(Me Llamo) Sebastián’s New Album ‘La Sombra’ Tackles Queer Life and Death in Chile

Lead Photo: Photo by Pablo Montt
Photo by Pablo Montt
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(Me Llamo) Sebastián has always been the quirky misfit of Chile’s indie scene. Maligned as an awkward, flamboyant, and chubby weirdo, Sebastián has built a career on his ability to pour his experiences into deeply personal and socially critical songwriting with a humorous slant. However, for his sober and fatalistic new album La Sombra, Sebastián is shattering his popular happy-go-lucky Niño Rosado persona to explore existential questions of mortality and regret.

Inspired by a trip home and a trove of childhood pictures, the Chilean singer was struck by the amount of life and ground separating his younger and current self. “The past determines what we become. It stains us,” (Me Llamo) Sebastián tells Remezcla via email. “Today we are shadows of who we were as children. Everything is temporary. La Sombra swallows everything.” Though somber and a tad melodramatic, La Sombra particularly reflects some of Sebastián’s bitterest and most traumatic memories.

On “Adolescente,” Sebastián pens a letter to his teenage self, urging the future pop star to ignore bullies poking torturous fun of his physical insecurities and instead live his best nerd life by shamelessly playing with his Pokémon trading cards. With “Que Nadie Nos Cambie,” Sebastián issues another affirmation, a reminder to live in the moment despite the pressures of collective conformity.

(Me Llamo) Sebastián dropped some of the most compelling singles of his career leading up to La Sombra’s release. “Las Polillas,” a stirring ballad produced by Chilean superstar producer Cristián Heyne, finds Sebastián in one of his most vulnerable moments as he desperately attempts to negotiate and salvage a fading relationship. His latest single “Edificios” also portrays an ill-fated romance, this time as it crumbles under the social pressures of queer discretion in Chile’s deeply conservative society.

But it was “Hijos del Peligro” that really turned heads. Released in November of last year (also produced by Heyne), the song directly taps into the very real dangers queer and trans people face on a daily basis, describing the community as literally born from and into danger. The video for “Hijos del Peligro” is inspired by the June 2016 shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and stars Francesc Morales, the young actor-comedian behind the viral Chilean web series Mamones. The video for the rapturous pop masterpiece ends with an ominous dedication “a los que hemos sido marcados,” capturing the permanently lurking shadow that follows marginalized communities.

Both Heyne-produced tracks were reworked for the official album release, with (Me Llamo) Sebastián telling Remezcla that the thematic direction of the record changed throughout the writing and recording process. “These were the first songs I wrote that touched on death, impermanence, and living in the moment,” he says, “which are the overarching themes of La Sombra.” His decision to revert from pop production to his sparse original compositions has sadly rendered the songs unfinished and unresolved, though they now reflect the broader minimalism of the record. The anguished whispers on tracks like “La Tos,” “Tus Gatos” and the new “Las Polillas Batallan” ride atop skeletal guitar arrangements, also marking the first time he favors the stringed instrument over his trusty piano.

La Sombra casts (Me) Llamo Sebastián at his most pessimistic. We’ve seen him down in the dumps before, but this time he has produced a record that feels truly stifling. As he closes this creative chapter, we look forward to a rebirth from Chile’s own Jigglypuff; one that leads out of the shadows and into the light.

(Me) Llamo Sebastián’s La Sombra is out now.