José “Fofe” Abreu is one of the leading voices of the Puerto Rican music scene. With his last band, Circo, he’d move from ’80s-style pop god to flamenquero in the span of three minutes. He’s reinventing himself as he goes along, but one thing is constant: the man is devoted to his art.
So, while Circo is no more for the time being, Fofe found another creative outlet in his new band, Fofe y los Fetiches. Their new album, the wonderful Lujo Eterno, is a pop amalgam: goth, punk, and post punk, jazz, movida madrileña of the ’70s, and baladas. It’s an album that also feels urgent in its themes, ranging from love and lust to a satirical critique about plastic surgery and the supposed empowerment of fake tetas. While listening to Lujo Eterno, you get to enter Fofe’s world through his songs, and, believe me, the view is interesting.
So I asked Fofe to answer a few questions via email to share with Remezcla readers. He spoke at length about his new band and its place in the Puerto Rican music scene.
A few years earlier you managed to reinvent Circo’s sound and you had a lot of success in Puerto Rico and internationally. Why did you decide to form Fofe y los Fetiches?
Because I had to, in order to continue evolving and creating art. Circo wasn’t ready to compose or record a new album. My veins were itching for new music and adventures, I had a bunch of very good songs that needed to be recorded and played everywhere! I also feel ready to have my own solo project, to produce independent recordings and have my own record label (Care Crica Records). The adrenaline rush is contagious. To be part of the now is an artistic obligation that comes along with personal growth.
You’re a veteran in the Puerto Rican music scene and you’ve seen it change over time. What are your impressions about the scene now and how does Fofe y los Fetiches fit into that scene?
I think today’s scene went back to the basics. Now it’s more about direct contact with the fans and “do whatever you want to do artistically,” and being independent. Fofe y los Fetiches is a natural evolution based on my experiences in music. When Circo felt burned and frustrated by the tribulations of the music industry, I decided it was time for a refresh and I did what needs to be done in those cases. I went back to basics. I started a journey working with different people, rediscovering my talents and reinventing myself. I worked in some interesting projects like “Pales y la Rumba de la Esquina,” a tribute to poet Luis Pales Matos and traveled to Argentina as Mimi Maura‘s guest in three amazing concerts, among other private presentations in Switzerland and Puerto Rico. Naturally I got immersed in our underground scene and regained my space. Fofe y los Fetiches is the result of three years playing special shows and parties in Old San Juan’s Nuyorican Cafe, composing new songs with old and new friends and having fun doing what I love to do.
All of the members of Fofe y los Fetiches (Jorge Rivera, Jan Carlo Rivera, Javier Pérez, Luis Rodríguez, and yourself) are very accomplished musicians with very different styles. How did you reconcile all of your influences to create such a focused sound? Were you intentionally looking for those differences?
Well, I started Fofe y los Fetiches with a very clear group of influences and aesthetics. What I did was to name Jorge Rivera (Bebo) the musical director of the group. We had several encounters so I could show him the songs, influences and references before contacting the remaining members of the group. After knowing and understanding what I wanted, Bebo formed the band and presented it to me (for my approval). He did an amazing job gathering this particular group of young talented musicians. They represent what I wanted in the group and more. They devoured my conceptual references and spiced it with their particular insight. And I love when that happens. Every day we have more fun playing together.
“[And] also humor like in “Tetas Ortopédicas,” where I
celebrate the power of fake tits trough plastic surgery”
A lot of your songs are about love, lust, and loss. What are your favorite themes to write about? What drives you in terms of songwriting?
Everything! I like to write about my own or vicarious experiences. Falling in love or falling out of love; the drama of a separation and the hopes for new beginnings, not only in love but in life itself (“Del Cielo Caen,” “La Mañana Blanca,” “Besos,” “Barquito de Papel“). In this album I also wrote about first experiences, adolescent journeys (“Consentida de la noche” and “Conquistador“). [And] also humor like in “Tetas Ortopédicas,” where I celebrate the power of fake tits trough plastic surgery; and of course lust and night life (“Luces de Neón“), among other themes.
Your album is called Lujo Eterno. How would you describe that eternal luxury? What kind of eternal luxury would you like to have?
The eternal luxury is alive when you live your live to the fullest. Every small or big moment is worthwhile. Being capable of feeling different shades of emotions is a luxury in itself, and for that we have to be thankful.
You’ve included other collaborations on this project, including the art featured on the record sleeve. Can you tell us a little about these collaborations?
Well I had the pleasure to co-write songs with friends from other indie bands like Dávila 666 and Los Vigilantes and of course with my band mates. A project like Fofe y los Fetiches is not complete without a good photographer like Javier Romero, who is responsible for the cover picture and José Garcés who has been in charge [of] develop[ing] the aesthetics and the artistic design of the album, the show posters, merchandise, and more. The video for “La Mañana Blanca” was a collaboration with director Carlos Larrieu aka Dede Ene and a bunch of friends, including fashion designers Frolain, Alberto Torres and Ecliptica.
You were also present this year at Vive Latino in Mexico City with Los Negros Vivos. How did that go? Is there any chance of Fofe y los Fetiches launching an international campaign?
It was an amazing experience. Negros Vivos had an outstanding debut in the festival accompanied by Sergio Rotman (Los Fabulosos Cadillacs) and me. I think it was great timing for me to reunite with the international alternative music scene after being so busy preparing Lujo Eterno; after preparing myself for this personal and artistic growth. Even though you can download the album in every major digital portal like Amazon and iTunes worldwide, it will be physically distributed in Mexico very soon. Hopefully we will do the same in Argentina. We are working on it. I have an amazing team helping me because they love the album and thankfully have a lot of respect and admiration for my ways of making things happen. I love what I do, I have a blast performing life and producing in the studio.
Fofe y los Fetiches will be performing in Puerto Rico for the next few months, but if you’re stateside, you can catch them in Los Angeles in May and at LAMC in July. You can also expect the next edition of Lujo Eterno, which will include two bonus live recordings: “Sandwich de Cristal” and “Noche para Olvidar,” featuring Calle 13 trombonist Arturo Vergés and Sergio Rotman from Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. In the meantime, download two of their songs for FREE right here.
Photo by Javier Romero