You might expect a band with a name as whimsical as Hello Seahorse! to make light-hearted, twee-leaning music about sea creatures romping and frolicking (if you can do that under water, that is) and being generally too cute for words. But the Mexican indie pop band defies their moniker and produces some of the country’s most inspired and compelling music. Last year’s Bestia was considered by many to be one of the year’s best Latin American albums and earned the band several awards and nominations, including a Latin Grammy nomination for the album’s title track. They are nominated again this year for “Criminal” and recently released the ambitious Lejos. No tan lejos. in Mexico (US release via Nacional Records on January 25th). We talked to lead singer Lo Blondo about the new album, opera, and the Grammys.
We decided to start a new album because we needed to express a lot of things that we had accumulated. Bestia launched us and opened lots of doors for us, and we’re very grateful for that. But in the end, we dedicate ourselves to music. And if you dedicate yourself to music, the emotions and the need to express them are always present. We don’t want to confine ourselves to a record label’s timeline because that’s not how we work. We’re very spontaneous. We also added a fourth member, Joe, so this album was a way to welcome and integrate our new member creatively.
We composed and recorded Lejos. No tan lejos in a very free way. It was like jamming. We worked again with Yamil Rezc who worked on Bestia and is like a fifth member of Hello Seahorse! Through Bestia we also met Money Mark, who produced half of the new album. We worked with Money Mark in LA for a week, and a week in Mexico with Yamil.
You say that with this album you had a lot to say and a lot to express. So what exactly are you saying with this album?
Lejos. No tan lejos deals with the theme of detachment. The idea of detaching oneself from objects and the material world, and sometimes from the sentimental world. Like, leaving your loved ones behind when you’re making and performing music is very emotionally heavy. We’d all had chaotic relationships in the preceding months, and this album was a way of dealing with that chaos. Detaching ourselves from our homes, our houses, led to “Casa Vacía.” There are a lot of charged emotions that come with constantly being surrounded by people, then going home to an empty house.
“WITH Lejos. No tan lejos. WE WANTED TO
MAKE A SNAPSHOT OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING
AND WHO WE WERE AT THAT MOMENT.
WE WANTED TO BE COMPLETELY TRANSPARENT.”
How is the album different from the last, and how has your sound changed?
It’s very different, but still very natural. We were in a very different place recording this album than we were in with Bestia. With Joe, we reintroduced the guitar sound to our aesthetic. We also added an organ. When we were on our way to record the album, we went to pick up Oro de Neta and I said to him, “Hey, remember that organ that you have that your aunt gave to you? Bring it!” And that organ was very important for the texture of the new album and it became part of the live show, too.
I already had it in mind to use a vocal style that I had been working on a lot with my professor, who teaches me opera. I had this idea that I wanted to be a great opera singer. So, when we were making the album, I wanted to play around with that opera voice and with that fantasy that I had. To sing is to show who you are in a particular moment. Your voice sounds the way that you feel. With Lejos. No tan lejos we wanted to make a snapshot of what was happening and who we were at that moment. We wanted to be completely transparent.
Do you have any favorite operas or opera singers that influenced you as you were working on the album?
I’m a big admirer of Yma Sumac, a Peruvian singer. But it’s not like I just sit around listening to opera. I listen to all kinds of music. I admire all women who dare to say what they want to say.
You’ve gotten a lot of attention from American media, like Pitchfork and Stereogum. What about your music do you think appeals to an American audience and to an international audience?
I think all music can be international. Language isn’t important. Of course, the words are very important, but the music itself is the most important. We played in California recently, and this guy came up to me and asked if I spoke English. Then he told me, “I love your music. I don’t know what you’re saying, but I just felt it so near to me.” Music on its own is beautiful and communicates and transforms. And all music can be like that if you open your heart and let it enter and touch the most sensitive fibers that you have within.
You’re nominated for the Best Alternative Song Grammy again this year for “Criminal.” Congratulations.
Thank you so much!
How does it feel to have your work recognized like that?
It was a surprise because we had already been nominated last year with “Bestia.” And for it to happen again this year is crazy. We’re very happy. And this year we’re going to actually be able to attend, which is exciting.
Very exciting. I know “alternative song” is a bit of an ambiguous category, but what would you say is the best alternative song of the year?
That’s a really hard question. “Arena” by Chetes is a great song.
What are you working on right now and what’s next?
Right now we’re just playing here in Mexico City. We recorded “Hasta Morir” for a Caifanes tribute album that was just released. For next year we’re planning a lot of exciting things that I can’t really divulge right now. All I can say is that it involves a great Mexican band.
Check out below the Latin Grammy nominated “Criminal” video off Hello Seahorse!’s previous album Bestia. Lejos. No tan lejos. debuts stateside on January 25th.