There’s been some noise lately in the music world surrounding Bosnian Rainbows, the latest group featuring guitarist/producer Omar Rodríguez-López (most notably of The Mars Volta, among many other projects). I say “featuring” and not “led by” because López — who had a reputation as a boricua Benito Mussolini in the recording studio — has taken a smaller yet still important role in the band. He still writes and records songs for the group, but so do bandmates Teri Gender Bender (of Le Butcherettes), Deantoni Parks (of The Mars Volta and Dark Angels), and Nicci Kasper (of Dark Angels).
The quartet made its debut in the Inland Empire on Halloween night (they performed in LA and Orange County on previous nights) at The Barn on the University of California, Riverside’s campus. The band unleashed an hour-plus long set of rock tunes (no fancy-schmancy guitar antics, Frances The Mute haters!) with Parks playing a very simplified drum kit with no cymbals other than the hi-hat and a keyboard, Kasper on keys and Teri singing, shouting, and climbing on light rigs á la Coachella but at a safe, non-neck-breaking height.
I spoke with Teri Gender Bender and Omar Rodíguez-López after the show for a few minutes about working in a band where every member is a composer. We also talked how chemistry between bandmates results to music, a hiatus of sorts for Le Butcherettes, and how even the bad moments inspired creativity for the band.
Let’s start with a stupid questi… [as some demon-dressed guy shows up and gets all fanboy on Omar for a few minutes offering to help carry gear into the band’s van]
Hasta el diablo quiere tu autografo!
[Omar and Teri laugh]
Anyway, so, stupid question: Let’s talk about the band’s name. Did you actually spot some rainbows in Bosnia one day?
Omar: Uh, no.
Are there even blue skies out there?
Omar: Of course there are. What are you talking about? [laughs]
Well, that part of Europe has a reputation, as least in my mind, for being gray and cold and wet with bland food with no spices…
Omar: Yeah, England.
Teri: Exactly. Good ol’ England.
So how old is this project? I only heard it’s about a little over a month old.
Omar: We’ve been on the road for about three months and the project itself goes back a while. It’s sort of nebulous.
Did it start off as an offshoot of the Omar Rodríguez-López Group [ORL]?
Omar: Not really. It was definitely a project that we sought out to get started, but it’s the way it all came together. You have to book a tour like five months in advance before it happens, and so we billed it under ORL. Besides, nobody would know [of the group] if we just had Bosnian Rainbows. So the tour was booked a long time ago. You know, we’re always working.
MUSIC IS THE RESULT OF CHEMISTRY BETWEEN PEOPLE.
Always! It is also believed you don’t sleep.
Omar: I sleep all the time! I sleep a lot, watch a lot of movies, and go out a lot for walks…
This is like your 37th project now, right?
Omar: [laughs] I think so!
Your copyright list must be extensive.
Omar: It’s real fun to do what we do. It’s real simple and we get to do it for a living, so it’s like, what else are you going to do? The other side of it seems kind of ridiculous.
That must feel pretty liberating though to not need permission from a label and just do whatever you want with your music.
Omar: I’ve been blessed with a really good career and complete artistic control. The thing with Warner Bros. is they have first option to hear the music and see if they want to put it out, but they never want to put out any of my music. I’m not exactly a mainstream composer, so…[laughs]
You’re all connected to each other via different project. How did the four of you decide to start jamming together as a group?
Teri: Everyone just collaborates, it’s so beautiful. We’re all putting our input. We’re all speaking our minds constantly with no fear of communication. It’s always been a problem for me in the past with all my line-ups but, here, the chemistry, you know, we’re people first! Instead of rehearsing 24/7, we hang out 24/7, we spend time together as people and I think that’s why it’s so easy for us to make music together. It’s so natural.
Omar: Plus, everybody has their own thing. Nobody has any reason to be here. You really have to want to be here to do it. Teresa, most of all, she’s the youngest, she has Le Butcherettes. Everybody’s here because they want to be here. I just wanted to be in a collaborative situation so I set out to start a group were that was completely possible, were everybody in the group was a producer, a composer, an engineer, and a band leader, were everybody had their own thing going on and has no reason to be here except just for the idea of it and, really, a reason for everybody to hang out 24/7.
Will you release an album under Bosnian Rainbows?
Omar: Yeah, we recorded our album in eight days on a two-inch tape, 24 tracks, and that will be coming out next year.
Among many other releases?
Omar: Well, no, like I said, we’re all focusing on this so I’m going to stop doing everything else. I’m going to do this [project] and I’m going to do cinema. She’s focusing on doing this instead of doing Le Butcherettes, the guys are focusing on doing this instead of KUDU or Dark Angels…
EVEN BAD MOMENTS…WERE REALLY INSPIRING.
ESPECIALLY THOSE MOMENTS.
Teri, so you’re on a Le Butcherettes hiatus?
Teri: Yeah. Well, no, I don’t like that word. It’s there for the future, but right now, this is my baby. Our baby! That’s the difference. We all have our own babies but this is the main one.
You already toured Europe. Is that where you launched the band?
Omar: Yeah, we lived in Europe for about a month and just lived together, and…oh wait there goes Nicci…. [Nicci Kasper walks by and Omar tackles/hugs him from behind]
…so, we lived together for a month and got the whole thing going — the dialogue and and the vocabulary — because music is the result of the chemistry between people. That’s what you hear come out of the speakers: the process of doing everything, and music is the end result. I’m not saying new or original, but the point being, that’s why it was important for us to just hang out and watch movies, watch Seconds, watch 12 Angry Men…
Teri: Even watching Total Recall, the remake.
Omar: Even bad moments like that were really inspiring! Especially those moments. So we spent a month there and a couple of days before, we rehearsed. Then, we set off on a six-week tour throughout Europe, England, and Dublin where we hadn’t gone in a long time. We stayed after the tour to record our record and flew to Seattle going down the coast and now we’re on our way to Texas. In fact, you’re holding us up. Naw, I’m just playing! [laughs]