always bring like, well it’s very rare that one of us comes with a completed song and say…”Ok here’s a song, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus”, you know? But mostly it might be like Luis will come in and say “hey, I’ve got this idea for something that could be this very cool chorus” and we’ll be all “ok, let’s do this…” and so it’s very democratic and we like working that way.

Luis: It’s very Jam…-y
DOA: So like you feed off each other.

Luis: Yeah, exactly, it’s more of a jam setting.

Armando: But it’s cool because…

Luis: We’ll run through ideas and suddenly we’ll run into another thing and then sometimes we’ll end up with something completely different than what we started with.

Andrés: And we always end up like, uh…

Luis: Feeding off each other?

Andrés: And getting parts from different songs like “oh you know this part and this part and this part” like voooom they fit together and it’s a song on it’s own ya know? We got that off Newfeld a lot when we were recording with him, so we felt right at home there ya know. He’d say “maybe we should get this bridge from this song and just change the tuning and…”

Andrés: “…do it like this and this and…”

Armando: And it’s very tune with the whole like friendship thing you know?

Luis: In Tone…it’s very in tone…

Armando: Yeah…the whole friendship thing, seriously because since we really are great friends it’s really, like Andres said, it’s a process where everyone comes with different ideas and we sorta try to work them out and sometimes we’ll get frustrated about not getting anywhere and we’ll just walk away and leave it for the next day and something else will come up and…and it’s really fun.

Andrés: And many ideas come out in just an acoustic guitar.

Luis: We put it through that test because if it sounds good on an acoustic guitar then it will probably sound good with a whole band.

Andrés: That’s because some things come out great in the jam ambience. But then to work on some of the lyrics and the details, the melody details you know, It’s good to just do it right here with an acoustic guitar.

Luis: And then we like to put things through a French horn so that we know how that sounds too.

DOA: Ok so let’s get into the new album, since you were just talking about Dave Newfeld and how you guys worked together. First of all, what brought on the idea to contact him in the first place?

Luis: Curiosity.

Andrés: No, well, we were certain because of our first album that…

Luis: Yeah but more, well we originally wanted to record in Mexico and that was the original idea but…

Armando: Yeah but he was going to say that we were certain that we wanted to work with a producer because we knew there was a lot of stuff in the studio that, I mean, out of straight ignorance we couldn’t squeeze more out of an album and we knew that if we were just with somebody who knew things like how to use this mic with this different amp and if we use this bass then we might get this sound and that’s the stuff we knew we didn’t have.

Luis: Yeah because in the album we recorded back in 2002, the studio has like probably some of the best equipment in Mexico that you can find. All this vintage gear, it was amazing and we had all this amazing stuff and we had no idea how to use it. No idea. So yeah, we kind of thought that if we were going to make an investment again and we want to do something that sounds really good then…

Andrés: And we brought to the table, it was like homework “ok, for tomorrow guys, everybody bring your favorite albums, recent albums, and let’s see which producers we like and then let’s get into Google and…”

Armando: Production-wise, which albums we like or which sound do you think would probably…
Luis: Go well with what we were trying to do at the time.

Andrés: So we loved Newfeld’s production in You Forgot It In People, the Broken Social Scene album, amongst others

Armando: And we like Transassssanassss…

Andrés: Transssansssa…

Luis: Transatlantism.

Armando: And so we wrote to Chris Walla and we also wrote to Gus Van Go.

Andrés: You know, the guy from The Stills and like, we shot emails everywhere and we were surprised that we did have responses you know? From Chris Wall “hey great man, let’s check it out” but we got like the best response from Dave Newfeld. There was like a click you know. And he said “hey, can I listen to some of your stuff?” and so he listened to some of the previous stuff and he said “hey man, cool, I can make a remix of this song and I’m already thinking” and suddenly we were writing about things like not even connected to the music you know so it had sort of become like a close email friendship even before we got into the studio. And so by the time we got to Toronto it was very natural.

Luis: So we just had to link up the face with all the previous email conversations.

Andrés: Exactly. So for the producer, that’s the way we did it. We just said, why not, why shouldn’t we write to the producer directly? A lot of people asked here “Really? And they did answer you?” like yeah, but why not try it.

Armando: And it was a complicated process in the sense that we first thought that it was going to be 2 or 3 songs recorded by Dave Newfeld and then we would have to go back and finish and records other songs but then he sorta got into the album and he said “hey, why don’t you guys come back in 6 months because I am going to start recording this other album right now”

Andrés: He was finishing the other Social Scene album, the red one with the buildings on it.

Armando: Yeah, so we had to come back and it was ok in the sense that it gave us time to come up with new songs, new ideas or polish older ideas.

Luis: And money.

Armando: Yeah, and obviously the money factor and it was like a two year long process and obviously it was just like three small trips.

Andrés: 10 day trips.

Armando: to Toronto, yeah.

Luis: Total quality time recording was probably like 20 or…

Andrés: 20 days max…and not even in the studio.

Armando: So it was like mixed feelings because we were really like excited and into it, obviously it was a great opportunity and it was something that we were loving what we were listening to and stuff like that but at the same time it was really frustrating because it was like, we’re not getting any younger and my wallet isn’t…

Luis: getting any fatter.

Armando: But in the end obviously we are really happy with what came out and we’re really anxious to see what will happen if we have a chance to do another album.

DOA: So getting back to the songwriting process. How integral was Dave Newfeld in helping to put together the songs?

Andrés: He was a big part of it.

Luis: He was like the 6th member of the band. Yeah he originally came with an approach and he was very respectful of our ideas and…

Andrés: Some songs on the album are basically very similar to the demo that we sent but a lot of the other songs like, well, we have 4 songs that are co-written with Dave.

Luis: As the sessions progressed we like really enjoyed his input and he really become involved, like actively involved and saying “oh, why don’t we try this or why don’t we try that?” and so it came to be something more like that than him wanting to like control the session or anything. It was a huge amount of team work I think. Yeah, we enjoyed his input and everything he wanted to bring to the table.

Armando: The only thing he was strict, well he was never really strict like we said, he always respected like he’d say “if that’s your idea then that’s great and I dig it but I think we can make it better sounding by doing this or that”. But the only thing was that he was a little strict with was the lyrics because one time Andres was singing a part and he was like “Now try that, that one word right there, and just make sure you are pronouncing it this way and not…”

Luis: Not toning…tuning…

Armando: Yeah…it’s a good thing I didn’t sing.

Andrés: And some songs like came out like they weren’t even gonna be on the records and they were just like spontaneous little recordings. Like there’s a short little one, “Over Now” that wasn’t even a song, you know it was something that…

Armando: Well, somebody went to the bathroom and he was like…

Andrés: Oh record that! You’re playing the guitar and go get into the blue room and you, sing something and…

Luis: And it took like 10 minutes to make “Over Now”

Andrés: Yeah and some songs were like, one of the trips we didn’t even know what we were going to record. He was like ‘hey guys, you bring your ideas up here and we’ll just work it out” so we were like “oh yeah…”

Armando: And we were like about to spend all our earnings on…

Andrés: Yeah so one of the trips we were like “shit man!” because most…

Luis: We were like “shit man, we have 10 days!”

Andrés: So, because like a lot of, like, usually when you get into the studio it’s like “ok, I know my parts perfectly, I’ve got them down so when I’m in the room everything is pristine and, I don’t know, very fast. Studio time costs and here we didn’t even know what we were going to record and we’re going “Ok Dave, so we’ve got this riff going” and he’s all “that’s fucking cool ok let’s do it” and some songs on the record are done like right on the spot, very spontaneously which gives the album a certain flavor that we ended up loving. So it was like a different process.

Luis: We just decided to stop doing things here and we were just going to do the whole album over there!

DOA: So how has the response been here in Mexico with the release of this Stars and Suns Sessions?

Andrés: We were kind of scared at first, you know, because honestly I don’t think there’s another album that has a similar sound. It’s kind of saturated at moments and it’s not like the typical radio mix like the drums are here, the bass is here, the vocals are here and…

Armando: Well and it’s the same for other bands that have recorded with Newfeld. They have had that sort of “problem” up there you know.

Andrés: And we were like kinda scared about the response but it’s been really positive. We’re not like mainstream, huge Chikita Violenta, but we do have a good fan base and the reviews and media have been really good. We’re very very happy about the response here and it’s beginning to have a response outside of Mexico too, a positive one. So that’s what we’re really shooting for right now.

Armando: Yeah, for the first time in, obviously ever since we got the album out, the first like big step towards making our music available to the North American or European market is that we were able to get the largest independent digital distributor to actually get our record out into all major digital stores. And it was awesome because they sent us an email and we were really excited because apparently IODA, which has a small distribution area and they sometimes choose a couple of releases as like priority releases in the sense that they send a press release out to all the media that they have in their database and apparently Chikita is going to be one of their, well many, but it’s a great opportunity for us because it’s going to be on certain banners on certain web pages and blogs and whatnot. So now, if you like our music you’ll be able to get into our MySpace and buy it off Snocap or go directly to iTunes or emusic and that’s a huge step for us, so we’ll see what happens.

DOA: So in terms of the response you are getting from outside of Mexico, where is that response coming from? MySpace, emails?

Luis: A combination of everything but mostly MySpace. MySpace has been a huge ally in the band because we get messages from everywhere. We got a message once from Malta. Like, oh my god!

Andrés: And once we got a message from Norway. It said “Hey I’m the programmer for the college station in Bergen, Norway and I just want to tell you that “Laydown” is in the top 5” and we were like “holy shit!”

Luis: Yeah like, we are in the top 5 in Norway?

Andrés: And the college station, you know, so it’s great to have that. And it’s something that most Mexican bands do not have. We have the marketing suicide part that we don’t sing in Spanish and it does make it harder for us here but we do encounter all these people from the outside that can listen to the music and like it and can put in a list with all these other bands that they love also.

DOA: So you mentioned that you have a video out…?

Luis: Yes! We recorded it in…

Andrés: July

Luis: Yeah, June/ July and also we produced it too. We got really lucky because 2 friends of ours came up with the idea and they directed it. They were very clear about what they wanted and they knew a lot of people so we were able to get a lot of the materials like for free and the guy that did the photography and the video he worked for free and so it was great. They believed in the product that they were trying to do and for us and it was like the best opportunity ever because we got a really great video, a really great quality video out of it for, well, it really was nothing.

DOA: So now that you have that video out, is there a way for people to see it other than your website?

Andrés: It’s just started…

Armando: It’s helped so much because we’re getting so much feedback from people that just discovered we existed because there’s not really a rock radio station outside of Mexico City but there is a music cable channel.

DOA: Oh ok, so they’ve been seeing it on television?

Armando: Thanks to the video they sorta discovered us and are saying “wow, I didn’t know that you guys existed. I love your music” and they went and got the album and now we get mails from Merida and Oaxaca and Veracruz and…

Luis: Yeah, and we got lucky because some of the tv channels had seen us play live because they’d covered like festivals we’d done and stuff and so they knew who the band was because were able to go there and talk previously about the festivals. And so when the video came out they were like, “Hey, yeah, I know you” and so it really helped a lot for them to re-invite us and sort of do the promotion for the video.

Andrés: We did two videos in one day and the other one will hopefully be out by the end of the year. We did one for “War” and also one for “Laydown”.

Armando: In Mexico, it’s a smart move to have a video.

Luis: And I don’t think we would be able to, like with our kind of music, I don’t know that we would even be able to get TV airplay out in the US. Maybe not, I doubt it with the style of music but here for some reason the TV channels that do the music videos put on like a huge pool of music and sometimes one thing doesn’t have anything to do with the other in the programming but…

Armando: Not in the states neither but the difference is that there are so many bands out there with videos and stuff like that so probably only the mainstream get airplay.

Andrés: Or maybe like on MTV2.

DOA: Ugh, I can’t even remember the last time I saw a music video on television in the states. They just don’t exist in the way that they used to. The new thing is viewing videos on the web.

Armando: Whereas here, if you want to hear what’s sounding in Mexico there’s only like a certain amount of…

Andrés: And it’s something that you gotta do. Sometimes it’s funny we’ll go to the video channel and they’re playing like a pop band right before our video you know, which is kinda weird for us but it’s also a smart move because people hear well, as long as people get to listen to us, that’s great and they will pick out what they like.

Luis: Yeah, some people love it and some people hate it. But yeah, it’s helped. People either love us or they hate us.

DOA: So do you guys have any plans for another album in the near future?

Andrés: Yeah. Hopefully we can do the follow-up album with Dave in Toronto.

Armando: If all goes well, yeah, in maybe March or…

Luis: Well, as soon as he finishes his studio because that’s also…

Andrés: It’s very hard to predict what Dave Newfeld’s work, like with dates, it’s very hard to plan with the way he works and the way he is. But he’s building a new studio in the Toronto countryside. It’s a church and it’s going to have a studio in it.

Luis: But he’s building it himself. He’s doing like all the acoustic set up and everything himself

Andrés: And we’ve obviously been very much in touch with him since the album release and we’re always writing each other and sending everything like reviews or the video or what’s happening and he’s feeding us back information on what he’s doing and hopefully…

Armando: We’re saving money already and basically with the way things are happening it will probably be early 2008.

Andrés: Yeah, we’re even thinking as a far-fetched plan that maybe if we could get a tour going that maybe we could end it up in Toronto, record, and then come back to Mexico. That would be amazing but yeah the plan is that we’re working on it! We are working on new material and we’re planning to do it for early next year in Toronto again with Newfeld. We hope. With him. Yes.

Luis: In the countryside.

Armando: In Toronto.

Andrés: It’s really cold in Toronto.

DOA: And so at this point, with the album only available in it’s physical form in Mexico, our readers can find you’re latest album The Stars and Suns Sessions in most digital stores?

Armando: Yeah like iTunes, emusic, off our MySpace page and if all goes well, in 2008 it will be available physically as well.