Cultural revolutions are so passé these days, right? I mean, all that stuff about radical movements, political upheavals, and melting pots belong to generations past, not our era of interconnectivity and augmented reality. By extension, cross-cultural musical mash-ups are, also, a thing of the past.
Arizona rockers Fayuca have spent the better part of a decade defining and refining a sound that originally manifested itself in the ska-punk womb of the late '90s. In the beginning, they were kind of punk rock and sort of reggae, and in recent years, they were even a little Latin. But on their new record, Barrio Sideshow, they sound like one thing: Fayuca.
"It's always been hard to place us because I don't think even we knew where we wanted to be when we first started out," frontman Gabriel Solorzano says over a cup of coffee. "We were just following the trends that we wanted to set, but nobody really understood us as a Latin band."
That began changing once the group started touring with other Latin acts like Grupo Fantasma and Sergio Mendoza y La Orkesta. Meeting multicultural alt-Latino maven Manu Chao also left a lasting impression on the Phoenix-based crew as they started melding cumbia rhythms, mariachi-inspired horns, and Spanish lyrics into their breezy island melodies and grinding punk rock sensibilities.
The unique amalgamation culminates on Barrio Sideshow, where slick cumbia breakdowns meet ripping guitar riffs and hollering choruses on tracks like "Por Que Seguir" and "The Cycle." Fayuca's core has always revolved around singer/guitarist Solorzano and drummer Raf Ruiz, but for this record they shored up the rhythm section with bassist Jared Dieckhoff and received horn treatments from Danny Torgersen and Ryan Sims, as well as vocals from Authority Zero frontman Jason DeVore on "Shoot It Up."
For years, there has been a revolving door at the bass position, but the band has seemingly found a suitable fit with Dieckhoff and Sam Edwards, who is currently touring with Fayuca.
"We were recently asked why some songs were in English and Spanish, and if we had a goal of writing a 50-50 album," Solorzano says. "We didn't plan on writing a Spanish album, and it's more like 70-30 anyway.
"We wanted to write an album where the lyrics were pure and came from our hearts," he says. "We also knew we wanted to go international with it, because there's a world out there that's much larger than a regional or national audience, and in order for us to do that, we had to mold our sound to something that was a lot deeper than just quank-quank-quank reggae. So that's when we started integrating cumbias and getting really in-depth with the Spanish lyrics and making sure they were very poetic and that they weren't like a little fifth-grader writing a Spanish poem."
The group tapped early influences by staple rock en español bands like Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Los Pericos, and Maná, as well as singers Alejandro Sanz, Marc Anthony, and Ana Gabriel. "There are songs about love, conflict, addiction, and doubt [on the new record]," Solorzano says. "There were just all of these emotions that we were able to bring together to actually make sense."
Indeed it does. Along the way, Fayuca also has found a way to perfectly blend everything from metal to punk rock, reggae and dub, and even a little mariachi.
"I think we just had all of the right things going for us when we recorded this album, and we're really proud of it," Solorzano says. "This isn't the best we could do, because we're going to continue to get better, but this is the best representation of us as a band right now."