This Doc Captures the Energy and DIY Scrappiness of Costa Rica’s Indie Scene

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Costa Rica is known for the vibrance of its natural landscape and the diversity of its ecosystems, but word is starting to get out about its colorful and diverse independent music scene as well. In San José, the bands Las Robertas, Monte, Colornoise, Ave Negra, and Niño Koi form the nucleus of a scene that is forging a unique musical identity, one defined by kinetic energy, DIY scrappiness, and individuality over trends.

In a new short documentary titled In San José, Colornoise frontwoman and Las Robertas bassist Sonya Carmona captures the scene in her own words. “People here are not afraid to do things differently,” she explains. “They’re not trying to sound like anybody, specifically.” Through live footage and interviews with the bands, the doc catches tico music as it is right now, an object in motion, one worth tracking. From the fuzzy garage pop of leading lights Las Robertas to the tempestuous post-rock of Niño Koi, the scene is revealed in all its gritty, quirky, and sometimes trippy glory.

Austin, Texas-based filmmakers Rachel Kichler and Willi Patton of Backdive filmed it as a companion to their documentary about Las Robertas’ new album Waves of the New, and recently released both online. The duo was inspired to embark on these projects when they saw Las Robertas play at Levitation in Austin. “We fell in love with their songs and their genuine stage presence,” Kichler told Remezcla via email. During their set, Las Robertas frontwoman Mercedes Oller told the crowd. “Come to Costa Rica and hang out with us.” Kichler and Patton decided to do just that, and get it on camera.

While in Costa Rica, the pair saw Colornoise play a gig with Niño Koi and caught Monte rocking in Zarcero, about an hour and a half outside San José. They realized Las Robertas was just the beginning when it came to the city’s musical talent. “The bands are so good and we wanted to share the experience of seeing them live,” Kichler wrote. She describes In San José as a visual mixtape.

Oller will tell you the film is pretty accurate as far as the bands it portrays goes. “The documentary really shows the bands as they are in real life. Rachel and Willi became part of our friends, and they were hanging out with us in the most natural way, so I think they captured a reality,” she wrote in an email. She stressed, however, that it’s far from being a complete portrait of everything that’s going on. “The scene that’s portrayed is just a glimpse, basically. There is a big, wonderful scene here.”