Words and interview by Samantha Edussuriya
When we shot with Bomba Estéreo for our secret show, things were a little hectic. Mics were being brought in, the a/c needed more power, and we were triple-checking everything to make sure the show went smoothly. But when we found Li Saumet and Simón Mejia taking a break backstage, we jumped at the chance to interview them because we had so many questions that no amount of furious googling could answer.
They graciously sat down with us and the conversation was a blast! Simon answered in English and Li mostly in Spanish. The full interview is transcribed and translated into English here, but scroll down to check out the subtitled video interview — Simon’s expression when we dug into his 16-year-old cover band past is priceless!
If a fan wanted to buy you a drink, what would you like?
Simón: A tequila because I love tequila. The best drink in the world, after Aguardiente from Colombia.
Liliana: Caipirinha with kiwi!
Liliana is from the coast and Simón’s from Bogotá. How did you two meet?
Liliana: OK, we met at a concert, and later he invited me to sing with him on a track, a song called “Huepajé.”And we met in Bogotá.
Simón: We met when I was doing the first Bomba Estéreo album and it was more of a kind of instrumental album. I was looking for some singers to sing over the songs. And then a friend of mine who owned the studio where I was working was friends with Liliana, so he told me Liliana sings very beautiful, so I invited her to the studio and we made this song. After that song we fell in love… musically [laughs]. And then we kept on working together. That was like five years ago.
It was the first single, the first Bomba Estéreo single from the first album that is called “Volume 1.” The first single, the song that began the Bomba Estéreo movement.
What did Liliana Do before joining Bomba Estéreo? Were you in another band?
Liliana: I was in a band for a very short time, I don’t know, like six months before. It was called Mr. Gomez En Bombay, but later I started with Bomba Estéreo.
Simón, you were in a Metallica cover band?
Simón: [laughs] Yes.
And then a cover band of The Cure?
Simón: Actually we did Metallica covers, Slayer, Metallica, Suicidal Tendencies, Sepultura. And I had long hair and everything. But then I quit. And then I became a Cure fan, so I made a Cure cover band. And after that I made another band that was just making original music, no more covers. And then after that I made electronic music and then I made Bomba Estéreo.
Did you see that there was a path? From Sepultura to the Cure?
Simón: A strange path. It’s like growing up. When you’re very young you like heavy music. Then you like a little bit of small, not too heavy music, then you like electronic music, and then you like tropical music [laughs] When you learn to dance, you start to like tropical music.
And so then you found cumbia so isn’t that a part of growing up and then deciding to take the cumbia music and make it popular again?
Simón: It was like, being that we are Colombian and you have to make the music that comes from your country. So, not heavy metal, not rock, not electronic but Colombian music. So it was like that way of thinking.
Are you influenced by other music from other South American countries? Like Baile Funk, funk carioca in Brazil, are you interested or do you want to keep it Colombian?
Simón: No, very much, very much. We love the rest of the music. We love Mexican music also. We’re very inspired and influenced by Nortec Collective in Mexico, baile funk in Brazil, so I think we’re going to explore.
Simón: Afro, Afro-influenced rhythms that go from Mexico into Argentina.
Is there a band that you want to collaborate with? A dream collaboration? Like Nortec Collective? Or is there another band that you haven’t done anything with that you really want to?
Liliana: Yes, we would love to collaborate with other bands very much… To collaborate with other bands, or well, doing things together because what’s important is to mix the music… to do it honestly, to fuse all the rhythms, we like that a lot, so collaboration is perfect because we can acquire things from other cultures, and they can listen to things we do, and to do them together is great. There are a lot of bands maybe, contemporary bands. Like Buraka Som Sistema and… what are they called…
Balkan Beat Box?
Liliana: Balkan Beat box!
Simón: You know everything. [laughs]
What did you listen to when you were 16?
Liliana: I was listening to everything. I was listening to cumbia, I was listening to tropical music, I was listening to funk, I was listening to 70s music, from every part of the world. African, American, vallenato. And a lot that they listened to on the coast. A little rock too. Not Metallica [laughs].
Simón: I forgot to mention that after Metallica, there was the whole grunge when I was 16. There was Nirvana, Pearl jam, Soundgarden, especially Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins.
When we interviewed you at SXSW, you said the thing you miss the most from Colombia was suero? Did you find any here yet?
Liliana:No. There’s something like it here called sour cream, but it’s never like the coastal suero.
Simón: And you wouldn’t want to have some suero with your clothes in the bag. It would be a terrible situation. It could affect the whole tour, they don’t book you anymore if that happens.