Rey Pila on Film, Touring America, and Playing Soccer with Julian Casablancas

Rey Pila have had the kind of underdog success that most bands have to sell their souls to indie-rock Lucifer to achieve. After years of lackluster touring outside their home country of Mexico, the band was tired, poor, and on the brink of giving up– until a friend told them that Julian Casablancas, the hazy-voiced lead singer of the Strokes, was a listener. At this point, the band was so used to letdown that it took a phone call from Casablancas to prove it wasn’t just another dead end, but within weeks they were acquainted with the New York legend and signed to his renowned Cult Records label. A few years later, and Rey Pila have achieved popularity across North America, toured with Interpol and the Rentals, and had a chance to play with James Murphy’s synthesizer collection. More importantly, the band has sharpened a unique sound, somewhere between the electronic melancholy of Depeche Mode and the energy of The Ramones at their strongest.

Lotusland Magazine caught Diego Solórzano this summer while he was in a bus bound for New York, and while we are sorry to say we interrupted his Metallica jam session, we did talk to him about Goodfellas, the best parts of touring, and the story that made Rey Pila.

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So, what’s going on with Rey Pila right now?

We’re all in the van, probably around 3 hours away from New York. Just before you called we were listening to “Harvester of Sorrow.”

And you mentioned that you had just played in an iconic venue in Toronto?

That’s what we heard! It’s the Horseshoe Tavern, one of those places where upcoming bands that are going to Toronto for the first time like us love to play. The great thing about it is that every Tuesday is a free night, so you get four unknown bands to play. It’s awesome.

What was it like touring America with the Rentals?

Very fun. Prior to that, we had the experience of touring with Interpol across North America. So you start knowing which cities you like the most, which people you like, where to grab coffee… it gets more fun every time. Touring with the Rentals was very nice, the longest tour that we ever did—almost all of the U.S. We met loads of people, saw new places, and really appreciated that part of the experience.

I spoke to you last time you were in Vancouver—if I can ask, what do you think about my fine city?

It has a really nice landscape—I really like it, and the people were really nice. Strangely enough, that’s one of those places where we got a really strong reaction from the crowd. I guess people just had a really good impression of us. We had a couple of guys with the band shirt, which was really surprising—we were the opening band, and we’ve got a very particular kind of audience, so to see people with the shirt, even if it’s only a few, is a sign we’re doing the right thing.

Being from Canada myself, we don’t get a lot of Mexican music—is there any challenge associated with breaking into Canada and the States?

Not really! Actually in Canada it’s been really easy. We have a lot of friends in Toronto, and we’re signed to Arts and Crafts in Canada as well as Cult Records. Every time we’re in Toronto we get the royal treatment, people show us around and everything. Canada has been smooth and easy for us.

Your next album is called “The Future Sugar.” What can you tell us about it?

It’s been a long time since we recorded an album. It’s been almost 4 years. We started doing pre-production in Mexico City, then we moved to James Murphy’s DSA Studios and recorded there for a month. We were enjoying the process so much that we realized we could have recorded for another month, so we moved studios to the Lower Eastside. We finished that part of the mix, and now Julian Casablancas has his hands on the album. He’s definitely excited—we showed him some demos that aren’t on the album, and he’s definitely happy with them. He called me at like, 1 AM to tell me he wanted those songs on the album. We ended up working at The Magic Shop with him, and now we’re producing two more songs for the album. I think the album with Julian’s hands on it is a lot more circular and to the point, which is what we wanted from the start. We don’t pretend to be an experimental band, we know what we like; we take after the Ramones and The Cars from a mixing standpoint, nice and straightforward. 

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When you first heard Julian was into the band at one of your shows, is it true that you didn’t believe it?

That was a friend of ours we were touring with—through Canada, actually—with a band called the Darkness. We went through Ottawa, Toronto, and the tour was definitely not the best one we’ve had. We had really bad luck with the crowds and the show, and it was one of those depressing moments when you’re travelling in bad weather and you begin to wonder what you’re doing with your life. It’s torture. We went to the Mercury Lounge for a show in New York, only to find the show was cancelled—this was around when Sandy came in, so there was no light or anything. But thankfully, after 2 days of waiting, the power was back on. Anyways, a friend came up to us after the show and said “Hey, Julian Casablancas really likes your band,” and the experience we had just had was so bad that I was like “Dude, don’t tell me lies, I just want to go home to Mexico.” But then he started emailing me and Julian… I thought it was a prank, but at the end, he said “Yeah, it’s me Julian, and I would love for you to come to New York to talk about music and making songs.” And it started from there.

I also heard you played soccer with him in Chinatown?

We started doing the soccer thing because we share that passion strongly—we’re firmly about soccer. I went to record some vocals for the B-side of the “Alexander” single that came out a while ago—the cover of “Lady in Red”—we played soccer, so now it’s just a thing that we do together, the band and him.

I never would have taken Julian for a soccer player.

He’s really good, actually.

I understand that on “The Future Sugar” the title is derived from a David Lynch film.

It’s from a movie called Wild at Heart—did you ever see it?

No, but I’m aware Nicholas Cage was involved in it.

It’s a really nice, rich, dreamy movie, and there’s a line in the movie, and there’s a line in it that goes “We need to talk about the future, sugar.” So we got it out of there—it’s also a song on the album.

When I spoke to you last time in Vancouver, I talked to you about how Alexander” took it’s cover art from Halloween III, as well—how much would you say cinema affects your music?

Very much, I would say even more than music affects my music. I grew up with an older brother that had a really strong passion for movies, so I never had control of the TV. He was always showing me the movies he wanted to see, so I just sat down and watched. I saw Goodfellas when I was 9 or 10, which was super shocking for me—from the first scene when they stab the guy in the trunk. But those are dear memories to me, and film is one of my biggest passions, with the largest being music. I think movies are the ultimate artistic expression.

That’s still pretty young to watch Goodfellas, I gotta say. And was it completely your brother who brought you onto it?

He had control, so he showed me Lost Highway and lots of things that I now appreciate and am very grateful he showed to me, because they give me a totally different perspective on art.

My last question: what’s next for Rey Pila?

We’re doing this mini tour in New York at the moment, and then we’re gonna go a tour in September—again, one of the major ones.

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The Future Sugar will be available in Canada on September 25th via Arts & Crafts.

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