Sons to Hernán Hernández, one of the key members of Mexico’s biggest norteño groups Los Tigres Del Norte, brothers Raul y Mexia have been touted as one of the Latin music acts to pay attention to in 2013. I did a phone interview with them right before the release of their first single “Las Escondidas” (available on ) from their upcoming and highly anticipated debut album Arriba y Lejos. They shared stories of breaking into the industry at their own accord, about what life was like for them growing up, and how it has led them to the new musical venture they are embarking together. They lead to shift away from the shadow of their dad’s group to cement their own bicultural sound that others could relate to.
In 2010, you did a song titled “Todos Somos Arizona” that was inspired by SB1070 and at the moment you each had your side projects. How did you decide to finally work together?
Raul: Actually, when we were doing our side projects, becoming a group never really crossed our minds. It was kind of those things, I did romantic pop music. I thought I was Luis Miguel. Nah, I’m just kidding. My brother did rap and when the whole thing came out in Arizona we both acted out of frustration and said let’s go out there and make a song.
Mexia: We were watching the news and like my brother said, we just acted out of frustration. This was not only going on in Arizona but it was going on in a few other states as well with things like the Dream Act. Being that our father is from Los Tigres Del Norte and they kind of had that message in their music, it has been instilled in us, in the sense to speak out when we feel we need to. So we wrote the song and got in the studio. At first, we didn’t think of even putting it out there, we kind of just did it because we are music lovers first and foremost. We made a little small homemade video of the song and posted it on YouTube, and Jorge Ramos (Al Punto con Jorge Ramos) saw it. He loved it and invited us to be on his show. From there on, we thought we should do more music together and here we are now, promoting Arriba y Lejos, our first album.
I heard the album and I noticed that you steered away from political content, was this a conscious effort or your behalf to not get categorized as a political group?
M: We did record a couple songs that unfortunately did not make the album. We wanted to stay away from that a little bit since we had already done that with “Todos Somos Arizona.” With this project, we really wanted to hit the pop market and make it a mainstream thing if possible, and so the idea was to do something bigger than what we did.
I ALWAYS CALL OUR MUSIC “MÚSICA CAMPECHANA,”
IT’S LIKE THE SALSA AND THE CEVICHE WITH A LITTLE BIT OF ALL OUR
INFLUENCES OF THE MUSIC WE LOVE AND ARE PROUD OF.
How do you feel about being added to the Nacional roster given that you sound different than the artists they usually release?
R: For us it’s an honor to be part of such a talented group of people. Nacional has a very diverse mindset. This is an album that would be considered pop, it’s different for Nacional. We’ve been trying to find an outlet and put our foot in the door, and Nacional is taking a chance with us by supporting and backing us up and it is an honor. I think, because of who we are related to, that people think things come easy for us, but that is not the case. We’ve been fighting hard these last couple years to get into the industry and it took us three years to record this album. Right now we want to find our niche and get in the door first and then start bringing out those songs like “Todos Somos Arizona.”
M: It’s perfect for us being that Nacional brings culture and diversity to music — that is what we are trying to bring. Nowadays in Latino culture, there are no borders and barriers, and it’s not just one thing that we listen to. One day, I’ll listen to Childish Gambino’s album and from there to a Vicente Fernandez record. I think that’s what our music represents: how diverse and mixed up are the youth of today. I always call our music “Música Campechana,” it’s like the salsa and the ceviche with a little bit of all our influences of the music we love and are proud of. Nacional bring this music diversity to people worldwide and that’s why we think we (Raul y Mexia) are a perfect fit.
Do you find more pressure stepping into the spotlight with people knowing your lineage and your background?
R: Sure, because people expect us to maybe even sing a certain way. At the same time it’s a blessing. It goes hand in hand. There’s a balance. There have been times when people find out who we are and the doors are shut, they are narrow-minded towards us. But at the same time being that we do come from a family like Los Tigres del Norte and their legacy of 40 plus years, we are proud of what they’ve done, who we are and who our father (Hernán Hernández) is. It’s a blessing, they give us advice, and they teach us things about the industry.
The sound of Arriba y Lejos has many different elements including tribal, hip-hop, cumbia, and pop. Did you already have an idea of the sound you wanted or did you build it as you went along?
R: When we decided to make the album and to work with Toy Selectah we tried to find our niche. Working with Toy has taught me a lot. We all had that creative input and had that one goal to make a diverse album, to not put any barriers, and to keep it one style. That’s what we want to be known for. We wanted to make an album that represents the Latinos of today that accepts change.
AT A YOUNG AGE, I KNEW I WANTED TO DO MUSIC.
I’D WATCH MY DAD FROM THE SIDE OF THE STAGE AND HE WOULD WINK AT US,
AND I’D SEE THE REACTION OF THE CROWD.
M: You can be in Spain, hear an American artist and it’s accepted. I think now is the perfect time to come with this sound. Maybe five years ago it would not be accepted in this market, but times change and people’s mentalities evolve, and the search for new sounds do as well. Hopefully, they will come across this album. I would like for my kids to listen to my album, and to be proud of where they come from and who they are. Having their feet on both sides of Mexico and the U.S. — the land of opportunities.
Do you have a specific memory that made you decide to follow in your father’s footsteps and become a musician?
R: I think being born into it. I was born in 1988 and our dad had a twenty plus year career then. When Mexia was born, he already had like a 15 plus year career. You know, we tried to shy away from it. When one is younger, one doesn’t really think about the stuff their parents are into, which in many cases is different stuff, but later one learns to accept it. However, music is something we always had inside of us — being in the studio really young, learning how to play the accordion, the guitar, the piano from our uncles, etc. Music was always around when we were younger. There wasn’t one certain event without it. It might sound cliché, but we were already being groomed for it. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t something we didn’t want to do. We tried to not take it to that point but it happened naturally. When I turned 22, that’s when I decided to take this somewhere else. My composition skills were getting a little better. Instrument-wise, I was getting better, and at the same time keeping my mind on education and going to school. We both went to universities and we have a lot more to give than just music. We are very involved in our communities in the Bay Area.
M: It was kind of a no-brainer for me. Growing up that’s all we kind of knew. At that time you don’t think, “Oh, this person is famous.” It was more like,”Oh, this person loves music.” It attracted us, and at a young age I knew I wanted to do music. I would watch my dad from the side of the stage and he would wink at us and I’d see the reaction of the crowd. The way they would treat him, the way he would be with people, and I’m glad that we got to see it and sponge of it and that’s why we are doing what we love today.