Must be something about Monterrey.
Picture it: Every year, the Mexican soccer league has two seasons, winter and summer, and before each season kicks off, there's excitement in all the Mexican stadiums. Nowhere, though, is the electricity more palpable than in Monterrey, which puts on a jubilant, colorful celebration, complete with booming fireworks. It's the regiomontano spirit lots of colors, lots of noise which explains why the region is a stronghold for accordion-based music. But it's also home to some of Mexico's hottest rockers of the moment: In recent years, El Gran Silencio, Plastilina Mosh, Control Machete, Zurdok, Resorte, Jumbo, and Genitallica have come onto the scene as though some old Momo-like rocanrol god created a rock en español band with each breath. À la Vishnu.
Add to that list of names a new one, perhaps the best band yet: Kinky. If Tijuana's Nortec Collective was the biggest rocanrol phenomenon in 2001, this Monterrey band's self-titled debut, released this spring on London's Sonic 360 (distributed stateside by Nettwerk), is 2002's first great Latin alternative recording.
At first listen, Kinky sounds like just another up-and-coming Latin alternative band deep into electronic music or at least into electronic gadgets. Though it embraces the music of more hip-hop-oriented buddies Control Machete and Plastilina Mosh (who also like to play with toys), there are some differences, both musical and practical. For example, Kinky's live show doesn't suck.
"We bring the whole band, because we're a band of musicians," says Ulises Lozano, the band's keyboardist and electronic spirit. His bandmates' musical tastes range from Latin and jazz (Omar Góngora, drums) to rock and trip-hop (singer, guitarist and scratcher Gilberto Cerezo and singer-guitarist Carlos Chairez) to cumbia, norteñas and Tex-Mex (César Pliego, bass). "We're not the type of musicians who create music on a computer and then set up the show."
It only takes one pass at Kinky to understand why the band's live show is so much better than those by most of its Monterrey brethren. Kinky's sound is funkier, groovier, more Latin and much closer to straight-up rock 'n' roll than the average toy band. "We try to use as many live instruments as we can onstage," says Lozano, and the instrument-switching live experience is a feast for dancers and listeners alike. Meanwhile, the CD is consistently solid, with gems such as "Ejercicio #16" (featuring vocals taken from a mom-and-pop calisthenics LP), "San Antonio" (a techno-religious hymn) and "Anorexic Freaks," a guitar-oriented electronica-hip-hop attack.
According to producer Chris Allison (who's worked with Coldplay, the Beta Band and P. Mosh, among others), Kinky is an endangered species.
"These guys have the songs, man," says Allison, owner of Sonic 360. The producer first heard Kinky's demos while working on P. Mosh's 2000 release, Juan Manuel. Allison was so impressed that he encouraged the Kinky boys to send him more music, which they did. After Kinky triumphed at the 2000 Latin Alternative Music Conference's Battle of the Bands on the strength of the infectious "El Pato," Allison elbowed his way past a crowd of eager label giants (including BMG and Sony) to sign the band. The small-label pact surprised and intrigued observers.
"We knew it was an unusual thing to do, but we did it because we like Chris," says Lozano. "He showed an early enthusiasm for the band, and he gave us great creative freedom." Allison, meanwhile, dismisses any suggestion that the signing was unusual for a London label, an attempt to cash in on the growing interest in rock en español. "I'm only interested in working with interesting bands," he says. "No matter where they're from." Among Sonic 360's other recent signings is Argentina's Acida.
The signing has proved prescient, with Kinky, formed in '98, rising at a faster rate than any Mexican rock band ever. The LAMC victory and the record deal set the stage for a busy 2001, which included a showstopping appearance at Colombia's Rock al Parque, Latin America's biggest rock festival.
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"We went [to Bogotá] for a show and had to stay for over an extra week, playing in front of more than 25,000 people," Lozano says. But surprise success came on a different trip, a mini-tour of Europe that included stops in France, England and Wales. Kinky's gig at Reims, France's Transmusical Festival, earned the band invites to several European summer festivals. And nowhere was the response better than, of all places, Wales.
"Wherever we play, the response is similar," says Lozano, the band's unofficial leader. "We start playing, and people start dancing and getting involved. But we were a little surprised with the Welsh's euphoria, because they were the ones who knew the least about the band."
The same can't be said of the crowd at Austin's South by Southwest, where Kinky was bathed in buzz after a successful showcase alongside fellow Mexican stars such as Café Tacuba's Joselo Rangel, Ely Guerra and Genitallica, as well as Chile's Chancho en Piedra, France's Pánico and 2001 Latin Grammy winners Sindicato Argentino del Hip Hop. Now the band looks ready to blow up. Meanwhile, its connection to its colorful and noisy hometown has never been sweeter.
"I think one of the reasons [Monterrey's rock movement] is going on is because people from Monterrey are very supportive," says Lozano. "People support music with the same enthusiasm they support art and soccer. That makes it easier for us to survive."