Download: Las Rubias Del Norte's "Porque Te Vas"
Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
Las Rubias Del Norte founder Olivier Conan describes his band's sound as a "European approach to Latin music," but really they take more of an "Internet generation approach to Latin music." Their third album Ziguala, out today on Barbès, proudly plucks from countless traditions--Tex Mex, Bollywood, Kurt Weill--all given a gorgeous, nostalgic, cinematic melanchol, and the irresistable lilt of Latin-tinged exotica circa 1953. The soaring dual vocals of Allyssa Lamb and Emily Hurst have the unadorned cool of a Codeine-drenched Yma Sumac; meanwhile, the seven other members of the band pluck and sway--mandolins prickle, Farfisas are poked, claves clack evocatively, string quartets swirl off the ancient records found at estate sales, romances are evoked in the desert wind. Opener "Porque Te Vas" is a cover of the 1976 hit by Spanish-via-California-via-London folk singer Jeanette. Says Conan, "Jeanette, the original singer, was not Spanish and had this almost autistic disconnect with the lyrics. As a result, the song feels both very mournful and very detached, which is most of its appeal. We tried to keep that approach, while still appropriating it."
Las Rubias Del Norte founder Olivier Conan on "Porque Te Vas"
What is "Porque Te Vas" about?
"Porque Te Vas" is, unsurprisingly, about a loved one leaving. On a train. It's unclear whether the couple broke up or whether one of them just had to leave town, but either way, it's about as melancholy of a song as you can find anywhere. My favorite lines are from the third verse:
Ajo la penumbra de un farol Se dormirán Todas las cosas que quedaron por decir Se dormirán
Below the cast shadows of a street lamp They'll fall asleep All the things that were left to say They'll fall asleep
We kept the rhythm as straight as possible while adding a Latin feel to it--kind of a robotic cumbia in the chorus. And we use an organ to make it sound more mournful, but we use a farfisa to add an extra layer of playfulness. We added a bridge with a bit of Perez Prado hint to it, to give people time to breathe a bit between all the grieving.
What inspired its slinky groove?
Slinky? Hey, watch what you say....
What are you trying to conjure with such a relaxed sound? How do you feel it fits into the feel of New York?
The sound seems relaxed at first, but it's really more of a pent-up kind of relaxation. Imagine a woman who is lamenting the fact that her boyfriend left. She has been crying for so long that she has almost no emotions left. She's about to snap. The sound should convey a similar feeling. Something's not completely right. Just like New York, when things are too quiet, you expect something bad to happen, relaxation turns into anxiety, nostalgia turns into fear.
What inspired you to take such a diverse direction on this album? Were your iPods just overflowing with stuff?
Stuff is infinite. That's what they call a true statement, isn't it? We do have music from every corner, and somehow, we've forgotten what is mainstream or not, cheesy or not, so we end up processing it all trying to own it. All the music we cover is familiar to us in ways that it shouldn't be, but we've lost perspective at this point and we go with our own reality.
What's been your most memorable New York show?
The release party for our very first CD, at Barbes, a number of years ago. A giant speaker fell on the upright bass and smashed a hole bigger than a bull's head. Somehow, we managed to play the show.
What's your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
Mmmm... that's a hard one. Could be the huaraches cart at the Red Hook soccer field. Still haven't gotten sick of it after all these years.
Las Rubias Del Norte play Joe's Pub on Friday, March 12
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