INTERVIEW: El Mató Un Policía Motorizado Talks Touring With Interpol & Playing Fútbol With Argentine Rock Royalty

Photo by Guido Adler

For a band that hit the scene at the top of the millennium, it feels like the legend of El Mató Un Policía Motorizado has only just begun. The famed Argentine indie rockers came to define the post-rock en español age with DIY grit and emotionally charged anthems like “Chica Rutera” and “Sábado,” drafting the blueprint for a fertile new scene in their hometown of La Plata. Their label LAPTRA, co-founded alongside 107 Faunos, is one of the pillars of what is known today as Indie Platense, with its blend of garage, college rock, and cinematic folk sensibilities. By the time they blew up with albums like La Dinastía Escorpio (2013) and La Síntesis O’Konor (2017), El Mató was already a well-oiled machine, living on the road ever since and consolidated into festival fixtures, with recent performances at Primavera Sound, Pa’l Norte, and more.

However, the band’s touring commitments dug a six-year gap between albums, releasing their latest full-length, Super Terror, towards the end of 2023. The rousing, albeit downtrodden record embraced a more danceable sound filled with synthesized bass lines. Though the band’s signature earnest balladry is never far behind. In its contemplative storytelling on songs like “Un Segundo Plan” and “El Universo,” fans and critics found nods to the embattled economic and political state of Argentina. But these interpretations are more likely an echo of singer-songwriter Santiago Motorizado’s own fraught personal relationships.

Starting May 5, El Mató Un Policía Motorizado are embarking on a five-date U.S. tour with indie rock icons Interpol, performing in Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Mesa, and Las Vegas. The band is also headlining two solo shows in Los Angeles and Miami, all before heading home to Argentina for a landmark concert at the 16,000-seater Movistar Arena in June.Ahead of the tour, we caught up with Santiago Motorizado to discuss all things indie platense, touring with an American behemoth, his surprising new friendship with Cristian Castro, and playing fútbol with Los Fabulosos Cadillacs’ Vicentico.

First and foremost, please tell us about your upcoming U.S. tour with Interpol.
Most of our touring experiences in the United States have been performing for the [Latine] community, though on occasion, we’ve also booked Anglo festivals. Both have been positive, but this time we’re playing five dates with Interpol, and it’s very different opening the show and trying to win over new audiences versus headlining for your fans. It’s an exciting challenge, and we’re so grateful for the invitation to join Interpol across the Southwest. We’re also very excited for our solo show in Los Angeles; a city where we’ve performed at festivals like Supersónico, Viva! Pomona, and Primavera Sound, but never had our own show. Same in Miami, so we’re especially looking forward to those shows.

Turning back the clock, the band is famously from La Plata, which has historically been fertile ground for Argentine rock.
La Plata is the capital of Buenos Aires province, but it’s also a college town constantly renewed by young people, who’ve significantly shaped our cultural and musical history. Legendary bands like Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota and Virus, to name the most massive ones, but later came a lot of independent music. That’s where LAPTRA was born; the label we started alongside 107 Faunos, to which we’ve kept adding friends for 20 years.

El Mató started back in 2003. What were those early days like?
We were coming from the economic crisis of 2001, but there was also a cultural crisis [in 2004] following the tragedy of Cromañón, a club where about 200 people were killed [in a fire]. That reshaped venue regulations and budgets and made performing much more difficult. We knew the independent route would be challenging, so we just rode the natural adrenaline that comes from getting together with friends to do things. Our friend Diego had a recording space in a house that was under construction, and it became the meeting point for all of us. Those small spaces where people gather, with ideas and the desire to create art, are very powerful. I’m not a nostalgic person but I look back on those days very fondly.

It was about a decade before the band broke through with La Dinastía Escorpio. What changed in that time?
As things in Argentina improved, so did economic and cultural opportunities, and this again changed the context of the band. Our first years were defined by “La Trilogía” [El Mató’s first three albums], recording in home studios, and taking advantage of new technology. Then came La Dinastía Escorpio, produced with Eduardo Bergallo in the legendary Estudio ION, which was a tremendous leap in sound quality. It was friendlier to mainstream ears, closer to that FM sound we all grew up with. La Dinastía was a transition point, and streaming became really important at this time, so we reached new audiences and started performing abroad. That enabled us to record La Síntesis O’Konor at Sonic Ranch in Texas, which was a gamble because even though we’d grown, things weren’t that good. But it paid off. Over the years, the response to that record has been overwhelmingly positive.

The band’s latest album, Super Terror, is heavy with themes of sadness and disillusionment. To many, it echoes Argentina’s current political and economic woes. How do you think this new piece fits into the zeitgeist?
I understand the parallels people have drawn, but I certainly didn’t write these songs anticipating a victory from Milei. Super Terror is a personal record about relationships that have ended, and it was heavily influenced by the pandemic and the state of the world today. Earlier, I mentioned how powerful the gathering of young people can be. This new world would rather feed into conformism and consumerism. In a musical context, having the entire discography of human history in your phone has removed desire and mystery. Even in personal relationships — if you talk to your friends on WhatsApp all day, it mitigates the urge to see each other face to face, and that is a valuable source of truth. Social media, which was supposed to be for collective conversation, has become a weapon. This two-dimensional world is a recurring pattern in caricaturesque figures with extremist ideas that seek divisiveness and cruelty. So in speaking about the world, the album inevitably resonated with the realities of my country.

Switching gears, you went massively viral last year with a fantastic Cristian Castro cover. How did that come about?
That whole thing started with an interview on a show called Caja Negra where I shared my love for Cristian Castro, and particularly his song “No Podrás.” I was later invited to a program called ¡FA!, where musicians perform covers of other musicians, and they brought up my comments and asked if I would perform the song. I was delighted! It was spontaneous and unrehearsed, and we did it in one take. Like you said, it went viral and eventually reached Cristian. On a later episode of ¡FA!, they booked both Cristian and I, although he was there with his heavy metal project. He invited me to sing with him and I accepted and did some backing vocals. It was super fun. Cristian is the best.

Before we let you go, we’ve heard you’re part of a very special fútbol league…
[Chuckles] Yes, there’s a group of friends that get together to play fútbol every Monday and the excitement grew to such an extent we started holding mini tournaments. And of course, lots of musicians play in these games. There’s Vicentico from Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, and a bunch of the LAPTRA guys like Tom and Chicho from Bestia Bebé, and Gato from 107 Faunos. Pablo from Las Ligas Menores, Caamaño from Rosal, El Tucán from Attaque 77, and many others also come through. It’s very fun and everyone plays great, so it’s not just a matter of enthusiasm, there’s also plenty of quality.