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Mariachi El Bronx

Mariachi El Bronx

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Friday 2nd December, 2011 1:34PM

Mariachi El Bronx, alter ego of Californian punk band The Bronx, are coming to New Zealand in January for the Big Day Out. UTR caught up with front man Matt Caughthran to discuss their new album, how New Zealand influenced their debut album and why on earth they formed a mariachi band in the first place.

Hey Matt, what are you guys up to at the moment?

Hey, well we play Conan O’Brien tomorrow and then we’ve got a tour through Europe and then we’ve got a Bronx record to record and release, so we’re doing a lot.

Yeah that's pretty intense. Tell me a little bit about writing and recording the new Mariachi El Bronx album.

It was an awesome experience. It felt like a little more evolved and involved on the second record; it felt like we knew what we were doing so there was more confidence involved. The guys played their ass of so it continues to be this thing that’s super self-generating. As much as we love it it just gives right back - it’s something that we love doing.

Going into the songwriting process is it the genre that’s the starting point or do you guys come with lots of ideas when you’re writing the tracks?

We come up with all kinds of different ideas, the key is being able to find a bunch of rhythms to place them in and then writing the rest of the song from there. Once you’ve got down with a good rhythm you can screw around with an arrangement. We usually finish it up with horns and violins. It starts with guitar and vocal and builds from there.

How do you see the new album as a progression from the first album?

It's more evolved musically more than anything. On the first record we were just so excited and it was awesome to be involved in something different and new and fun. On this record we were testing the limits; how far could we go how much could we put ourselves out there? With the instrumental songs and some of the ones that are really stripped down - those are the fun ones where we explore how far we could go.

Going back to the beginning, what made you want to form a mariachi project in the first place?

It was just kind of a sarcastic answer to people wanting The Bronx to play acoustic music. It’s never supposed to be that way with The Bronx so we just said 'hey let’s try something in a different genre; we’ll try a mariachi version of this song and we opened the door to some amazing things'. It became instant and we knew that this was something we wanted to do.

Before that were you guys interested in mariachi? What made you decide to go in that direction?

Personally it was an influence of being surrounded by Hispanic culture. Growing up and being a band from Los Angeles from a certain extent you’re influenced by your surroundings and if we weren’t a band from L.A we probably wouldn’t have been a mariachi band because it wouldn’t have made the same amount of sense that it does as a band being from L.A. So it just kind of felt natural to us. I still don’t really know why and how we ended up doing it it just felt like the right thing to do.

You mentioned being from L.A. More generally was the musical environment you grew up in influential to your sound and your approach?

Yeah it does Los Angeles is a great place and it feels good to still be making music. You get proud of longevity and we’ve been playing music since high school and some of us were classically trained. To still be going and getting bigger and better and becoming more creative and evolving as artists and becoming a bigger piece of LA music history is an awesome thing, it feels really good.

Is it difficult to change your mindset between writing for Mariachi El Bronx and The Bronx?

Yeah you know sometimes it’s automatic but sometimes it takes a while to re-adjust, but it would probably be fake if you knew how to do it right away. It takes a while to settle into the music and get the lyrics and the melody; it’s a process of getting to know the song and seeing what it’s going to pull out of you. It can be an instant thing as you feel an attachment to a song but the process itself takes some adjustment for sure.

It must be interesting to see the two different groups of fans you attract to the alternate projects?

It’s extremely interesting - we’re on both ends of the totem pole, it’s crazy. It feels good because it’s something that no-one else is really doing.

Are you excited about coming to NZ for the Big Day Out?

We’re really excited about Big Day Out - it’s something that we've wanted to do since we started the band and Australia’s always been a great place for us. It’s a place we love to play and being able to come play Big Day Out is an honour.

I read on your website that there is a track that was influenced by the 'jungles of New Zealand'. Explain.

No that’s true there’s a song on the first record that was influenced by NZ. It was written while we were on tour and you see a lot of beautiful things when you travel around the world and thankfully it influences your music. There’s a song called 'Sleepwalking' on the first record as we were driving through this jungle to get to a beach and there were things that came from that trip and there were songs that were written in Germany and Switzerland and it’s that type of music; it’s a journeyman's music. You can travel the world and see what’s beautiful and sing about it and write about it and it makes sense with mariachi music.

Are there two completely different mindsets involved between The Bronx and Mariachi El Bronx?

Physically not necessarily, mentally yes. It’s much more of an aggressive attitude and intense atmosphere, the mental approach is entirely different.

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