When I moved to the Rio Grande Valley from Tennessee, I must say nothing prepared me for the unexpected culture shock of deep south Texas. If that sounds like a complaint, please believe it isn’t: proud Latin culture is one of the greatest components to the RGV, and the full immersion of Mexican art, food, and music in the Valley is breathtaking. In my short time here, I’ve witnessed some incredible Mexican musicians stop by on this side of the border, and, in this article, I’ve gathered just a few notable acts to share with you. All of these artists deserve your attention! Please, read on.
Led by dynamic frontwoman Teri Gender Bender (Teresa Suarez), Le Butcherettes have been making waves in both the Mexican and American indie scenes for more than a few years now. Suarez migrated from Denver to Guadalajara as a youth, and her Mexican/American duality makes its way into her music. When she speaks, she retains a self-awareness that not only is smart, but shows how genuine in character she is. When she sings, she lets the music and her message possess her: she’s like a punk rock bolero singer. Her sometimes abstract lyrics incorporate spiritual elements, often seeming like an esoteric Sylvia Plath poem. Take, for example, “La Uva,” which on the surface, is a song about a personified grape. “La Uva, se ve hacia la calle,” Suarez sings. “Buscando el encuentro hacia uno mismo” (“The grape looks toward the streets searching for an encounter with herself”). And later, “La Uva, se acuesta sobre huesos de color azul/y se muere feliz” (“The grape lies among blue bones and dies happily“). The song appears on the band’s 2015 album, A Raw Youth (produced by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez), and features accompanying vocals by Iggy Pop.
If that’s not enough to convince you to check out Le Butcherettes, maybe their stage show will: aside from their raucous sound, the show typically features Suarez donning a bloody 1950s-style apron and making use of raw meat, fake blood, and once even an actual pig’s head. It’s all done dramatically to symbolize what slaves we are to gender roles, and makes for quite the explosive performance. Currently, you can find the band on tour with At The Drive-In.
NELSON Y LOS FILISTEOS
Formed in 2012, Nelson y Los Filisteos have gained notoriety these past few years as they were featured on the BURGER WORLD: MEXICO edition of the Burger Records compilation series. The band’s primitive psych garage rock sound captures the true spirit of rock’n’roll, with frontman Alonso Mangosta leading the charge. The first track off of their 2015 release Tibio, “2000,” delivers a powerful first punch. Full of raw energy and distortion, the song is clean but chaotic — and haunting as hell, acting as a reminder of a lingering feeling of darkness and isolation. The first verse, “Soy la mirada de aburrida de tu novia/Soy lo que dicen detras de ti tus amigos/Soy los fantasmas que en tus suenos se amontonan/Soy lo unico que siempre estara contigo” (“I’m your girlfriend’s bored look/I’m what your friends say behind your back/I’m the ghosts piled up in your dreams/I’m the one who will always be with you”), projects a clear image of the social insecurities that we all foolishly subscribe to from time to time. And that’s one reason this band stands out — while the music itself is at times both dreamy and visceral in very satisfying ways, the overall themes of loss and crisis are really what helps cultivate a unique connection to their audience. Check out Nelson y Los Filisteos (that’s Nelson and The Philistines, by the way) on their bandcamp page.
SAN PEDRO EL CORTEZ
It seems as though garage rock bands can be a dime a dozen. However, that’s not the case for San Pedro El Cortez. Veterans of the acclaimed Festival Nrmal, these Tijuana-based rockers manage to keep their sound true to that of the quintessential garage band without any “cookie cutter” accusations. Their blend of melody, distortion, surf guitar, and just a twinge of krautrock gives them an almost peerless sound; as they say, this group blasts a type of proto-punk psicodélico that, cultivated over time, could give them a highly illustrious career. Check out their bandcamp, where you can order their cassette Un Poco Mas de Luz.
Monterrey electropop duo Clubz have gathered a substantial buzz playing festival dates as well as touring in and around the States. Their blend of syth-based melodies and powerpop guitar riffs skirts the line between elation and melancholy in a very beautiful way; listening to their most recent two EPs, Epocas and Texturas, is reminiscent of a late summer day at the beach. Give Clubz a listen on soundcloud here.
LORELLE MEETS THE OBSOLETE
No, this is not a title in the Criterion Collection, but a dreamy, shoegazey band from Guadalajara. Lorelle Meets The Obsolete have gained the attention of the likes of Robert Smith and Henry Rollins, and for good reason. The duo have mastered the juxtaposition of soft vocals with churning distorted guitars and piercing synths. According to their record label, Rollins actually described the band in this way: “To put on the dreaded critic’s cap for just a moment, Balance lives up to its name by achieving a balance between fuzz and clarity, nuance and throttle. The mix, which is incredible, utilizes the brilliance of the component parts of each song, with a subtlety and dexterity that is not nearly as frequent in the albums that came before. It feels more like there was such an accumulation of captured dreams and their interpretation, that eventually it filled an album.” Need I say more?
Par Asito hails from Guadalajara, where they thrive as an experimental band combining elements of noise punk and thrash metal in a way that is surprisingly mesmerizing. Their name translates in an off way to “parasite” or “hanger-on.” And perhaps that’s exactly what they do: Par Asito’s tracks infiltrate your brain and make you a believer — even if their sound is nowhere near your regular bag (trust me). Click here to get to their bandcamp; I doubt you’ll be sorry you did.
The technical way to spell the name of this Mexico City group is OCEΔNSS, so that should give you a clue as to their sound. The band’s brand of cinematic neo-psych probably would fit best in a horror film; I’m not talking John Carpenter-esque pounding synths, but an immersive, dark, almost wailing sound that seems fit for some kind of occultish horror movie fun. Their latest EP, Atlantic, is available on bandcamp here — I implore you to check out my favorite track, “Outer Limits.”