Last year, just after their 18th birthdays, twin brothers Marcelo and Eugenio Garza moved to California from Monterrey to pursue R&B. They had a laptop with a Wi-Fi connection, a tiny studio apartment in Los Angeles where they could crash, and nothing else.
The twins didn’t have family in LA, and they didn’t know anyone in the music industry — they didn’t even know many musicians back in Mexico. But the brothers, who have now formed the R&B duo Vice Menta, wildly, naively — almost insanely — thought they could make it as musicians. And so far, they have.
Vice Menta’s short career has been a master class in hustling. The guys, who have been singing since they were children, fell in love with R&B and taught themselves melodies by mimicking Chris Brown and R. Kelly. Once they hit 18, they convinced their skeptical father to help them move to San Diego, and from there, they headed to LA — two Mexican kids with no connections floating through the city, tethered only by the hope that they’d knock on a label’s door and eventually get signed.
The most obvious thing about Marcelo and Eugenio, now 19, is that they’re not shy about anything. Whereas some aspiring artists may have recoiled in LA, intimidated by how hard it is to break into the iron-clad music industry, the twins instantly got to work to figure out how they could get a foot in the door with labels.
“We thought about how we were different from all of the thousands of people trying to make it and we were like, ‘Well, we’re Mexican — we’re actually from there. Let’s work with that,’” Eugenio said.
The brothers singled out trendy clubs and restaurants in the city where major artists, managers, and record label executives spent their time. They started getting to know valets, waiters and busboys, many who were Mexican, and built a system through their Latino friends to get closer to the music industry.
“We created this network, basically,” Marcelo says. “We’d be sitting in our apartment and someone would text us, ‘Hey Justin Bieber’s body guard just pulled up — come by and we’ll try to get you close to him.’ And we’d go over and be like ‘What’s up?’”
In the meantime, Marcelo and Eugenio also messaged labels constantly to introduce themselves and try to set up meetings with everyone from “top executives to the assistant of the assistants,” Eugenio said. “If you were, like, the third cousin of someone in the music industry, we DMed you.”
Their break came when they received an email that Canadian producer and manager Ray Daniels was looking for pop acts. They looked up Daniels’ assistant and wrangled a face-to-face meeting that they assumed would only last 15 minutes. Daniels talked with them for more than an hour and agreed to take them under his wing, as long as they moved to Atlanta.
“We thought we’d made it,” Eugenio says. “We thought we’d move to Atlanta and be in the studio all the time, sitting with songwriters and making an album.”
Things didn’t work out quite that way at first — the guys were still starting off and their manager had other acts he was working with, so they didn’t immediately hop in the booth. But rather than wait around idly, the twins turned to what they do best: Hustling. Daniels had a studio space he shared with other producers, and Eugenio and Marcelo would visit often, observing how tracks were laid and how the recording process went. Then, they’d go home and write their own music, careful to incorporate the lessons they’d learned in the studio.
“We’re from Mexico; we can sing in Spanish and it sounds way better. We can do this in our own way.”
Marcelo and Eugenio sang covers in English often, but they had also written a few songs in Spanish. Newly energized, they started cranking out tracks in their native language that preserved the R&B spirit they loved. They came up with a load of material, like the lulling “Se Hundió” and the glitchy “Déjate Venir.” When they played the songs for their manager, he was floored. At one point, they put on “Se Hundió” in the studio, and producer/rapper Theron Thomas of the duo Rock City overheard it and asked if he could jump on it. (Thomas is also credited on Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop, “I Been On,” and Rihanna’s “Pour It Up.”) People instantly responded to Vice Menta’s sound, and the brothers had the foundation for their EP La Wave, released earlier this year.
Now, Vice Menta is working on new music, experimenting with Atlanta R&B. A video for their song “Paraíso,” featuring Atlanta rapper Yakki, is premiering exclusively on Remezcla today, and the brothers say they’re just getting started. Their goal is to champion more R&B in Spanish, filling a void that has been missing in the genre and that feels authentically theirs.
“We loved R&B so much and learned to sing those melodies,” Marcelo says. “It took a while to realize, ‘Bro what are we doing? We’re from Mexico; we can sing in Spanish and it sounds way better.’ We can do this in our own way.”