Q&A: Enjambre, One more Album before the End of the World

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Enjambre is what happens when you mix The Strokes, Elefant and José José together in one package and if that’s not enough to sell anyone, I don’t know what is. The quintet, featuring Luis Humberto Navejas, Rafael Navejas, Julian Navejas, Angel Sanchez, and Javier Mejia, has found fame and success in their other home in Mexico thanks to a number of romantic, indie-rock ballads and a few incredible collaborations (which you‘ll read about in the interview). The beautiful irony of Chicanos finding success in their parent’s land of birth wasn’t lost on anyone.

I spoke with the Navejas siblings over a round of beers about life in Mexico City, dealing with the bureaucracy of Mexico and the U.S., their love for Cri Cri, and their hope to release a fourth album before the world ends in December.


What brings you guys out to California?

Rafa: Our family.

Luis: We’ve come to say bye to them because this is the last year this world’s gonna exist. {laughter}

That’s right, you guys are from Orange County?

Rafa: We were born in Orange but we grew up in Mexico, in the state of Zacatecas. We came back when we were in high school and then we left again. We left three years ago. We’ve been living in Mexico City for three years now.

Luis: We’re from both parts, I guess. I, personally, lived here the most because I’m older than these guys. I’ve lived a little more than half of my life here.

Do you prefer life in Mexico than over here?

Luis: Not really, no.

Rafa: I’ve been thinking about that because, this year, that question was brought up and it’s not that I don’t like living here, because I do and I wouldn’t mind coming back and living here, but even though I lived here for 10 years, I don’t feel that I belong here. It’s weird. I feel like I belong [in Mexico]. There’s a lot of things that I don’t like and I don’t enjoy but I feel that I belong there.

Julian: That’s how I feel too. I love it here and I have a really good time and it’s beautiful but I prefer Mexico more. I like it.

Luis: I like it better here in the United States. In Mexico, I like the fact that we can do things there that we cannot do here but I’m very disgusted of how the system is. Nothing works there. You can’t complain anywhere. I don’t want to get all…

Rafa: Political!

Luis: Yeah, I don’t want to get all punk here, but the government sucks.




The bureaucracy is worse down there?

Luis: It’s horrible.

Julian: There’s a lot of corruption. That’s why all the things are happening there. We’ve let corruption be part of our lives there for so long that it’s really backfired on us now.

Rafa: If you go to the city, to the local government [and say] “I need help with this, this, and that…” They would never help you, or say, “Okay, let me just fill out this form.” It goes into a file and that’s it. They don’t help you! That’s the point and they treat you as if you owe them, as if they’re doing you a favor. I used to work for the city of Santa Ana for a year before I left and I would be in trouble if I rejected anybody who went there even if they looked like bums. I had to help them because if they go to my superior and say “he didn’t help me,” I’ll be in trouble. There’s a huge difference as far as public service.

Luis: And I think the United States right now, it’s at its worst that it’s been in a long, long time and it’s still really organized and I appreciate that. Plus, my family’s here and, I guess, since I haven’t been here in almost three years in America… {imitates Bonasera from The Godfather} “…in America!” I miss being around my parents. They live here and my two older brothers and my nieces and nephews live here and they’re better than anybody I know in Mexico except for my wife and daughter. Other than them, I’d rather be with my family than with any of my friends in Mexico but that’s where we have to be right now because, we play in this band, by the way!

Back to the music, you guys have…four albums out?

Luis: Three albums. The first one, we recorded it here. It came out in 2005 and we had a fairly good following of fans and the record, called Consuelo En Domingo, we got nominated for this award called Premio Lo Nuestro, which is kind of like a People’s Choice Awards. It was weird because we were the only band from the United States that weren’t with a record label and we got nominated. We were competing against Molotov, Juanes and big names in music. It was really interesting that we were chosen to be nominated. That was when we thought that we could do this for a little longer. We recorded our second record [El Segundo Es Felino] and had an opportunity to go on tour in Mexico. That’s when we saw that in Mexico is where we had to be so that’s where we recorded our third record.

Was the music scene going off there during that time?

Luis: Oh yeah, it still is. There’s a scene for anything. It’s the biggest city in the world and there’s all kinds of people so…we got there and people, when we got on stage, we were opening for this well-known band called San Pascualito Rey and everyone was yelling “Pascual! Pascual!” They wanted us to get off the stage and at the end of our set, they were yelling “Otra! Otra!” Going from “get off the stage” to asking for an encore was really interesting and everywhere we would play, it would be like that. People didn’t really know who we were but they started liking it. We’re like “well, if we keep doing this for a longer period of time then we can build it up and probably do this for a little longer.”

Julian: Also, we’re a band that sings in Spanish.

Rafa: The main music industry is still in Mexico City. Even Spanish or Argentine artists always want to go to Mexico and work their way out of there. It makes total sense for us to be there right now. It’s like for movies, it’d be Hollywood or for theater, it’s New York.

Are you guys working on something new right now?

Luis: We’re working on writing new songs and, hopefully, by April or May, we’ll be recording our new record. It’s funny because we’ve been promoting Daltónico, which is our previous record, for over a year now and we’ve played those songs so many times {laughs} that we want to start playing more songs. We still like them, we still like to play them. Especially in places where they haven’t heard us, like here in the United States. We have never played those songs here. We haven’t played here in a long time.

Rafa: We were supposed to do that now but our drummer’s visa expired so he couldn’t make it after all. We were hoping we could play at least one show in LA and another in Orange County but that will have to wait until next summer.




It’s kind of hard to avoid the politics of immigration when you’re going back and forth a lot.

Luis: Yeah and probably for him it’s not going to be as difficult because now we’re with a record label so, if they see that he’s working in Mexico with EMI and stuff. He’ll come back because he has a good job {laughs}. Let’s hope for that to happen but the thing was that he couldn’t do anything until January because it was December already.

Rafa: Over there, from like December 8 or 10, no one wants to work anymore. “Oh, you know, Christmas is just next door and we’re not going to do anything.”

Luis: Most likely we’ll record in Mexico. We’re starting a little studio. Julian produced our previous two records and he’s been getting little toys here and there and he’s building up a little studio and, for now, we’re going to start using it just to record to see how the songs are sounding.

Rafa: We’re doing the best we can just in case we use those as the actual record. We have some ideas but we don’t know if we’re going to work with this producer or whoever. In the meantime, we’re just going to record it ourselves the best we can and it may end up being the actual album. The good thing now that we’re here, [Julian] already saw a couple pieces of equipment that we want to take. It’s cheaper here than if we buy them there so we already got my credit card approved! We already have our eyes on this microphone we want to use.

Do you have an idea where you want to go with this new album?

Luis: Usually, for the most part, I’m the one who brings the lyrics, and the rough draft of a song and the songwriting. Sometimes I have songs that are more finished and I have an idea for the beat but, in this particular case, I’ve been bringing little chunks of songs and we’ve been working with these songs a little differently than we have in the past. Everybody’s contributing a little more and I really don’t know the direction or if there’s going to be a common denominator in all the songs or a theme or concept.

Julian: It’s always like that. We never know and when we do, it doesn’t turn out to be that way anyway.

Luis: I hope that it’s a little harder and dirtier than our other records.

Julian: ¡Como te gusta! {laughs}

Luis: {laughs} That’s the direction that I want the record to go.

Like garage or grunge?

Julian: Like a death metal type sound. {laughs}

Luis: I was listening to Jack FM on the way here and there was a Led Zeppelin song and that kind of guitar and bass doing the same thing would be kind of cool but, if it doesn’t sound natural to the band, then no. It’s really not our angle usually but if it has that essence…

Rafa: To me, Luis is a natural songwriter but I think he’s way too influenced, without him knowing, by ’70s ballads or boleros or very melodic lyrics. I know he tries to not fall into an “oh it’s just another ballad” so we’ll see what happens.

Julian: That’s a good thing. You have these contrasts so it always turns out to be not what we wanted, not what the people wanted, it just turned out to be what it turned out to be.

What are some old-school Mexican artists that have influenced your work?

Luis: Juan Gabriel is a big one. That’s the one I know because of my mom and my dad.

Julian: Los Panchos.

Rafa: We are huge fans of Gabilondo Soler Cri Cri. He wrote children’s music.

Luis: He did {starts singing} “¿Quien es el que anda aqui? ¡Es Cri Cri!”

Rafa: I love Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, Javier Solis, all those excellent singers from the ’50s, la epoca del oro del cine de Mexico. I love that.

Julian: José José.

Luis: Then there’s others like Argentina’s Sandro de America, Piero.

Rafa: Argentina’s Leo Dan, and Roberto Carlos from Brazil.

Luis: So there’s all those musicians. I don’t know if we sound like any of them! We just like that stuff. We like the good ol’ rock n’ roll like The Beatles, the Stones, Credence Clearwater Revival.

Julian: The Doors, The Beach Boys. If we lived in the 1960s, this would be a different story.




What was the video you shot at Tlatelolco?

Luis: It was “Enemigo.” That’s the most recent video we shot. The outdoor scenes were shot there at Tres Culturas. [Paco Ibarra]…went with us on our tour this year, well it’s last year now, and hopefully sometime in 2012 we’ll be releasing a documentary of our tour. He’s doing all the cinematography for that. He’s got a great eye. It’s not really about the history of the band. It’s more about the tour and the songs in the record.

You guys have collaborated with some interesting people.

Luis: The second year we were in Mexico, we were already doing alright, audience-wise, we were playing a bunch of shows, and Hello Seahorse! started years before we did so they had a bigger following. For us, it was just a friend singing with us at a show, and we would play other shows together. Lo Blondo would sing with us so we just thought we should just record together. It was one of those end-of-the-year things for the fans and it ended up being the most successful song on the record. Obviously, it has to do with the fact that she collaborated with us. It sounds beautiful because she has a beautiful voice.

Julian: Another cool collaboration we’ve done was with Alejandro Marcovich from Caifanes. He played a show with us. We were in the tribute to Caifanes and we played “Estas Dormida,” which is a song he wrote and we invited him to play at a show. It’s available on iTunes (download below).

Didn’t Saul Hernandez hear that song too?

Luis: Well, the thing is that they didn’t want that song on the record because it was a Marcovich song.

And he and Saul still had beef back then.

Luis: Right, so we told the record label that that’s the song we did, and we’re not going to do another one. If we‘re not going to be on the tribute then we‘re not gonna be on the tribute.” So they said, “No but we really want you guys to be in the tribute because you’re an upcoming band from the label.” And they really liked the song too! We told them, “Why don’t you just show the song to Saul and the manager?” They hadn’t even listened to the song. They just knew it was a Marcovich song and didn’t want to include it. They listened to it and they liked, so they said this should be on the record. That was our first approach to Caifanes. Then we had to opportunity to talk to Alejandro and he said that he liked our version. Actually, in one of the interviews that they did, he said his collaboration with Enjambre wasn’t him playing his song, it was him playing the version of Enjambre of his song!

Julian: We released this CD/DVD of Daltónico and the songs from the special edition, which are two b-sides and the performances of that show where he played. It’s available on iTunes (download album below).

Rafa: He busted a cool solo.


All photos by Afroxander. Thumbnail photo (above) taken at Los Angeles County Museum of art. Photo below taken during their radio interview at LA’s INDIE 103.1.