AQUIHAYAQUIHAY is a Band of Boys, But Don’t Call Them a Boy Band

Photo Courtesy the artist

Roughly a week after dropping their anticipated debut album, the Mexican quintet AQUIHAYAQUIHAY hung out at their rooftop studio in Mexico City’s Roma Norte neighborhood, reminiscing about the project that had been almost a year in the making.

“We made the album in one week, we confined ourselves here without going out,” the group’s in-house producer Phynx, the mastermind behind their sound, told Remezcla. “Imagine how it smelled,” joked Zizzy, making the room erupt with laughter. “We did shower, obviously,” Phynx said, saving face. Jay Lee, the youngest, interjected to point out that they had a bathroom in the studio. “The important thing was to record first,” Nehly clarified. “You couldn’t shower if you hadn’t recorded. That was the deal.”

“I think that beyond just us, there’s something changing in the world, and that’s something we’re totally for.”

The fruit their week of isolation bore was DROPOUT, a lo-fi R&B manual for love and heartbreak, both with oneself and a significant other. Zizzy – the group’s defacto leader – described the album as mainly being about self-love. “I think our generation lacks a lot of that sometimes. There’s a lot of codependency. I don’t know if it’s because of social media, but if you’re reading this, love yourself. And if you’re going to [have a relationship] with someone you love, do it without restraining them. Don’t be toxic,” he expressed with a chuckle.

At first glance, AQUIHAYAQUIHAY comes off as a boy band: five guys in their late-teens to mid-20s who are in a group. But according to Zizzy, Neqer, Nehly, Phynx, and Jay Lee, those are the only things that make them a boy band. “We consider ourselves an anti-boy band because we’re not pre-fabricated. We’re all long-time friends and this is something that we truly like to do,” Zizzy explained. “More than going after money, more than fame, we just like to create music.”

Before AQUIHAYAQUIHAY was formed, the members had four independent projects (Neqer and Zizzy were a duo), and they all had some kind of working relationship with Finesse Records (Phynx produced Jesse Baez’s first EP, for example), which itself is known for R&B and hip-hop en español artists like Girl Ultra and Santa Bandida. After collaborating on different projects together and noticing they vibed well, Adrian Be (now their manager, co-producer, and self-appointed band mom) suggested they become a group. They were down. And though they didn’t set specific roles within the group — they’re free to rap or sing or do whatever they feel like at the moment if it serves the song right — Phynx produces all their music and they all partake in the lyric-writing process.

Their introduction to the public was the chill trap record from last year, “Karma,” which they followed up with equally subtle bangers like “Amuleto,” and the side piece booty call anthem “Llámame.” Whether it’s their work or concept, the group brings a fresh approach to the music scene in Mexico, pushing genres and sounds imported from the U.S. that have often been looked down upon by the general public. The members also come from very conservative cities where machismo still pervades and a so-called boy band making experimental “urban” music wouldn’t have been embraced even a decade ago. “I love that in Monterrey, being a narrow-minded city sometimes, like Guadalajara can be, and even Mexico in general too, people are leaving prejudices behind,” Zizzy said. “I think that beyond just us, there’s something changing in the world [with toxic masculinity], and that’s something we’re totally for.”

During the same week in confinement, AQUIHAYAQUIHAY also shot a music video for every song on the album, sometimes shooting three in two days, running on no sleep. The first video they released was for the lead single “Jeans,” a sad boy ode to being infatuated by a girl, marked by hypnotizing guitar riffs.

AQUIHAYAQUIHAY pride themselves in the DIY aspect and creative freedom of their project — the main reasons why they reject the boy band moniker. And though it doesn’t bother them, and they don’t actively combat it, they think being called one is cliché. “We believe that R&B in Spanish is not a widely explored genre and it’s in a way judged, because people are used to reggaeton and hip-hop,” Zizzy explained. “We think it’s partly our responsibility to open doors in this genre, like many others are also doing, because we’re not the only ones and we don’t want to be the only ones doing that… We don’t consider ourselves a boy band. A boy band doesn’t do that.”

Following the cancellation of their SXSW appearance this year over visa issues, AQUIHAYAQUIHAY had their first presentation at a major festival at this year’s Ceremonia in Mexico City in April. At the mere mention of the performance, their faces immediately lit up. “To be honest, it was so amazing because we knew there would be people there that wanted to hear us, but we didn’t expect such a big crowd,” said Neqer. They were the opening act for one of the main stages for a world class festival and couldn’t believe the tent was full. “You could only see little circles, you couldn’t even make out the faces, and it was like ‘wow,’” he added. “We didn’t even have the album out yet, you know? We had only released five songs,” Zizzy said. “And the crowd knew them! And they would sing them! And I was watching them like, ‘How the fuck do you know them?’” Jay Lee said with a laugh and a wide grin. “But it was beautiful.”

AQUIHAYAQUIHAY strives to turn the Mexican music scene on its head, and do their part in spreading R&B en español. The next single to be released is “Delito,” and they will soon embark on a tour through Mexico and a “foreign country” they can’t disclose yet. The guys have also been working on upcoming collaborations with artists they’ve listened to and looked up to growing up who hit them up after DROUPOUT came out. “It’s the same respect, and to gain that is priceless. “It’s people we never thought would reach out to us,” Zizzy explained. “Or maybe so, but not so soon,” Jay Lee said, causing Zizzy to respond, “Exactly! The album has only been out for a week!”