Once artists reach a certain level of success, busy schedules and glamorous lifestyles might clash with what once was a ritual of craft and inspiration. Not all bands end up following the typical cycle of success-opulence-downfall, but one thing’s for sure: there’s no going back once you’ve made it.
Argentine rock titans Él Mató A Un Policía Motorizado might have found a way to stay close to their roots while navigating an ever-increasing fanbase. Since their debut in 2004, Él Mató have become one of the most inspiring bands to come out of the Argentine underground scene, conquering not only their local industry, but also making a splash internationally. Their 2012 album La Dinastía Scorpio cemented their sound and made them icons of Latin American indie rock with their minimalistic sound, slightly dissonant guitars, and heartfelt choruses.
Signs of new music came in late 2015 with the Violencia EP (released a few months later in the U.S.). It showed the band continue on their unique path with a more refined sound. That new direction culminates in the form of La Síntesis O’Konor, the quintet’s forthcoming studio album, which might go down as their finest recording to date, as it maintains Él Mató’s characteristic sonics with an added flourish in arrangement and detail.
“We were born to working-class families with limited money, and nothing was handed to us.”
“We dedicated more time to this album than the others,” says vocalist, bassist, and guitarist Santiago “Motorizado” Barrionuevo during a Skype call. “We spent most of that time in pre-production, and that was done in our rehearsal room, which is where I used to live. A few years ago we set up the room; we bought stuff to help us record here. We wrote the new album here.” Él Mató spent two years writing and recording La Síntesis O’Konor, the longest they’d ever spent working on a project. The sessions weren’t consecutive, as the band would pause their creative process to tour and perform.
Santiago explains that the songwriting process “was much more detailed” this time around. “It never happened before with us; we felt that the few elements we had were more than enough, and we don’t regret working like this. We wanted to explore a bit more. It has a more complex character. [Before] we felt exploring further might have led to forcing something unnecessary. It was very fun, and then the results were to our liking. Either we played the song faster or slower, changing keys. Tear everything down and building it back again. We thought the essence of what we do was present and we felt nothing was forced. We like it a lot.”
The recording of La Síntesis also marked a special occasion. “We went to record at Sonic Ranch [and] there were so many instruments available for us to use – stuff we don’t have at our rehearsal space in La Plata. It allowed us to add some color at the last minute with some sonic details. There were so many synths, guitars, basses – all at our disposal. The owner of Sonic Ranch is like an eccentric instrument collector and he has them available for the bands working there to use them.”
Barrionuevo continues. “I’m sure it’s typical for a big band with a label behind them and a label supporting them; I talk about it with such enthusiasm because for us, it was new to record in the U.S. We’re an independent band 100 percent and we have been generating our income throughout the years working hard, with humility and effort.”
Over their 13-year career, Él Mató has overcome many odds to become a phenomenon and inspire many fans around the world. Yet they remain a band that rehearses at Santiago’s former home and keeps things friendly. “We were born to working-class families with limited money, and nothing was handed to us; it took a lot of work to get here. I don’t say this often because I don’t think it’s relevant or important or we’re proud about this, but it’s our reality. Buying a guitar is expensive; not everybody can buy one. When we started, none of us had our own instrument; all our gear was borrowed. And now we got to record at Sonic Ranch and use so much cool stuff. To us it’s like Wayne’s World; you get your friends, everybody takes on a role, and you start on this adventure. We never imagined a life like this, but we’re enjoying it so much.”
Él Mató keeps things humble, yet always manages to be musically ambitious.
Él Mató keeps things humble, yet always manages to be musically ambitious. They remain a band of friends who happen to make music that deadpans complex emotions in a straightforward manner, and keeping it that way seems like a priority for the band’s longevity.
Stream Él Mató’s new album La Síntesis O’Konor exclusively above. La Síntesis O’Konor officially drops on Friday, June 23 via Nacional Records.