Solo Fernández_

INTERVIEW: Solo Fernández Talks Dominican Rock & the Kaleidoscopic Influences Behind New Album

Photo by Pepemelo & Leslie Soto.

“What people don’t know is that we listen to so much music; our own usually reflects that soundtrack,” says singer and guitarist Gian Rojas, speaking with Remezcla from his Santo Domingo studio. Buzzy Dominican indie rockers Solo Fernández are reminiscing on their serendipitous origins and the motifs behind the new album Las Cosas Que Nunca Me Dije, a kaleidoscopic collection of bangers guided by their voracious musical appetite. “We wanted to do a song with Kanye-esque 808s; it’s there (‘Tú Nunca Dejarás De Ser Poesía’). We wanted a song with ’80s guitars [like Toto], so we did ‘Magia.’ We love The War On Drugs, and you can hear that on ‘El Resplandor.’ This whole thing is like an avalanche of music we love.”

If you’ve heard anything about Solo Fernández, then you know they’re the premier Dominican rock band working today. Sleek, propulsive cuts like “Rompecabezas” and “¿Por Qué Eres Así?” positioned them at the forefront of the island’s underground during the pandemic lull, while boundary-pushing collaborations with electronic prodigies Diego Raposo and Martox obliterated any lingering rockist confines. Similar to their meteoric scene counterpart, Letón Pé, breakout performances at festivals Isle of Light and The Pineapple Ball sent the band careening into the evergreen Mexican market. They’ve since toured the country extensively – a bucket-list dream for every rising Latin American band – and cultivated fruitful relationships with contemporary pop-rock luminaries Clubz, Ruby Tates, and Camilo Séptimo.

A decade earlier, the trio composed of Gian Rojas, Freddy Navarro, and Ricardo Montilla were just high school kids in the cover band to hard rock project to folksy crooner pipeline that predecessors like Vicente García and Rita Indiana also traversed. One day, Rojas celebrated his birthday with a house show featuring his band and Navarro’s, who at the time was his neighbor. Both groups fell apart shortly after, but the pair gelled and began jamming daily, experimenting with disco, house, and even reggaeton. In 2015, they enlisted Montilla on drums and guitarist Surya Cabral, with whom they launched the short-lived band Pandora before going back to the drawing board and laying the sonic and aesthetic foundations of what would become Solo Fernández.

“Our beginnings coincided with the end of a very prolific era for indie rock in the Dominican Republic,” remembers Rojas, outlining some of the country’s genre touchstones. “From about 2007 to 2010, there was this whole movement of bands like Zoom, Poolpo – who were our favorites – and Bocatabú, who were bonafide pop stars. International bands like The Killers and Zoé would also come once in a while. So the local alt-rock scene was pushing forward, even if there were still echoes of the golden age of Dominican rock from back in the ’80s and ’90s with Toque Profundo and Luis Días.”

While the Caribbean is no stranger to rock music, many Dominican artists have hybridized their guitar riffs with roots sounds to reach broader audiences. Toque Profundo injected hard rock power chords into the iconic bachata of “Dando Asco,” while Yasser Tejeda and Xiomara Fortuna built towering sonic collages of jazz, merengue, and gagá. Even in Puerto Rico, artists are vocal about the challenges of maintaining local rock momentum. However, rhythmic polyglot Riccie Oriach kickstarted a new chapter for the local alternative scene, with Montilla adding, “he made people less prejudiced about listening to merengue and rock at the same show.”

On Las Cosas Que Nunca Me Dije, Solo Fernández also embraced experimentation, albeit less traditional. For the single “Telescopio,” they courted a feature from romantic singer-songwriter Alex Ferreira by contrasting a soft-spoken ballad against Radiohead-reminiscent math rock drums. The silky grooves of “Magia” and “Invisible” are clearly indebted to the vintage wave ushered by Clubz’s 2018 debut Destellos, even catching the attention of Coco Santos and resulting in a dreamy, bouncing crossover titled “Sin Mirar.” The band’s distinctly effervescent rock sound also reached Camilo Séptimo, who invited the Dominicans to co-write and produce most of their latest album, Jardín de las Almas, even bringing them on stage during a recent show at Mexico City’s Palacio de los Deportes.

Rock was our starting point, our attitude, and how we dress, but never a box that could contain us.

This spirit of cooperation and community has been instrumental to Solo Fernández’s success. While Rojas produces for rising Dominican indie pop singers Snenie and maJa, Navarro is currently on tour with Camilo Séptimo, as well as mastering the forthcoming album from folkster turned grunge banshee Gaby de los Santos. Back in February, the band held the third edition of their increasingly beloved happening, SOLOFEST, which has welcomed homegrown heroes such as Poolpo and Giorgio Siladi and international allies Easy Easy and Midnight Generation over the years. This inertia will come to a head on Aug. 30 with a triumphant album release show at Santo Domingo’s legendary Salón La Fiesta, while the band also teases rocking shows in Colombia, Guatemala, and Venezuela later in the year.

“Rock was our starting point, our attitude, and how we dress, but never a box that could contain us,” says an assertive Navarro. Meanwhile, an assist from Rojas sums up perfectly the band’s playful creative approach: “This isn’t some complicated concept album. It’s just a bunch of songs we had fun creating and performing for our fans. Our music comes in equal parts from our souls and our cojones.”

Las Cosas Que Nunca Me Dije is out now.