Making Movies are wrapping a year of monumental success. With that year coming to an end, the cumbia rockers just released a single and in an interview reflected on working with legend Rubén Blades and their music in 2019.
The band made up of Enrique Chi, Juan Carlos Chaurand, Andres Chaurand, and Diego Chi are well know for their cool cumbia embedded rock that speaks to both audiences of their home country of Mexico and in the United States where they established themselves.
But their music goes far beyond earphones and streaming services; Making Movies’ music has become anthems of unity and hope covering border topics and more. It’s music that you can sway to but with an ethos, that also transports you and speaks like a speech of peace and esperanza at a protest.
In an interview over email, Enrique Chi–vocalist of the band– discussed the album which came out earlier this year, working with Rubén Blades as well as putting out a song that Blades had written with Lou Reed, how their latest single changed direction, and what’s next for the band.
1. The album ameri’kana came out earlier in 2019 and I’ve seen several strings of dates but has there been a straightforward tour for the album or is there one planned or why the sporadic dates?
In the fall we did a West Coast run called the Panameri’kana Tour with our friends Los Rakas. This year just came together that way, we had some international offers around the time of release so we spent time in Mexico and Panamá as it was released. That shaped some of the more sporadic touring around the record.
2. “Delilah” was co-written by Lou Reed. How did the collaboration come about and does the song have any new meaning for you since his passing?
Rubén Blades and Lou Reed were writing songs together 30 years ago for an album called Nothing But The Truth. Delilah was one of the songs that they wrote in that time period but for one reason or another it didn’t make the record. As we were working on ameri’kana, Rubén showed us the song as he felt it fit with the themes we were writing about.
3. Before moving on to your work with Rubén, Lou Reed passed away in 2013, a year before your first album was released. How long had this new one (ameri’kana) been in the works? Being a work on immigrant injustice, has the album changed direction musically or lyrically between 2013 and now with the very different political atmospheres?
The concept for ameri’kana started with our first conversations with Rubén Blades. He discovered our music and wanted to collaborate. After working on No Te Calles together, it became clear that this album had a strong message. Rubén taught us to think of albums like a book, picture the title, the chapters and then find the songs that communicate what you want to say. We were working in direct response to the racist rhetoric and policies that were being put into place. Coming from immigrant families, our music has always spoken on these subjects as we naturally would write about the world around us, but we had not written with such intention about social justice until this moment.
Rubén’s influence helped remind us that these issues have a long history and they are not unique to the United States. For example he rewrote the intro to “Cómo Perdonar,” I had written an intro speaking to the situation that we currently face with family separations at the US Border and Rubén re-focused it on a universal truth––these injustices have happened across many borders and generations. When he introduced “Delilah” into the mix it felt eerily current though the words were written thirty years ago. His wisdom really influenced this record and we will carry that with us.
4. From album to album, you seem to work more and more with other artists. Do you particularly enjoy collaborating or have these songs just felt the need for more voices in them?
I think both things are true. I love collaborating, you learn so much from other artists. Also, the vision for this album was to make it feel like a radio station, an oldies station that you run into on a late night drive between cities––as it’s coming in and out of focus, you realize that all the songs are speaking to social justice issues. Having different voices on the album, and a mix of material from different eras, helped to create that feeling.
5. This latest album specifically features a lot of collaborating with Rubén Blades whom you also have announced this date with, in Mexico City on the 20th. When did you start working with him and what has that experience been like? Has it impacted your musical stylings at all?
There is a patience and wisdom in Rubén’s vocal delivery that I feel you could write a whole thesis on and his lyricism is so efficient and powerful. He wastes no syllables; Working side by side, and writing together for the first time, were all huge learning experiences but after spending a year singing his poetry, for example when we perform “No Te Calles,” I’ve developed a deeper understanding of its power.
6. About this latest single “Accidente”, the track is very hopeful and is about living in the present. Where did this sentiment come from?
After working on ameri’kana, where the writing felt like it was outward facing, it spoke to big social concepts, I felt the need to turn inward. Real social change begins with individuals, and it begins with a deeper understanding of your own existence. To me all songs are social, all songs are political, if you are singing about the truth. The powers that be do not want conscious constituents so in a way this song is as much a social justice song as anything on our album. It felt like the natural progression, we are in a place where we have to wake up and fight for the things we believe in but the fight is a marathon and not a sprint. Taking care of your mind and your spirit are essential so you can endure the journey. That’s what the song is about to me.
7. The artwork comes from your friend Joel Ramirez; was his car in an accident? How was the connection between that accident and the song/song’s artwork made?
That was purely by coincidence. We had plans of using our friends beautiful sports car (Austin Healy 3000) in one of our music videos this spring. The weekend we had finished the song and were on deadline for the cover art, our friend was in a scary car accident, in his precious sports car. We were grateful no one was hurt and though it was an unfortunate twist of fate, we were able to immortalize the moment by connecting that image to this song.
8. Is this single part of another album? What does the band have planned after the next few scheduled dates?
We don’t like to show our cards too soon but I will say that we are making tons of new music, videos and campaigns. The next few months will be spent creating more than touring. There is a lot happening in the world, the message of ameri’kana feels more urgent than six months ago, I think that our creative output will reflect that.
By Antonio Villasenor-Baca