Before their set in Vancouver on May 09, the guys from Rey Pila and I took a stroll to a nearby restaurant to have a quick gab about what they have been up to the last few years. They were incredibly polite, and clearly have a great time with one another after spending a lot of time on the road.
Concert Addicts: So just about everything I have read on you guys while doing a bit of whirlwind prep over the last few days, and it’s difficult, there’s not a heck of a lot floating around yet on you guys, but everything really focuses on Mexico, so I wanna get every little bit of my Mexico questions out of the way so we can move on to music. But it is hard for us to fathom up here anything about a Mexican rock scene [we have the same thing in Canada, bands famous here that no one else knows outside the country] as we just don’t hear a lot about it up here. Do you have any theories on why the rock scene is so insular down there? Seems like there’s a lot of bands, you guys talk about bands, the venues, enthusiastic fans and everything else.
Andrés Velasco (guitar): Well maybe, language first of all, like most bands in Mexico, at least rock bands, and other genres, sing in Spanish so maybe that doesn’t help get some traction outside of Mexico. After that, I think that would be the main reason, right. After that, it just comes down to the music, you know, if bands are trying to get signed outside of Mexico. I mean some are, you know, but we’ve been trying to, touring North America and Europe in the last three years and trying to get some noise for us and something happening here, and we just got signed a couple years ago by an American label so yeah, I don’t know. There is a big rock scene in Mexico, Mexico City especially, and the fans are I think some of the best fans in the world, like if you ever go to a show in Mexico, yeah, they go nuts.
Concert Addicts: How is the support network down there for bands, like through labels and venues and other bands, promoters, things like that – not so much the fans, we know they’re enthusiastic, but as far as helping launch bands’ careers, the support players.
Andrés: In Mexico? Well there’s a lot more infrastructure, for rock and roll at least, in North America you know. You can tour for months and months and play every day. In Mexico there’s not many cities or markets. You can hit maybe just the major cities and maybe you have to be really big and known to get the smaller cities and get a crowd out. So you basically tour just the weekends and go back to Mexico City. It’s very centralized in that way. And you know there’s been a boom in venues, a lot more, a lot of new venues in Mexico City, so we’re getting there. We’re getting there.
Concert Addicts: The label that you guys are on in Mexico is Arts & Crafts. We have one up here too, I was very confused for a while…
Andrés: It’s the same one.
Concert Addicts: It is the same! Okay! I thought the roster of artists seemed a bit odd if it were local.
Andrés: It’s the same. It’s a Mexican office of Arts & Crafts, the Toronto label.
(interrupted here to order dinner… Diego told me we can blend both our cultural cuisines here as they had poutine, nachos and quesadillas on the menu.)
Miguel Hernández (bass): I’m okay.
Andrés: And i’ll have a quesadilla.
Miguel: Actually I’ll have a quesadilla too.
Concert Addicts: Ah, why not?!
Andrés: He can’t do without his quesadillas.
Concert Addicts: Hopefully they measure up. Music transcends borders so much now, the internet age and everything, does it even matter anymore really do you think where a band is from originally?
Diego Solórzano (vocals): Not really. We actually struggle with that back in Mexico. People label us as being like a Mexican, like a Latin band. I mean it’s true, of course, we’re from Mexico, we love Mexico, but music is like an international thing, especially rock and roll, and it’s in English. I don’t know we get the same thing, they get through this thing where like the language barrier in certain countries might be an issue. But we’re definitely going on with the plans and working and just basically having fun.
Concert Addicts:How do you feel right now navigating the industry in this digital age? Your influences, a lot of them, the new-wave/pop that bleeds in a lot of course, they would have done things very very differently [in the 80s]. Do bands have to work harder now to stand out from the crowd because there’s so much music that everyone has access to, or do you think they had to work harder before because it was harder to get your music out to people?
Diego: There definitely more bands now, in the world, in general ever since Myspace. Somebody like moved a rock and tons of bands just started falling out…
Andrés: it’s easier to get your music out there for sure. Anyone can do it now. But it’s much harder to get attention, you know, every day everyone is listening to the new single by this and a new single by that and the new album dropping and you know, it’s hard to catch up with all the new music. Everyone’s fighting for the same spaces and media outlets and radio, so I guess that forces you to become better at what you are and just work harder, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
Diego: In a way it’s sort of like a matter of simple production, if there are more bands, not all of them are going to be great so when you have a lot of things, there’s a lot of production, a lot of quality gets lost in a way.
Concert Addicts: Your rise up the ladder seems fairly meteoric of late, it seems like it came quite quickly, like over the last couple years a lot of things have happened for you guys [signing, big tours]. Does it feel like it was fast for you?
All: No… no no.
Diego: No, it’s been like five years. Probably really been more like seven.
Andrés: The album’s not out and we recorded it almost three years ago so it seems it’s taken forever but in the meantime, a lot of good things have been happening, so we just kept on moving and moving and moving and in the end I think it will be the best time to release it. It will come at a better time for us I guess than if it would have come out maybe three years ago.
Concert Addicts: Have you done anything to keep those songs fresh? Did you rework them at all along the way?
Diego: Three times. Three different times. We recorded it. Then we remixed with Shawn Everett, actually from Canada, and one last mix that we just did for the songs again with the owner of the label that we work on, Julian Casablancas, and he wanted to get involved with the album so we went to his studio, we recorded three new songs, and remixed the album.
Andrés: We needed patience a little bit.
Concert Addicts: And now that’s pushed the album release back a little further again…
Andrés: Yeah, but it will be in the next couple of months for sure. We released like three or four songs already that are out as singles digitally, so there’s stuff out there already.
Concert Addicts:I know you said too when Julian Casablancas started calling you guys you kind of didn’t believe it for a while?
Diego: Yeah during that time, when that happened, we were actually touring in Canada and the US, like the east coast in Toronto, Montreal and…
Andrés:..and Ottawa with a Canadian band called the Darcys
Concert Addicts: Oh the Dar – were you really with the Darcys? I like the Darcys.
Andrés: Yeah, like three years ago.
Diego: We were touring, the story is we… it’s quite funny… you know one of those like accidental things that still happens. We were playing in Mercury Lounge in New York, actually, that gig, that day was the elections in the US and that hurricane, what’s the name of that hurricane…
Rodrigo Blanco (guitar) + Andrés: Sandy.
Diego: Sandy just passed over and we weren’t sure if we were gonna play and half of the city was with no lights and it was like a mess, like an apocalyptic type of thing. So there were like ten people at the show or something like that at Mercury lounge… I mean that tour was kind of like that a little bit, but a good friend of the band said, ‘hey, Julian Casablancas is interested in your band.’ Things by that time had been really hard with like touring and working and working, so I didn’t believe it at all. I was like, ‘yeah, whatever, don’t say this to me now ’cause i’m really touchy.’ It ended up being true because I received like three emails from Julian saying that he wanted to meet in person or talk about the songs and bla bla bla. I didn’t believe it at all. And then he just sent an email completely honest, saying, ‘come on dude, it’s really me.’
Concert Addicts: So still kind of a bit of a dream, like can you quite believe it that you’re on his label now, he’s into you guys, he’s pushing for you guys. Is it still kind of surreal after working for such a long time at it?
Andrés: Yeah it’s still a bit… it’s becoming more familiar as we know him, have a closer relationship with him now and he’s becoming a friend too, but yeah, it’s a bit surreal.
Concert Addicts: The first time I saw [The Strokes] they were opening for the Doves here and it was the same thing, there were like 20 people in the room and there to see the Doves, and the Strokes are kind of over there compared to the Doves and people weren’t quite so sure. But look at them now. Up and up and up.
Diego: I was talking with a friend from New York and I was saying just like the accident theory, that success in this business is an accident, and he was saying like, ‘hey don’t say that ’cause that makes your work like…’
Diego: Yeah, like it’s nothing. ‘Cause you’re there all the time to get that ‘accident.’
Concert Addicts: Vancouver last time – this is your second time here yeah? And the last time wasn’t that long ago, with Interpol just in September. So you’re playing a much different club this time here and you’re playing at a much different hour … do you guys have a preference over playing in dark bars or bigger shows or festivals?
Diego: They both have their appeal.
Andrés: Playing small bars is a lot of fun too and festivals can be good… we like all of them. We are all-terrain access.
Concert Addicts: You guys looking forward to anything on this tour? I know it’s pretty early days still, just a couple days in.
Diego: When the time starts passing by when you’re touring and you start realizing that youre in this, that’s gonna be your day to day thing you know, you almost have a… you get used to it. I just like hanging with the band, having fun, playing football.
Andrés: Yeah we’re going to some cities we havent been to before, like Detroit, Nashville, Boston, we’re playing the Music Hall of Williamsburg in New York which we haven’t played ever so some cool… in Toronto at Lee’s Palace, that will be cool. Vancouver, we loved Vancouver, so being back here again.
Concert Addicts: This is quite a different matchup from last time. If you would sort of superficially listen to you guys and then put on an Interpol record, it seems to ‘match’ a little bit more than you guys with The Rentals. How are the Rentals fans warming up to you guys?
Andrés + Diego: Great, yeah good.
Andrés: It might mean less of a [crowd] for us… or not! Because they play a lot of synths too so…
Diego: Maybe there’s a line that tie the two bands together… The Cars? Yeah like that.
Concert Addicts: How did you guys hook up with each other?
Andrés: We were just submitting for tours and that’s about it.
Concert Addicts: Did you gain any insight on the last tour with Interpol that you might be able to apply to this tour this time around?
Diego: Yeah It’s hard to be in a van for 10 hours or 12 so you have to mentally prepare… we have more movies and iTunes.
Rodrigo: The van is better. We have a new van.
Andrés: Moving up the ladder.
All: New tour manager [pointing to tour manager Patrick, who is sitting at the end of the table]!
Concert Addicts: Is there anything you’d like to tell people in general about you guys?
Andrés: Yeah that the album, keep posted for the album coming out, and we’re excited. Obviously on our social media, to just remember the name and when it comes out, just give it a listen. That’s all we want. We were talking about all this new music and everything so I think if someone takes half an hour of their life to listen to new music, at least ten minutes, five minutes, that’s all we ask for. Then if you like it…[shrug].
Concert Addicts: So I used to run a music magazine years ago and when we did interviews, we did this little ten questions thing that were all just point blank so just to get back into it, this is my first set of interviews after like 8 years, so I’m gonna bring these in.
Andrés: Fire away!
Concert Addicts: What do you guys do when you’re on your downtime between shows, on the road?
Andrés: We were playing with the football…We can’t say ‘soccer’ because they will kill us back in Mexico.
Concert Addicts: What is your vice of choice?
Various: Pizza! Women!
Andrés: Mikey [Miguel] – your vice of choice?
Concert Addicts: What is your favourite venue or city to play in?
Andrés: I think we are still discovering new cities and new venues.
Diego: I like Piano Hall in New York City.
Concert Addicts: What was your favourite Saturday morning cartoon?
Diego: I have one now. Uncle Grandpa. Cartoon Network?
Sebastian Farrugia (drums): Animaniacs.
Rodrigo: GI Joe.
Diego: We’re like an 80s band, right?
Concert Addicts: If you could be anyone in the world for a day, who would it be and what would you hope to accomplish?
Diego: Mikey. [laughter] And do whatever the day brings. [uproarious laughter]
Concert Addicts: What issues and aspects of the world most concern you these days (positive or negative)?
Diego: There’s more protests now than there has been in the past few weeks. That’s a sign of something happening in the world.
Andrés: The drug war. The drug trade in general and the mafia.
Miguel: World peace. [chorus of aws and giggles]
Concert Addicts: What interview question would you hope to never hear again, that hopefully I didn’t ask?
Diego: What question do we hope to never hear again? Why do you sing in English?
Andrés:… why do you sing in English? [miming me asking or writing down, laughter]
Concert Addicts: Notes for next time! What did you want to be when you were growing up?
All: Football player!
Andrés: Or soccer, they would say soccer.
Concert Addicts: I understand! Okay this is kind of a goofy one and it kind of has maybe something to do with your Blast cover [which features a shark graphic]. There’s a shark and there’s a bear and they are going to get into a fight. There is a small pool that the shark can fit in, and in the middle of the pool, there is a little rock that the bear is standing on. Neither can get away from the other. They fight to the death – grizzly and great white. Who wins?
Andrés: The bear.
Concert Addicts: The bear!
Andrés: He knows how to fish.
Concert Addicts: Fair enough, you’re gonna go for the bear. I totally thought you guys would say shark, but all right.
Andrés: Next t-shirt and album cover’s gonna be a bear.
Concert Addicts: And finally, do you have any questions for me?
Diego: What’s your favourite Saturday morning cartoon?
Concert Addicts: You know I was quite partial to My Little Pony when I was a kid. The girl version of GI Joe I guess. Oh and She-Ra.
Andrés: What’s the best show you’ve ever been to?
Concert Addicts: Oh that’s a hard one.
Rodrigo: The most… ever? Or maybe the last like…
Andrés: No, ever.
Concert Addicts: That’s a really tough one. You know if we’re talking about sheer memorability, it’s hard to beat a Flaming Lips show. It’s such a carnival. So those ones really stick out. I’ll go with that for now.
Andrés: What’s your favourite Canadian band?
Rodrigo: Rush? Haha.
Andrés: Deeedoodeedoodeeedooo [mimicking riff from Tom Sawyer]
Concert Addicts: Yeah am I supposed to say the Tragically Hip? I’m very partial to bands that have bird names, it’s really weird. But none of them are Canadian. Guillemots, they’re from the UK. Shearwater is American. Who’s my favourite Canadian band? I like a lot of my friends’ bands, does that count? Sam Roberts, Matt Mays, Wintersleep. You guys should listen to a band called ACTORS. They’re actually from Vancouver and I know the singer of the band for quite a few years and they have the same kind of new wavey, really synthy, dark, super cool vibe.
Andrés: Who’s your favourite Mexican band?
Concert Addicts: You guys! [collective yayyy]
Concert Addicts: You may be the ONLY Mexican band we know, it would be between you guys and Los Lobos so it’s not really much of a competition. Those are the only ones that made it up here.
Rodrigo: What’s your favourite drink?
Concert Addicts: Scotch. I know, it’s kind of high class.
Rodrigo: Nice, single malt? …We played Glasgow, more than a year ago, and we kept drinking beers because that’s what you do on tour, drink beers. And suddenly Andrés was like, beers…we’re in Glasgow! We ended up asking for a really good single malt and it ended up being way cheaper than beer.
Have a look at set photos and the live review of Rey Pila’s show in Vancouver at Electric Owl on May 09.
Check out more on Rey Pila and keep an eye out for their album The Future Sugar in the next couple of months.