It’s well known that there is some vigorous musical talent running in the Rodríguez-López’ blood flow. I’m flabbergasted by El Paso’s Zechs Marquise’s latest sophomore release Getting Paid (via Rodríguez-López Productions – you can read our review here), and my devotion to prog-funky-jazz rock is at a high.
Talking to bassist Marfred Rodríguez-López via telephone for the first time felt like I was talking to someone I already knew; the dude’s super cool and chill. It’s probably that border town charm we fronterizos have (*cheesy wink*). In this interview, he talks about the band’s recording studio catching on fire, his experience residing near one of the most dangerous cities in the world, the pressures of being Omar Rodríguez-López‘ brother, and his love of hip hop.
Your album Getting Paid is titled as if it were a hip hop record, and so are some of the songs, like “Crushing It” and “Mega Slap,” yet the music doesn’t sound hip-hop. So, where does that swag in the titles come from?
It just comes from one basic idea: getting paid. We’re broke, you know. We don’t have a lot of cash. The overall attitude for the song names, and the way they came out is just…. we wanted to make a more cohesive record, so to say something a little more focused, and that had more energy on it; something livelier. With that mentality, we went in the studio, and recorded each song. The last song on the record implies that “slap.”
I read that this upcoming album was constructed as if it were a soundtrack to a movie. Considering this, how does the creative process differ from My Delicate Stranded Nightmare?
They were both approached the same way, which is that we wanted to record a record, went in and just started recording. None of the material was rehearsed prior to actually recording the tracks. Each song is kind of a little story as opposed to the last record where it was just one long piece. It was one continuous roll, whereas this latest is just a bunch of independent short stories. They all have their own thing to say in the entire scope of the album.
It took two years to release the album it due to a hazardous situation in the recording studio, right? What happened with that?
My parents have this huge three-car-garage, which they don’t use at all. About five years ago, my brothers and I got this idea to make it into a studio, and put hardwood floors in it. But the short of it is that a couple years ago it did catch on fire, as soon as we started recording, a portion of the house also caught on fire. This caused us to have to move all of our gear and equipment to Marcel’s house to record the record to keep it going. Then from there, the computer crashed and we had to go get it fixed and get a new hard drive. So it was one thing on top of the other, as well as getting the songs the way we wanted them to sound, and not be like, “Oh, you know I wish we would have had more time to re-work that, or maybe we should have used something different for that part right there.” So, aside from things going wrong externally it was also a matter of getting things right, musically.
Growing up in a family of musicians, how much of an influence were your brothers or dad with your personal and creative development?
I guess they’re all responsible. Because we are from a musical family, and we get much support, not just from our father, but our brother as well. My dad did a lot of things to give us the life that we do have, which is, you know, we can go out and pursue a career in music. It’s nice to have that kind of support from your family as a whole. My brothers and my parents influenced on me as a person and on what I want to do.
WE USED TO GO OVER TO CD. JUÁREZ TO HAVE LUNCH, OR
GO TO ONE OF THE BARS CLOSE TO THE BORDER AND HAVE A
FEW DRINKS, OR GO TO EL MERCADO.
WE CAN’T DO THAT ANYMORE.
Did you choose to be the bassist or is that where you landed in bands with your bros?
I actually chose it when we were growing up. Omar used to play bass and I played guitar. These were the two instruments that we were learning how to play. But there’s just something that I like more about the bass, the way that it sounded, the groove of it, and that low frequency. The way that I always thought I used to like, you know, just like any little kid does; dancing a lot to music. Then, as I got older I realized that a lot of that is due to the bass. I just love the richness of the instrument. I learned to play it because I liked the way that it sounded, but then I just wanted to play that instrument because I really wanted to learn how to understand it better.
At times, did you feel a certain sense of pressure, jealousy or competition from your brothers, or from Omar back when he released a new album like every month or so?
No, not really. Um, he kind of has the means to do it — it’s his career. He doesn’t have to worry about anything except putting out music. And as far as pressure goes, yes. That’s always going to be there because Omar is my brother, and that stigma carries over to our band — you know, with people thinking that we don’t deserve proper credibility, or that we’re going to get so far because of my brother’s name and his success. It’s like any young sibling who’s going to look for some kind of approval from their older brothers, especially when you look up to them growing up as a kid. So the only kind of pressure is creatively. We all work very well together so there’s really no pressure from any kind of outlet because we believe heavily in what we’re doing and are proud of it.
El Paso is Cd. Juárez’s twin city, where significant social, cultural, and artistic happenings often collide. Cd. Juárez is infamous for all the turmoil happening there. Has this in any way disrupted or challenged your creativity or everyday life?
In a way yes, because it’s a scary thing to think that the town we share a border with is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It kind of has changed culture around here. We have a lot of the citizens from Juárez coming over to live here now because of how bad the situation has gotten there. So we experienced a growth in El Paso’s population, so at times it’s no longer safe there too. We used to go over to Juárez just to have lunch, or go to one of the bars close to the border, just to go have a few drinks, or go to the mercado. We can’t do that anymore. It’s kind of altered a lot of things as far as the way El Paso was in the past. So in a way it kind of hasn’t grinded any kind of work to a halt over here, but it’s different now than, say, six years ago.
What about the music scene? Have there been any notable influences because of the migration to El Paso? Is there something happening artistically right now?
For the most part is not too much musically, but artistically. A lot of poets and painters have come out of that, just because of the kind of violence that we’re seeing over here; you know, from over there. It hasn’t spilled over into this side yet. Musically, in some cases it has. Us being an instrumental band, we have no words to give a message per se. But I’ve noticed that a lot of the bands around here have a lot more activity towards helping families and citizens of Juaréz just with art events. So, it has influenced the scene in some way.
You’re Puerto Rican, and you live in this Tex-Mex area. How has that played a role? Or better yet: what’s your favorite and least favorite part about being a Puerto Rican in a Tex-Mex location?
My favorite thing is the culture. I love the food, and I really like being here. I guess my least favorite thing is…. well, even being Puerto Rican that it gets pointed out here especially when I speak in Spanish. People are like, “Oh, you’re not from around here, and you’re not from México, where are you from?” So it’s kind of impolite that some people choose to make fun of it. I’ll just think, “You know, I speak the same language as you, it’s just a different accent and some words that are different.” Well, it’s not too bad. There’s not a whole lot that I hate about El Paso. I actually love being here.
Do you guys have any rituals to prepare you before going onstage? Maybe have some energy drinks? Drugs? I don’t know, anything… vitamins?
[Laughter] I guess as far as the ritual goes, we typically like to meet up before the show, because when we’re at the performing space, we’re doing different things: either we’re out at the merch table, hanging out with friends, sometimes we want to go eat. We typically like to always meet twenty to thirty minutes before our set. Basically, all we do is just stretch, listen to music and then talk. Occasionally, we’ll smoke a blunt or something depending on how the evening has gone so far. Energy drinks are a rarity, only when it’s been a string of like five to seven shows with drives between each one –you know, like seven to eight hour drives– something to get that little boost. But usually the ritual is just to be around each other right before we go on stage, and of course the well wishes right as we’re walking out.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen on a Zechs Marquise concert?
On a couple of occasions — it’s not really that crazy but more of a gutsy move on people — we’ve had it happen twice where somebody actually manages to get up on stage and try to sing or talk into the mike. It was a funny thing just that it happened, someone went like, “they don’t have a singer, so I’m going to go up there and sing.” Then you have to get someone to get them out of there. But I guess a non-crazy thing that’s happened, not to us but when we’ve been at other shows, when Matt [Embree] from RX Bandits, their singer, started cutting his hair onstage because he felt it was too long. That was an interesting situation.
Who are you listening to at this time? Any specific records that influenced Getting Paid?
Lately I’ve been on an Outkast kick. They’re probably my favorite hip hop group, and I’ve been listening to all their records lately. But, mostly just them and gangster rap. It’s really weird. I mean I love hip-hop and it’s one of the first types of music that I really started to follow. That’s what I’ve been locked into lately and what’s been playing in the car.
ONE THING WE TALK ABOUT CONSTANTLY AND IN FACT INSPIRED
OUR FIRST RECORD IS THAT HERE ON PLANET EARTH WE HAVEN’T
EXPLORED 100% OF THE OCEAN YET. FOR ALL WE KNOW, THERE’S
CRAZY SHIT HERE ON OUR OWN PLANET.
So maybe there is that ‘gangstah’ influence to “Getting Paid,” “Crushin’ it” and “Mega Slap”!!
Yeah, we all kind of come from that hip hop background even though we all used to go to punk shows growing up. Hip hop was the first root where we were like, “oh man, this feels good.” We were also growing up at the time when hip hop artists were putting out lots of really good records in the that industry at the time.
On your Facebook page under genres you guys have listed “music from outer space.” Are you guys infatuated with otherworldly objects, or just because it sounds “intergalactic”?
I guess it’s a little of both. We are fascinated with the unknown or the final frontier, or anything like that. It’s not even necessarily an otherworldly thing. One thing that we used to talk about constantly and in fact inspired a lot of the first record is that here on planet Earth we haven’t explored 100% of the ocean yet. For all we know there’s crazy shit here on our own planet. We have kind of been fascinated by space travel, time travel, other worlds unlike our own, different cultures, stuff like that.
Have you seen Ancient Alien on Netflicks?
I’ve been addicted to that show, I’m sorry.
Is it good? Somebody was actually telling me about that last week. I have to check it out.
What other upcoming projects do you have underway?
Well we have a few small tours for the album release, then in November we’ll be going out to the east coast for like three weeks. Then we’ll be touring the South, the East Coast, and the Midwest. In between now and then, we’ll be working on the next record, which we already have a grip of materials for. We were starting work on it when we did Getting Paid but we wanted to focus more on one record as opposed to recording both of them at the same time.
Any other details about the next record?
Right now as far as the material goes, it will be a lot heavier compared to “Getting Paid” but it still will have that kind of high energy funk that we did put out on this last record.
Any last words?
Pick up Getting Paid. Pick that shit up and get it paid.