Interview: Los Ángeles Azules, Making a Whole New Generation Dance

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Chances are you’ve probably heard the iconic romantic cumbias of Mexico City’s Los Ángeles Azules on the radio or perhaps at a quinceañera. They just released their 19th album, Como Te Voy a Olvidar, after 31 years together as a group. Produced by Camilo Lara (Mexican Institute of Sound) and Toy Selectah (Control Machete, 3Ball MTY), the project was an experiment in duets, as the group invited prominent Latin and Latin alternative artists to record songs from their vast repertoire. The impressive and eclectic roster includes Saúl Hernández (Caifanes/Jaguares), Kinky, Carla Morrison, Lila Downs, Jay De La Cueva (Molotov/Moderatto), Ximena Sariñana, Los Amigos Invisibles, Jiggy Drama, El Gavachillo (Ozomatli), Vicentico (Los Fabulosos Cadillacs), Centavrvs, Celso Piña, and Li Saumet (Bomba Estéreo). **Catches breath** Even the album’s producers get down on one of the 13 songs.

I had the chance to talk to Los Ángeles Azules bassist and leader, Elías Mejía Avante, a.k.a. El Doc, about the project and how it’s helped them reach a brand new fan base.

How did the idea of doing a collaborative album come about?

I had the initial idea four years ago. At the time, we were on a different label that ended up going under. It wasn’t until we changed labels that I presented a song that I had participated on to Camilo Lara. The song had more of a rock cumbia vibe to it with electric guitar. That’s when I proposed the idea to him about doing a record like that and he loved the idea and it evolved into having various artists collaborate with us.

How were the artists that ended up on the recording selected? Did the group have any input on which artists they wanted to work with?

We sent out letters and emails to various artists, their management, and their respective record labels to see if they were interested in participating. Some of the artists we contacted were fans of our music, some grew up listening to our songs on the radio, weddings, and parties and were happy to participate. We let the artists decide which song from our repertoire they wanted to record. For example, the song “Entrega De Amor” would not make sense for Lila Downs, so she selected “El Listón de Tu Pelo,” which is a lot more fitting for her. Saúl Hernández was the first artist to select a song and he chose “Entrega de Amor,” [which] turned out excellent. It sounds exactly like he’s one of the singers in Los Ángeles Azules.

Were there any artists that you contacted that did not participate?

No, fortunately none of them denied our request. All of them wanted to participate on this project. Now that the record is out there are even more artists that want to record with us, should we choose to do another album like this. Right now we are focused on promoting this album and we’ll see what we do next and with whom.

If the tables were turned and you could record any of the songs from the artists that collaborated on this project, which songs would you cover?

Well, this is just an idea I have, not that I want to commit to anything or even say that it is going to happen, but I would like to cover one of Saúl Hernández’s first hits, “La Negra Tomasa.” If given the chance, I would like to record it where we both sing it together.

I would like to cover one of Saúl Hernández’s first hits, “La Negra Tomasa.”

This year you were part of the Vive Latino lineup. How was that experience for you as a band?

Vive Latino was the most nerve-racking performance ever for Los Ángeles Azules. Immediately, the media, the press, and people throughout social media began to question why a tropical group would be participating in a rock event of that caliber. Why were Los Ángeles Azules on the line-up if they are not rockeros? But thankfully, despite all this, our performance was a huge hit. We were one of the most celebrated bands that day.

How do you think more rock-oriented audiences in the United States will receive your performances?

Just recently we were at Staples Center in Los Angeles. They invited us to play a rockero event where El Tri, Miguel Mateos, among many others, played. We were the surprise guest and once the stage started rotating, the crowd erupted into applause and went crazy for us. From the time we started to play until we finished the last note, the crowd did not stop singing and dancing. We were the only group asked to do an encore twice. Words can’t describe the excitement with which people accepted our music that day. The audience reception is what makes our shows special; we just get up there and play.

With this new project you’ve been able to reach a new audience, a whole new generation of fans. Have you noticed a difference in your audience?

Nowadays, there is a lot more unity among genres and music preferences. We see 9 to 10 year olds to older people alike. What I have noticed more now is that entire multi-generational families are coming to our shows. A whole new generation has really taken to our music.

Congratulations on your great album and for obtaining the Gold Record in sales in Mexico.

Thanks to all the rock fans that have allowed us to be part of the musical vanguard.

Download Los Angeles Azules’ Como te voy a olvidar below: