Timing and circumstance are crucial in the inception of any scene, and in the early 2010s, Monterrey experienced a boom that forever changed the underground indie scene in Latin America. Despite being the birthplace of Festival NRMAL and acts like Selma Oxor, Bam Bam, and 60 Tigres, Monterrey’s indie kids struggled to find proper footing due to a spike in narco-related violence that limited performance opportunities to small house parties and a few indie venues around the city. But the music of this movement thrived online, and duo Clubz became one of the great success stories out of this young crop of regios, bursting onto the scene with their urgent and stylish indie pop.
Clubz is the brainchild of Coco Santos and Orlando Fernández, and emerged from the ashes of another buzzy Monterrey project named Husky. Fernández, primarily a drummer, wanted to learn to play guitar, and one day after band practice, the two stayed behind for some lessons and rock daydreaming.
“When we first started out, we were more of an art band, more conceptual,” says Orlando. “We hadn’t yet completed the songs and we were already thinking about the artwork and promo shots. It was sort of the romanticized idea of having a band and figuring out what that aesthetic was.” Coco is quick to add, “We were thinking about what it would be like in 2030 when people are nostalgically looking back to 2013. When they notice the fonts and colors and go ‘Damn, this band from the 2000s was cool,’ sort of how people today react to bands from the 80s and 90s.”
“We want to give life and energy in Spanish.”
This perspicacity for tapping into nostalgic emotion was indirectly identified by heavyhitters over at NRMAL. Sergio Palmero became their manager, NRMAL organizer Moni Saldaña booked them to play the fest, and the organization’s art director casually pointed out the similarities between their sound and that of La Movida Madrileña. Thrilled yet unfamiliar with La Movida, Clubz quickly embraced the movement’s blend of new wave, punk, and kitschy humor, citing bands like Ataque de Caspa, Los Zombies, and Golpes Bajos as notable influences.
The band’s first big break came when their management booked them at SXSW and the first House of Vans in Mexico City. “It was Clubz’s third show, playing for a packed house of 2,500 people,” remembers Orlando. That show proved fateful for Clubz, garnering them visibility at home and abroad, promptly landing them on lineups for Vive Latino, Epicentro in Costa Rica, Neutral in Chile, and most recently Primavera Sound in Barcelona.
The hype led to YouTube, where they were being curated into playlists with El Último Vecino and Extraperlo, whose members help run Canada Editorial, their current Spain-based label. This music reminded Clubz of the Movida Madrileña influences that helped shape and color their own compositions, while also reflecting an aesthetic that appealed to their sensibilities. Orlando believes they visualized their admiration for Canada into a reality. “Back then we were still finishing our first EP Texturas,” he says, “but thinking about it now, the energy we put out attracted our joining Canada. The story pretty much goes that Extraperlo went to Mexico to play Festival NRMAL the same year we did, and so we all met and hit it off. They also came to one of our solo shows where we played ‘Épocas,’ which back then we had not officially recorded yet, and they asked what that song was and if we could send them a demo. Next thing we knew, they’d liked the song and wanted to release it through their label.”
“We don’t half-step it and we don’t do fillers.”
Clubz’s sound has evolved and refined at an exponential rate since their first few releases. Their debut, Texturas, put them on the map with underground hits like “Golpes Bajos” and “Celebrando,” part of a collection of fuzzy, triumphant pop anthems that are as direct as they are captivating. The band made an impressive leap with their two-song follow up Épocas, presenting a cleaner, smoother sound that retained the throwback charm of their first releases while expanding their musical ambitions. Clubz’s musical appetite has only grown more voracious, as they infused their latest singles “El Rollo” and “Áfrika” with funky saxophones and analog bass, all ahead of the release of their first full-length album Destellos.
“Our focus while making music is that whatever we work on, is going to be the song,” says Coco, reflecting on the band’s rather small catalog. “We don’t half-step it and we don’t do fillers. Unless it’s an interlude, we envision everything as a hit, as a single. We want to make a song that you always want to blast in your car. And that’s one of the reasons we haven’t released so much material. Every single detail on every song has been nitpicked to death because we don’t want you to listen and discard [it]. This is music we want you to stick with.”
After three years of work, Destellos is finally on its way and with a tentative autumn release. Day jobs, family matters, constant touring, and production challenges all delayed Clubz’s notoriously stringent creative process, so they decided to fall back and let their inspirations take the wheel. “We started buying new instruments online,” says Coco. ”Relics, drum machines, and synths from the 80s and geeking out like, ‘Oh this is the drum machine Madonna used,’ and making a bunch of voice memos and quick demos we’ve even included in the finished tracks.”
Clubz was able to lock down features from Ela Minus and Buscabulla, but the record’s overall sound and feel still proved elusive. Producers like Mateo Lewis (Little Jesus, Caloncho) and Andrés Nusser of Astro became involved with the project at different times, yet Clubz were never fully satisfied with the end result. Frustrated by this block, Coco sat at the computer and poured himself into the record. “There is nothing more honest than doing it ourselves,” says Orlando. “Why look outside when no one knows better what we want than us?”
Clubz clearly has a bright future ahead, and the boys are unafraid to dream big. “I would love to someday have a live set-up that harkens back to the stadium shows of the 70s and 80s,” ponders Coco. “I’m talking like Prince and Hall and Oates, with the full band, saxophone player, back up singers. We want to give life and energy in Spanish. We want Clubz to represent for Hispanics but not with a ‘We’re the best’ mentality. This Hispanics vs. Anglos rivalry is silly, and we’re looking to break down that paradigm.”
Clubz’s debut album is set to drop this fall.