Born in Toluca, Nacho Cano (who shares his name with the legendary Mecano member) is a 27-year-old L.A.-based Mexican artist – and now U.S. citizen – who started his career making heartwarming pieces of indie-pop gold under the name Twin Cabins. For his 2018 EP A donde vas?, he changed his moniker to simply Harmless – directly referencing his last album signed as Twin Cabins, Harmless Fantasies, where his style started to become harder to categorize in a single box. But right after completing the EP, and a year before releasing it, Cano’s life was forever changed.
When Cano was riding his bike to work on September 10, 2017 at 11 AM, a drunk driver ran him over at 50 mph, shooting him across half a block and almost ending his life. “I was conscious while it all happened,” says Cano in a candid conversation with Remezcla. “All the dreams I had of music and what I was doing at the time came to a pause. I had to call everything off.”
His recovery was – and continues to be – long and painful. His ribs were broken; his legs didn’t work, and his face had to be reconstructed through plastic surgery. For Cano, facing death was very similar to actually dying, and then being reborn. “You don’t physically die, but your thoughts, your dreams, your ideas [do],” he shares. “Trauma destroys all that, and what’s left is the most concrete part of your being. You become like a baby.” In order to get to know himself again, he turned to music as therapy. “At some point I thought, ‘Old Nacho, the one who died, liked making music. Maybe doing so could be a way of understanding myself and what I dreamed and thought.”
That’s how, after meddling with a Teenage Engineering OP-1 synth a friend lent him while he was still in the hospital, he started making lullabies for himself that would later become his new upcoming EP, Condiciones. The four-track release is a touching, understated work, an echo of the accident and what came afterwards where he even includes samples of voicemails and audio from videos that document milestones in his recovery.
The process of making Condiciones also reflects the obstacles of his new post-accident life. “I started recording many of the songs while I couldn’t use my legs. I waited to record most of the vocals because I had lost my front teeth, so I couldn’t sing because my voice sounded weird. Or I had to take some time to figure out what a song was about before giving it a title,” he explains. “That’s why the EP is called Condiciones. The accident’s condition isn’t only my new body and pains and all that, but also the condition of recognizing myself again.”
The second single off Condiciones is “Clavo Saca Clavo,” a moving piece of ethereal pop that showcases Cano’s gorgeous upper range and sax embellishments recorded by Dan González Hernández. The song opens with a cute recording of his girlfriend asking their dog where Cano was while he was out of town, and closes with a voicemail from his friend Drew celebrating a year of his survival. These are elements that, to Cano, make the song real.
While on the surface “Clavo Saca Clavo” might sound like a letter to an ex, it’s actually about the PTSD he has suffered since the accident. “PTSD always wants you back,” he explains. “Trauma always wants you back, and you tell it, ‘I don’t care, I never return.’ But actually your conscious and the world is telling you, ‘Get over it.’ So it’s like a corny song dedicated to my PTSD.”
Following the release of Condiciones, Cano plans to keep releasing music and taking Harmless back to the stages. “With this EP I discovered I’m always going to be a musician and an artist,” he says. “Creating and releasing music, even if nobody hears it, is my way of standing up to death. It means I didn’t die, and even though everything hurts, I’m not going to stop being who I am. I’m not going to let a drunk man, or a car, or a leg that doesn’t work very well, stop me.”