Né: Matthew Urango
Raíces: Oxnard, California
Sounds like: bedroom space disco for the revolution.
You should listen to Cola Boyy because…the revolution needs a soundtrack.
Matthew Urango is an activist, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and songwriter who is bringing the revolution to the dance floor. His tough-as-nails resolve and impressive artistry have given life to the project Cola Boyy. Urango grew up in punk bands, starting solo projects, and playing guitar for the indie band Sea Lions. While he’s still in the process of learning as he goes, from the first few seconds, it’s clear that his debut album Black Boogie Neon is a giant step forward.
Cola Boyy weaves together disco, soul, kraut, and pop, expertly blending these styles to sit beneath his unique vocal timbre. Black Boogie Neon embraces Matthew’s diverse cultural roots and influences; the Ghetto Brothers, the soaring spirit of Studio 54, and the melodic sensibilities of Paul McCartney are all channeled on the record. Over the phone, he tells Remezcla about his creative process. “I work out of a pretty basic home studio and send tracks back and forth with my producer.”
For the most part, BBN is heavy with groovy disco jams. “Penny Girl” and “Buggy Tip” are the obvious standouts – catchy, bubbly, and crafted to perfection. It’s toward the end of “Buggy Tip” that Urango offers another element of his songwriting expertise, ending with an almost prog-like outro that takes apart the song and shows us one of its many layers. “Come Mid July” sounds more like a soulful indie jam than a dance track, yet its spaciness is consistent with the album’s groovy aura. Closing track “Beige” falls somewhere in the middle with its funky bass lines and snappy beat.
“My existence is political; I have no other choice than struggle.”
Urango is outspoken about the misconceptions of being a disabled creator. He tells Remezcla about finding a balance between being a voice for disabled artists, but not letting that narrative define his career. “I want people to know about me and where I come from, but to be honest, it gets a little old to just talk about my political views and my disabilities,” he says. It is an understandable frustration that is also telling of how the industry needs to do better to empower – but not tokenize – performers.
But physical limitations cannot control Urango’s creativity. His music is as much a commentary on the way disabilities are perceived in society as it is an artistic exercise; even in the creative direction around his releases, Urango wants to express his larger-than-life persona in a transformative way. His album artwork features a character that is an illustrated version of himself – think The Little Prince meets Studio 54. The vivid and eye-catching artwork is a collaboration between celebrated illustrator Robert Beatty and Mrzyk & Moriceau.
Urango comes from a family of working-class parents, both nurses. Although they understood his disability, they encouraged him to explore his interests, without limiting his ideas or potential. Insecurity and heartbreaks may have shaped Urango in the past, but he is a stronger place now. That being said, he is currently navigating media attention towards his music, his person, and his political views. He is a self-described leftist. As he puts it, “My existence is political; I have no other choice than struggle.”
Although his music is reaching new audiences around the world, it is his strong ties to his community and his roots that keep him grounded. To bring about the revolution he has envisioned, it’s required some compromises, but never the abandonment of his ideals. In the about section of his video for “Penny Girl,” he candidly states, “This is not just my world, but a part of me that’s so vulnerable. All my differences are on the table, and my song plays in the background. Oxnard has so many bright colors and faces, it shows in the video. Isn’t it nice?”
Catch Cola Boyy perform at Goldenvoice’s Chella event on Wednesday, April 17. For more info and to purchase tickets, click here.