Fobia on the End of Their 32-Year Rock en Español Reign & the Future of the Genre

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Rock en español — the massive movement of bands from Latin America reclaiming rock for a new time and place — is settling into a new phase of nostalgia, as many tours, reunions and various forms of revival emerge. For many of the artists involved, this means settling into an (admittedly profitable) victory lap of sorts, while others are seizing the opportunity to put things in perspective and take a new step in their careers. Fobia — one of the most successful and beloved bands in Mexican rock history — land in the latter category, bidding goodbye, for the time being, to a 32-year career. Now, they’re contemplating a new future.

Fabio formed in 1987 after teenagers Leonardo de Lozanne, Paco Huidobro, Javier “El Cha” Ramírez, Iñaki Vázquez and Gabriel Kuri (later replaced by Jay de la Cueva, also of Moderatto and Titán) turned on to the local music scene and wanted to make noise of their own. Early on they signed to a major label, thanks to some buzz generated by Saúl Hernández of Caifanes producing their initial demos. Their debut self-titled album came out in 1990 just as rock en español was taking Mexico and Latin America by storm, with their hit single “El Microbito” adding fuel to that burning blaze. Soon came other hits that dominated the decade, such as “El Diablo,” “Camila,” “Regrésame a Jupiter,” “Los Cibernoides,” “Revolución Sin Manos,” “Veneno Vil,” and “Vivo;” making them one of the biggest success stories of the era.

With a sound that blended styles from new wave, alternative rock and glam rock, all underlined by a solid pop foundation, Fobia’s music was irresistible. Their lyrical tone ranged from the absurd to heartfelt and back, sometimes even within the same song. True to their name, a vast number of their songs talk about different ways in which fear figures into life and how one can deal with it, whether laughing in the face of it to acknowledging that phobias can be part of everyday life without derailing you altogether.

Yet at the height of their career, the band decided to break up in 1997. This was not the last time they did this. Fobia reunited in 2004 for the recording of their album Rosa Venus and much touring before falling into after another period of inactivity. They finally returned in 2012 with another studio offering, Destruye Hogares. Third time’s the charm for their last reunion and break-up.

“We’ve been rehearsing a lot, preparing something really special for all the fans,” says founding bassist Javier “El Cha” Ramírez in an exclusive phone interview with Remezcla. “The Auditorio Nacional show seems to be the last time we will play in Mexico City in a long while and we want it to be something amazing. The show we played in Palacio de Los Deportes [in 2018] was like a dream, like if I went to sleep and dreamt that I played in a band at Palacio de Los Deportes, so we have to measure up. Also, the US tour that will be the longest tour we have made so far. That’s very exciting for us.”

Regarding the band’s vibe on the eve of their big announcement, Cha tells us, “We’re really grateful for this chance to be together. Unlike other times we have stopped playing, we’re all on the same page and getting along with each other. We’re aware Fobia is so important in our lives and the lives of other people as well. We were so young when we started —Leonardo was 15 or 16 years old— so we never had the mission of being a band that achieved all we ended up achieving. We all just wanted to make songs, that was it. We’re grateful to our fans and with each other as bandmates.”

“It’s our life’s work and we would like to celebrate it and to celebrate that we’re still around,” says Cha about the motivation of these shows and the idea of mortality. “We’re revisiting memories and the memories of other people that have gone through some good times together with us and our music. They grew up with it and fell in love with it. And sometimes they’re introducing our music to their sons and even to their grandchildren in some cases. People ask me if this is the end of Fobia, if we’re not going to play together in the future. And the answer is yes, for the time being, we’re going to stop but as long as we’re all alive and able to play our instruments, of course, we will consider coming back. As long as we can celebrate this, we will.”

Willingly or not, Fobia is part of a nostalgia trip that’s taken over rock en español bands of yore. For many fans, it’s a chance to relive a part of their youth while others want to check out the legends while they can. I wonder if the feeling of excitement for lost time is something Cha and his bandmates feel as well. He explains, “I think that way when I think about CBGB’s with Blondie, Talking Heads, and the Ramones all playing together back then. I wish to have witnessed that so badly but I’m sure for them it was quite normal, like ‘let’s go see our friend’s band this weekend.’ For us, that was our life, not a legend; going to see Las Insólitas Imágenes de Aurora and Bon y Los Enemigos del Silencio.”

“They didn’t have records out yet and radio didn’t play them; to listen to them, you had to see them live and we did every chance we had, we were all fans of that. Later on, we wanted to play where our favorite bands were playing,” Cha continued. “We didn’t think we would blow up like this, recording albums and playing on TV and getting played on the radio. It was something to do, like our friends who played futbol on the weekends. Nostalgia makes it look way better in hindsight, but yeah, it was cool.”

Wrapping up one hell of a career, Fobia might not feel the tingle of nostalgia, but it’s hard not to feel like something big is happening in their lives. Thinking about their place before leaving behind one of the most iconic bands in rock mexicano history, Cha tells us that they are keeping their thoughts personal. “The most important thing that Fobia has given me is my bandmates. It’s really difficult to find people who share so much with you, like a sense of humor or music, even if we’re very different from one another,” he muses.

“Right now we realize we have a bond that’s very much our own; we’ve done some amazing things together,” he thinks. “We’re not a nostalgic bunch, we like to look forward to the future and we want to have a good time together. It’s been a long time since we’ve spent so much time together and we’re enjoying it. And it’s time for closure, to bring it home after 30 years.”