Both Metric and Zoé are internationally recognized bands with notable longevity. Metric, a Canadian rock group, have been making music together since 1998, and during this tour are celebrating the release of their new album, Art of Doubt. Similarly, Zoé are showcasing their 2018 release, Aztlán, which won the Grammy for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album earlier this month and received three Latin Grammy nominations, including Best Alternative Music Album and Best Alternative Song (for the single "Azul").
Phoenix New Times caught up with Zoé frontman León Larregui about the album, its conceptual inspiration, the state of Latin music within the global market, and more.
Phoenix New Times: The launch of this new album marks more than two decades of Zoé as a group. How would you describe the evolution of your sound?
León Larregui: Over the span of 20 years, we've continued to define our style. At this point, we’re firmly established. You have to spend a lot of time borrowing the things you like that you hear before you can develop your own style. It’s not pretty to box yourself into a genre, but I would say that you could call us rock, or rock-pop.
The concept behind Aztlán is interesting, Aztlán being the mythical place of origin of the Aztec people. It conjures up the idea of the roots of Mexican culture and identity during an era in which the pressures of globalization continue to grow. What inspired you to work with this theme?
I think of it as an invitation to people to reflect on their own cultures and ideas. Obviously, we are not making music with traditional Aztec sounds; that’s not what it’s about. When we were writing this song, we were thinking about themes of migration, and what that means nowadays to different people. When we were making the album, there was also the uncertainty of the elections (in Mexico) in 2016. That’s where the songs "Aztlán" and "No Hay Mal Que Dure" ("There Is No Evil That Lasts") came from.
What’s it like to tour in the United States? Do the Chicano and Latin communities connect with your music the same way that audiences in Mexico do?
The people we see of Mexican and Latin descent who live in the United States have a certain nostalgia when it comes to getting to know their roots. We see it in our concerts. Being in a place where you can hear music in Spanish is a special experience. You see everyone mixing and mingling, from people of Chicano descent, with deep roots in the United States, to those who more recently emigrated from any part of Latin America.
The important thing about this tour is the co-headlining with Metric. It’s a sort of social experiment. We’re sharing an audience we otherwise never would have had. Truthfully, the reception isn’t always easy. People who come to see Metric and don’t speak Spanish have no idea what we’re saying. All in all, though, I do think it’s working.
How do you see the current state of Latin music in a global context? The demand continues to grow. Do you see it as a positive phenomenon? What are the downsides?
The thing to remember is that many English-speaking people only see one side of Latin music. It’s not all reggaeton or dance music. The music we make is rock-pop, and it’s been very interesting to share this with the North American public. They can look beyond the stereotypes to see that there is more out there. Music is the universal language. It’s all an experiment.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
“Renacer” ("To Be Reborn") is currently my favorite. It’s a fictional story based on the devastating earthquake of 2016.
What are you looking forward to about your visit to Phoenix?
We’ve only been to Phoenix once, after our second album (Rocanlover, 2003). I remember only Frank Lloyd Wright’s workshop (Taliesen West), which was very impressive. We’re excited to return after so much time away, and to see what Phoenix has become.
Metric & Zoé. With July Talk. 7 p.m. Monday, March 4, at The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street; 480-659-1641; thevanburenphx.com. Tickets are $46 via TicketWeb.