Centavrvs have experienced the recognition every band only dreams of: festival appearances around the world, endorsement from amazing musicians and producers, a Latin Grammy nomination for their first album. It might be surprising to learn Centavrvs originally came together so band members could play on beaches across the Pacific Coast of Mexico. However, keeping that fact in mind might shed some light on their newest album, since their latest evolution makes a more formidable and versatile turn to the dancefloor.
Nothing was the same after the release of Sombras de Oro, the band’s debut album. By then, Centavrvs’ concept and sound had been fully formed and was thriving across stages and iPods all over. Originally, Centavrvs was built around the 100-year anniversary of the Mexican Revolution – the civil war that toppled Porfirio Díaz’s dictatorship and established modern-day Mexico, giving us folk heroes like Emiliano Zapata and Francisco Villa – by recontextualizing corridos with electronic elements. But the sound evolved, the grooves deepened and the music intensified, creating a collage of rhythms and influences. It was musical archeology as party fodder – not bad for what essentially was a side project featuring members of Los Dorados, Neon Walrus, and Timmy & the Monsters.
For four years, Centavrvs rode the album’s golden wave wherever it took them, with their future material unfolding little by little in front of their eyes. One day in New York, their next album began taking form. Centavrvs hooked up with Soda Stereo live member Tweety González and trombonist great Rey David Alejandre to cut a brand new track called “El Punto Final,” which ended up pointing them in the direction of their new album Somos Uno. Centavrvs have expanded their vocabulary and sonic palette, taking staples from salsa, cumbia, chicha, Afrobeat, and many other genres into their danceable Mexican music collage to give us the next stage in their narrative. Somos Uno is bound to establish the band as one of the most sonically ambitious bands in Latin America.
We caught up with members Demián Gálvez and Alan Santos on a rare break from their busy schedules to talk about Somos Uno.
Somos Uno had a slow gestating process yet you’ve been dropping songs for a while now. What made you decide to roll the album out like that?
Alan Santos: [laughs] The process started in January. Last year we started firing on all cylinders. The record was not finished yet but we decided that we were going to release it in August 2017. In January we released “El Punto Final,” around April we released “Quebrar Las Ventanas” and then in November, “Volar Muy Alto” was out, right after the earthquake which was a huge blow for everybody. It was around that time that we decided that the record was not going to come out then, as a sign of respect to the country. It was not the time for it to come out.
Sombras de Oro made a huge impact; it got nominated for a Latin Grammy, for one. For a debut, that’s a huge deal. How was that reaction for you – how the record opened so many doors for you and how it was such a success? Especially considering that the project was pretty much new.
D: I think we’ve been very lucky because few projects can say that their album got nominated for a Grammy. We couldn’t believe it because we didn’t even know it got submitted. We were actually at the U.S. Embassy and they take away your mobile phone while you’re there. So we left the embassy, we turned on our mobile phones, and we got tons of messages congratulating us. Like good Mexicans, we went to El Ángel [a monument and popular celebration spot for soccer victories] to celebrate. Sombras de Oro was the culmination of that sound. We became a full-fledged project.
A: We’ve been very lucky but also very grateful. Musical growth is a very noble thing in the sense that the energy that you put into it, it comes back to you. I think that’s why Sombras de Oro had so much life, more than a regular album.
Was it a different process writing the songs of Somos Uno compared to Sombras de Oro? There’s different types of sounds in your music.
D: It’s funny, because Remezcla documented the recording of “El Punto Final.” Three years ago, we were playing in New York, we had planned to record while we were there. The great thing about this was that the stars aligned for things to happen. Tweety was staying at the same hotel as us. We said hi to him – he had already seen us at SXSW and he wanted to work with us – so we asked him, “What are you doing tomorrow? We have a day off,” and he said that he had a day off as well. And Rey David, he also had a day off and he lived nearby the studio we booked in Queens. So we went to record “El Punto Final” and it was amazing.
A: [Having Tweety as producer] changed our dynamic and made us move out of our comfort zone. Here was a different person with considerable weight that you had to take into account, like, “Perhaps it’s not worth defending my posture against his suggestions.”
“It has always been our concern to have a Latinx identity without sounding nationalistic.”
D: So, the fact of using the trombone as a lead instrument in this album was a natural thing, because being with someone like Rey David inspires you. You go, “Well, we should do a song with him…perhaps two.” And he ended up working on five or six. He was our ace in the hole.
Is it difficult to find an audience playing what you do? It doesn’t fit traditionally in many genres.
D: Here in Mexico, if you don’t do rock, you do pop or “regional” and we don’t do any of those [laughs]. Sometimes we play at world music festivals, especially in the U.S., but here we play at rock festivals. It has always been our concern to have a Latinx identity without sounding nationalistic. It’s simply because we live here and we genuinely care about it.
A: Latin America is very diverse and Mexico is diverse as well, so we can’t say we sound like Mexico, we don’t. It sounds like my Mexico, like Demian’s Mexico, like Paco’s and Rayo’s. Everybody has their experience and that’s where being genuine comes into play.
Centavrvs’ Somos Uno is out now via Casete.