If there’s one thing you should know about The Chamanas, it’s that they define themselves through their hometown in a big way. The Ciudad Juárez-El Paso band released their debut full-length Once Once in 2015, creating a style that mixes indie pop rock, electronic, huapango, and 70s-style Latin American ballads into a genre they call “música fronteriza.” Since then, it’s been a whirlwind ride for the group; not long after their debut dropped, The Chamanas and vocalist Amalia Mondragón parted ways. Luckily, they tapped Paulina Reza as a new frontperson.
Next came appearances at festivals in Latin America, tours with beloved Anglo indie artists like Beach House and Portugal. The Man, and a Latin Grammy nomination. In an interview with Remezcla, the band recounts how their personal lives shaped the project, sharing that several family members passed away prior to the release of their album NEA, which dropped in 2017. “It was an important record because it really illustrated the moment we were at,” says co-founder and guitarist Héctor Carreón via Skype. “It was a very personal record.”
This year, The Chamanas decided to revisit their sophomore album. They’re re-releasing the record as NEA II, complete with a handful of original new tracks. “We’re really excited,” says Carreón. “It’s a new phase, a different moment for The Chamanas that people will be able to hear.”
Included in the new material is “La Verdad,” premiering today on Remezcla. Although its title might deceive you, “La Verdad” is the first Chamanas song in English. Written by Reza along with bassist Manuel Calderón and Kody Valentine from Holy Knives, the track was recorded in Sonic Ranch Studios, the same spot Carreón and Calderón first met and decided to start Chamanas.
“It talks about love and starting out in a new relationship,” Héctor explains about the lyrics. “It’s about giving your all to a person that’s new to you and you keep trying to find out if this person is for real.” About composing the song, Carreón says, “I think the band was refreshed to work in a different manner [than] what we were used to. It was a great learning experience.”
The band has been very vocal about their relationship to Juárez and El Paso since their beginnings, so we seized the opportunity to ask about their perspective on Trump’s proposed wall. Carreón says, “We have a different perspective from what people who live far from here have. There have always been walls. There’s a fence around our border; it has been there forever and it’s already protected by la migra and Border Patrol 24/7,” they explained. “We still go back and forth between the cities; there’s still a strong relationship between the two cities. It’s still considered a single city.”
They opted to record this new track in English as a reflection of these border town roots. “To live on the border is to be full of Mexican and American inspiration… Singing in English for us is a challenge that we must achieve. We want Americans and the world to understand our vision of life on the border through our music and to bring our culture to all possible people,” they said.
This interview was conducted in Spanish by Marcos Hassan and translated for Remezcla by the author.
The Chamanas NEA II drops on July 20, 2018. Stream our premiere of “La Verdad” below: