Second chances are increasingly rare in our ever-accelerating media culture. Every day, small stories and emerging voices slip through our fingers, lost in the breakneck avalanche of political headlines and high-profile releases. For Mexican musician Marrón, however, a mix of established talent, commercial potential, and luck are giving his solo debut Etc. a second shot at glory, offering an oasis of thoughtful synth pop in today’s loud and crowded music market.
Best known as the frontman for Mexican rock band Ventilader, Jorge Marrón hails from the laid-back beach city of Acapulco, the city’s chillness reflecting off his own shy and polite demeanor. At age 18, Marrón went away to college in Monterrey, pursuing a career in industrial engineering and befriending drummer Carlos González (Mersi) along the way. The pair connected over their mutual passion for music and relocated to Mexico City in 2005 to form a band. Ventilader would eventually sign to Sony Music, releasing five studio albums over the next decade, building radio play and a cult following, and performing at major festivals like Vive Latino, Corona Capital, and SXSW. But despite the band’s success, Marrón began feeling worn down by the corporate business model.
“I wanted to work on music that would drive me to fall in love with the music-making process all over again,” Marrón tells Remezcla over a Saturday afternoon phone call. “Sometimes when you’re signed to a major label and begin to find success, you also lose focus of your love for music and why you started creating it in the first place,” he adds. “I wanted to feel good again; to make music that somehow led me to a mental and emotional state that made me feel better, and also brought the listener to a form of self-healing.”
Marrón arrived in New York City in the summer of 2015, staying with his sister as he inched his way back to organic creativity. Breakout single “Diez Años” was the first song to come out of this new period, with Marrón describing it as the most studio fun he’d had in years. As the framework of an album began taking shape, he searched for producers to polish out the sound, finding a kindred spirit in Van Rivers of Fever Ray and Blonde Redhead. “We worked together for four months, over the winter,” says Marrón, reminiscing on the frigid chapter. “It was an intense studio dynamic, recording as we froze to death, dreaming of music for summer, longing for the sun on our faces.”
Experimentation and perseverance gave way to Etc., a nine-track album comprised of contemplative sonic snapshots of Marrón’s life and travels after leaving Mexico. Latest single “Sándalo” erupted out of him after a meditation session. Serene and drenched in synths, the song conjures all the colors of the sunset, “conveying images instead of just words,” in his words. On “Cometa,” Marrón sings a lullaby to his then unborn niece, stringing together a melody he’d crafted months prior with the news of the coming birth. The video for “Cometa” is directed by his sister Lorena Marrón and incorporates clips of her life leading up to her daughter’s arrival.
Album closer “Nothing’s the Same Without You” holds the distinction of being Etc.’s only English-language track. The song was inspired by Marrón’s adaptive journey to becoming a New Yorker, forgoing forlorn lyrics for Mexico or a bygone paramour in favor of a stirring valedictory mantra.
Though Etc. originally dropped in the summer of 2016, the strength of “Diez Años” brought the record to the attention of Nacional Records head Tomás Cookman. After featuring the song in one of the label’s LAMC compilations, Cookman met Marrón at one of the festival’s showcases, eventually deciding to re-release Etc. via Nacional. And we couldn’t be happier. Marrón’s musical scrapbook is honest and void of frills; charming yet soothing. Etc. deserves a better fate than languishing in streaming obscurity. In a time of unwavering noise, sincere musical storytelling is a necessary and welcome respite.