The Indie Opera Quartet With The Exclamation Point Reflects On A Pioneering Mexico City Career...Whatevs
Latin music fans might be disappointed to see that just a tiny number of Spanish-speaking acts were booked this year for Coachella. But at least the ones they booked are fairly awesome. Hello Seahorse!, Ximena Sariñana and Le Bucherettes are holding down for Mexico at the festival this year, bringing a range of pop, rock, and indie sounds from below the Rio Grande to the festival.
As we saw just a few weeks ago at the Vive Latino festival in Mexico City, Hello Seahorse! knows how to rock in front of a crowd. The band performed on the main stage to an audience of rabid fans that knew all the lyrics. Since forming in 2005, the quartet has steadily risen to the top of the Mexican rock scene with a sound comprised of electronic textures, carefully layered guitars and glockenspiels, and indie-pop drum beats.
Hello Seahorse! is led by Denise Gutiérrez, who performs under the pseudonym Lo Blondo. Behind her angular blonde locks and librarian-worthy glasses, Gutiérrez hides an extremely powerful set of vocal chords. She’s a trained opera singer, and occasionally breaks out vocal cartwheels that would fit right into a classical aria. We caught Gutiérrez and diminutive drummer Bonnz (pronounced “Bones”) backstage at Vive Latino and chatted about meeting on MySpace, the Latin rock landscape, and their upcoming third album.
So Denise, you were born in California, right? How’d you become a rock star in Mexico?
Denise: I was born in Los Angeles — I’m half American and half Mexican. There’s a lot of people like that here in Mexico [laughs]. So I was born there, but I never lived there. I was raised in Mexico City. I decided to be a singer because it’s just what I have to do, I need to make sound, that’s what I am.
I think the band has a really original sound. When you started, it was not something we were hearing much in the Latin rock scene at all. Did you plan out how the band would sound or did it just happen that way?
Bonzz: I don’t think it’s planned out. The band started just for fun – after that it became a job and it became more serious, but we still just make music that we like to make. Each one of us has different influences, and we mix it all up.
I read that you all met on MySpace of all things… I love that story because MySpace is now is such a relic of that time in music history in the early 2000s.
Bonzz: Does it still exist even?
Denise: We met through MySpace and it’s just funny how right now, six years later we’re still together and we’re about to go on stage at this big festival. We didn’t know anything about each other before, we had nothing in common. I think that’s really amazing.
Have you played such a big stage before? It looks pretty intimidating out there to me.
Denise: It’s pretty intense, but we’re really excited and calm. We’ve been fortunate to be playing a lot recently.
What is the importance of rock music in Mexico and what kind of support does the scene have?
Bonnz: I think it’s very important because rock music in Mexico had a period of time in the ‘70s when it was banned by the government. There weren’t mainstream rock bands you know, just underground bands. Then in the ‘80s the record labels came and saw all the rock that was playing in the underground clubs and brought the bands to the mainstream…
That was the generation of Café Tacvba?
Bonnz: Yes exactly, Café Tacvba and La Maldita Vecindad and all of them came from that. But it’s weird — we don’t have these big rock idols from years and years like the US or Argentina. In Mexico, rock is still very young, so it’s an honor to be part of that movement and keeping it alive, I think.
From the Vive Latino festival, it sure seems like there’s a VERY enthusiastic audience for it…
Denise: In Mexico, people live rock. They do. All different genres: ska and punk and even pop. We’re a really musical country, and the crowd is really supportive for new acts as well as old acts. It’s a constantly evolving scene, and we really hope it’s going to get even better.
What kinds of bands are you listening to these days and excited about?
How does folkloric music play a part?
Denise: Somehow it has to go into your music – it’s in you, it’s in your daily life. And maybe you don’t think in that language, but it’s inside you, so it will come out sooner or later. At least in our music it does.
Tell me about this last album. I’ve read that it was composed in the forest?
Denise: The last album is called Lejos no tan lejos. We did work it out in the woods. We decided to take a couple of days off to keep distractions away and just concentrate on what we wanted to say with the album. Now we’re working on a new album, with an Argentinean producer based here in Mexico. And this album will come more from the city.
Will the location influence the sound or the subject matter? What can fans expect from this coming album?
Denise: We try to approach different sounds and rhythms each time we make a new song. With the lyrics, I talk about the same subjects every time but it just depends on how you approach each subject. It’s about where on the mountain you’re standing, and how you are looking at that subject, whether its love or hate or nostalgia or whatever.