First Listen: '9 Dead Alive' By Rodrigo y Gabriela

Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela had a strange path to success. They started as a failed heavy metal band in Mexico, before moving to Ireland and changing to flamenco music.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The legendary Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela started their career busking on the streets, but they went on to play sold-out concerts all over the world. And they have a new album called "9 Dead Alive." To talk about the band, we turn to our own music duo, NPR's Felix Contreras in Washington, D.C. and Jasmine Garsd in Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RODRIGO Y GABRIELA: (Instrumental music)

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: They started off as a heavy metal duo here in Mexico and they found it really hard to break into the music business, so they moved to Ireland where they no longer were playing heavy metal exactly. Right, Felix?

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: They switched over to something sort of similar, flamenco. But before you contradict me or argue with me about that, I mean think about it, heavy metal musicians have always had an affinity for flamenco musicians because of those fast guitar runs. I mean you know...

(SOUNDBITE OF CONTRERAS MIMICKING GUITAR RUNS)

CONTRERAS: Sounds like a wood chipper going in there and chopping everything up.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: Yeah. They've really exploited that link between heavy metal and classical and flamenco. I would never contradict you, Felix.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: And, you know, this is a duo that's just playing straight up guitar, but they also have a really interesting percussive element.

CONTRERAS: They borrow from a tradition of flamenco players to smack the body of the guitar with their palms.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONTRERAS: For example, on the track "Misty Moses," they start out with a very traditional flamenco sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MISTY MOSES")

GARSD: And you can really hear that flamenco percussion.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MISTY MOSES")

CONTRERAS: At this point of the song, now they're actually just, this sounds like a heavy metal beat.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MISTY MOSES")

CONTRERAS: This track in particular really captures what is they're about, their mix of cultures, their mix of influences and the joy that they feel from both kinds of music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MISTY MOSES")

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Felix Contreras in Washington, D.C. and Jasmine Garsd on the Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. You can hear the new album, "9 Dead Alive" as part of our First Listen series, @nprmusic.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MISTY MOSES")

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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