It’s hard to imagine a success story more deserved than that of Rey Pila. Heroes of Mexico City’s underground scene, the band’s unique brand of dark, rhythmic electronica is the perfect combination of dark and danceable. Tracks like lead single “Alexander” bring to mind the undeniable catchiness of Front 242 and Duran Duran, while numbers like “Lady in Red” conjure up a Berlin-era David Bowie. It’s no small wonder that Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas—a lover of the 80s—signed them to his label, Cult Recordings, setting the band off on tours with with Albert Hammond Jr., Muse, and now Interpol. With such a rapid rise to fame and a second album slotted for release in early 2015, Rey Pila is set to put Mexico on the musical map across the world.
I catch the band before their debut performance with Interpol in Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom. When I arrive, band members Diego Solorzano, Miguel Hernandez, Andres Velasco, Rodrigo Blanco, and touring drummer Sebastian Farrugia are eating, sipping on drinks, and preparing for the nights show. Diego, the band’s lead singer, looks like he’s ready to step into a boxing ring, often doing miniature pull-ups on the side of the booth during the interview. The anticipation is thick, and the stakes are high: this is Rey Pila’s first show in Vancouver, and their highest profile tour to date. But with a track record like theres, and the magic the band creates both in record and in concert, you can bet this is an act that won’t be going away anytime soon.
This is your first tour date with Interpol. Are you guys excited?
Andres: Very excited. We couldn’t believe it, ever since we knew about this two months back. It’s a big break for us, definitely. It’s our first time in Vancouver also. We’ve been to Toronto and Montreal, so we’re excited to play here to start this cycle with Interpol now that they’ve just released their new album.
So you guys are working on your second album, under Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records. What can you tell me about the new record? I understand you’ll be singing only in English this time.
Diego: That’s the whole second album, yeah. The first one has five songs in Spanish, but now we’re going full throttle English… it’s kinda hard to say what the album is about. It’s hard to step back out of the circle of songwriting and production. In my case in particular, it’s kinda hard to explain what you’re trying to do with an album. It’s something that flows in a naive feeling of doing the song that you like and feeling what it needs. I guess we’re doing a different kind of 80s album, with a few more guitars. We definitely have a pop sensibility.
Miguel: Lots of synths, lots of guitars.
Sebastian: Lots of basic drum beats, but very solid.
Andres: Mexican crowds go nuts, especially for their beloved international acts. But I find here and in the States crowds are pretty similar, and they’re very good! In Mexico it’s not very common for crowds to pay attention to the opening band. They pay a lot of attention to the sound, they’re curious, they come in to listen. So being on these kind of tours is great for us, because we have a very new audience checking us out. I think Paris was pretty great.
Diego: Glasgow was one of our best shows. The audience there was very similar to a Mexican audience—the way they sing, they’re very enthusiastic about the music. We had a great time there.
Those nutty Scots.
Sebastian: [laughter] We had a lot of fun there.
The sleeve art from your single “Alexander” was inspired by the movie Halloween III. What are your guy’s favourite horror movies?
Andres: I really like “The Shining.” “The Lost Boys” too, it’s not really a horror movie though.
Sebastian: Hey, it scared the shit out of me!
Andres: The soundtrack actually inspired one of the songs on the album.
Diego: I’m a big fan of Dario Argento, Italian horror films from the late 70s and early 80s.
Miguel: “Rosemary’s Baby.” I love that one.
Sebastian: “Children of the Corn.”
Rodrigo: I really like “American Psycho.”
Producer Chris Coady, of Beach House, helped you guys settle in New York and he’s the producer on this next record. How has he affected the album?
Diego: When we got to Chris, we pretty much only had demos—the verse and the chorus. We didn’t leave much space for interpretation.
Sebastian: Very basic.
Deigo: But Chris said that in a way, the demos were very clear. So the producer just jumped into the projects as opposed to going at it from the start to change the structure and stuff. We had some special synth treatment—we recorded at DFA Studios in New York, so we had James Murphy’s entire synth collection to use. You would think Chris is more into guitars, but his thing is totally synths and electronic music, though not so much dance.
What can you guys tell me about Roxy Music?
Rodrigo: We love him.
Sebastian: We cover them at shows sometimes.
Diego: It’s one of those bands that’s just starting to go above the water now. They’re really cool. Brian Eno and his crazy costumes, Lickity Slick character, great songs, great lyrics. I actually just saw a documentary about them on Youtube, and it turns out they all just met up in art school, so I guess it makes sense they’re such an artsy band.
We don’t know a lot about the Mexican music scene up here in Vancouver. What are some other Mexican acts we should be watching?
Sebastian: There’s a few, depends on what kind of music you like. Flans is a big band down there, for one. They like a lot of really fast reggae down there. You know ska? They like a lot of ska down there. It’s a big city, there’s a lot of great bands.
Any favourite venues?
Miguel: There’s a bunch, yeah. There are big shows, but then a lot of small clubs and stuff.
Andres: Diego’s studio is in this neighbourhood called Colonia Roma, and it’s got some very nice bars we hang around. Mezcal bands are very much in fashion since a couple years back, and I’m a very big Mezcal fan [laughter]. We hang around Colonia Roma a lot.
Diego: We go to a bar called “The Real Underground” which is a classic place to go in Mexico City to dance and drink beers.
Andres: It’s not fashionable at all.
Diego: Yeah, it’s where the goth kids go to dance and drink. They have two floors. One is like Joy Division type rock, and the second is Front 242 Eighties style dance.
Andres: It’s very romantic!
Diego: The DJ looks like Bauhaus’s guitar player.
A lot of bands go through a lot of bad names before they find one they like. What’s the worst name you’ve ever played under?
Sebastian: Per Nombre Almas. [laughter]
Gringo here, what does that translate to as far as meaning?
Andres: It’s something like… soul purgatory, I think [laughter].
Dude. That is so goth. I think we can stop right there, you win. My final question: what’s next?
Miguel: The World!
Andres: Obviously, finishing up this tour in good fashion. We’re gonna do our first Austin City Limits festival, our first big one in North America. We’re hoping to release the record in early 2015, January or February, can’t wait to have it out, and we’re gonna preview a lot of that in these shows.
Follow Rey Pila on their website and look for concerts in your area.