MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. They are not widely played on U.S. or Mexican commercial radio. They are often not the headlining band on tour. But still, the Mexican electronic rock quintet Kinky has earned a large and devoted following with their free-wheeling and energetic live performances.
They're currently wrapping up their latest U.S. tour in support of their fourth studio album, "Barracuda," and they're here with us now at NPR's Studio 4A, along with a big crowd from NPR to listen in.
Band leader Gilberto Cerezo will introduce the members of Kinky, and he's going to choose the first song for us. Welcome. Thank you for joining us.
Mr. GILBERTO CEREZO (Band Leader, Kinky): Thank you. Thank you for having us. We have Carlos Chairez at the guitar, Omar Gongora at the drums and percussion, Ulises Lozano at the keyboard and accordion, and on my back is Cesar Pliego on the lago(ph) electrico.
MARTIN: And what are you going to play to start us off?
Mr. CEREZO: And we're going to start with the song "Hasta Quemarnos." It's the first track from the new album, and it goes like this.
(Soundbite of song, "Hasta Quemarnos")
Mr. CEREZO: (Singing in Spanish)
(Soundbite of applause)
MARTIN: That was "Hasta Quemarnos" from Kinky. Thank you. Gilberto Cerezo joins me now to talk about the band and their music. It's probably been so long that you probably don't remember this, but how did you all get together to begin with?
Mr. CEREZO: We begin in the local scene in Monterrey, Mexico. There was an underground scene in the early '90s. Then it developed in something more in the middle of the '90s. Bands start to grow and to just explode to other country and then to some places in Latin America.
I think it's just like the common story, you know? Like, we were all friends and start to play, and suddenly became something bigger, and here we are.
MARTIN: The new album has a lot of layers - it's got the synthesizers, it's got reverb, it's got a lot of sort of sounds all thrown in together. Is that how you hear it? Do you hear it layered, or do you hear it kind of one step at a time?
Mr. CEREZO: In this particular album, we tried to write the song from the corner. We used to be more focused on the groove and the sound itself, and that was, we used to shape the songs, you know. And in this album, we did it on the reverse, you know. Like we start from composing the song and later on make the layers. And in this particular album, there was this producer, also composer, Money Mark, who is the keyboard guy from - for the Beastie Boys. And he approaches this other side of songwriting and he kind of opened this window for us. And we tried, you know, we experimented and we tried to write in different ways, but it seems like now the songs have more soul, more content.
MARTIN: Well I was going to ask you, was it fun or were you irritated that he was pushing you out of your comfort zone?
Mr. CEREZO: No, no, no. He, he was like really… I think our writing process is like, really playful now. We develop ideas and if we don't laugh about it and we don't having fun, we just throw it away. So he was just like another kid on the playground and sometimes he threw ideas, sometimes he was just listening and he was like a part of the whole.
MARTIN: Speaking of comfort zone, in the past, language has been a barrier for many Spanish speaking artists here in the U.S. That's changing, but mainly because there's a bigger Spanish speaking audience. But you've always had a crossover audience, if you don't mind me saying it that way. Well, why do you think that is?
Mr. CEREZO: Well, mainly I think for the upbeat and kind of party music, you know, that we play. We love to play live noise, like I think the band shapes itself by playing and performing over and over. And we just love to do it and we do it like really energetic and really playful to watch now. So the people, even if it's the first time that they see us, I mean, we been in festivals.
Last year we went to Australia and London, and places that the people doesn't know about our music. And the first impression that they get from us is that, you know, something to have fun with and the music speaks by itself, you know. So sometimes we write in English, when we are inspired by something or when we work with somebody who speaks English and he wants to be part of the idea. And sometimes we write in Spanish when, you know, our natural language and most of the ideas comes from an idea in Spanish, so we do both, you know.
MARTIN: One of the songs that I guess people moving is "Mas." It's from your self-titled debut album in 2002. It's one of your biggest hits. Can you tell us about it and if, do you mind playing for us? We'd love to hear it.
Mr. CEREZO: Yes the song that we developed in Ulises' basement, long time ago and…
MARTIN: Long time ago, did you hear that, 2002? I'm sorry, it's yesterday to me. I'm sorry.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: It is. But I digress.
Mr. CEREZO: And it's, it's a fun song like we, we started again like a jamming session. And to be honest, we didn't mind anything by the phrase (speaking Spanish), which seemed a powerful statement, no? Like everybody is always unsatisfied and wanted more and combined, you know, with a little bit of the Latin flavor and the energetic Rock & Roll, it seems to be really powerful.
MARTIN: Can we hear it?
Mr. CEREZO: Of course.
(Soundbite of song, "Mas")
Mr. CEREZO: (Singing in Spanish)
(Soundbite of cheering and clapping)
MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're listening to the band Kinky perform live here at NPR's studio 4A. And we're speaking with lead singer, Gil Cerezo. Do you know what's funny? Is a lot of people will have heard your music because they'll have heard it on TV shows like "90210" and "Gossip Girl," not that we watch any of those…
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: Because we only watch PBS here.
Mr. CEREZO: That's how we make our living.
MARTIN: But, you know, music supervisors are very fond of your music but you still have trouble getting radio play in both the U.S. and Mexico on a lot of the commercial stations. Why do you think that is?
Mr. CEREZO: I think the music supervisors have like a more wide open ear, no? And sometimes radio station are like more focused on programming what they said to be programmed or like politics, no? So sometimes yes, sometimes I think music supervisors look at us in a more artistic way and they develop or they suggest our music because it fits with the images or because it's, like, well done. I don't know.
MARTIN: It's a hot list. You know, it sort of fits a moment. But I wanted to ask about that because we've talked to members of other cross-border bands and, people who have a following on both sides of the border. Like for example, a couple of weeks ago we spoke to folks from Nortec Collective, who were nominated for a Grammy this year. And they've incorporated a lot of what's going on in the news in their music, a lot of the violence, for example, that's going on in Tijuana has kind of made its way into their music. And I wonder, is the news, is what's going on part of your sound or not?
Mr. CEREZO: Yeah, always. It's always a part of what we, I mean you are always exposed to the matters of your country, of your people, of yourself, no? And we are in difficult times now in Mexico, so it's all expressed as well in our music, and a little bit in our lyrics. We do it from a really personal point of view always, no?
MARTIN: How would we feel it though? How would we hear it? Is it in the feeling in the music? Is it in the edge? How do you think that we hear it?
Mr. CEREZO: Sometimes we do it like more lyrically. For example, we have this song that's called "Presidente." We wrote it back when Fox…
MARTIN: Vicente Fox?
Mr. CEREZO: Vicente Fox, yeah, the first president to be out of the political party dominant for the last 70 years now, who was kind of a confusion in the air. So we write a really particular point of view of that. But in this album we sound a little bit more introspective, no? A little bit more with personal experiences and personal points of view, as well.
We used to be more about just happiness and in this one we go to the dark side as well. That's how we named the album "Barracuda" as well, because it's like a mysterious kind of like in the shadow fish, no? So yeah, in this one we go in the ups and downs of the rollercoaster.
MARTIN: Do people respond to you differently on either side of the border? Or are the audiences the same? You know, have you ever gone to an international film where there's a mixed audience and like, half the house is laughing at one thing and half the house is laughing at something else? Is it like that for you when you play in Mexico or when you play in the U.S.? Do people respond to the same things or different things?
Mr. CEREZO: Yeah, no, it is different. In, I think Latin people is a little bit more explosive and here in the States the front of the crowd is packed with the people that's more explosive and in the back you can see like more Anglo people, like, dancing in their own way.
MARTIN: I'm afraid to ask where my people are in this, but I won't.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. CEREZO: But it's definitely an interesting show to see for us, no, when we are here. In Mexico or in other parts of Latin America it's all the same and all the people explode at the same time. But it's exactly like that, no, like if you make a joke somebody's going to laugh and somebody not.
MARTIN: I understand that most of you are actually based in L.A. now.
Mr. CEREZO: Yeah.
MARTIN: And that you even penned the theme song for the L.A. Galaxy, the soccer team. I'm sorry I have to put you on the spot, I have to put you on the spot.
Mr. CEREZO: No, that was a really exciting thing for us.
MARTIN: Yeah, no, no, World Cup 2010.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: Who are we rooting for here? Put your cards out, Mexico or the U.S.? What's happening? What's happening?
Mr. CEREZO: Well, always Mexico. It's in our blood - football. But we will be celebrating if the States win as well.
MARTIN: Okay, alright, fair enough. Introduce the band members one more time for me if you would, Kinky.
Mr. CEREZO: At the guitar is Carlos Chairez, at the drums Omar, Ulises at the keyboards and Cesar Pliego Villarreal at the base.
MARTIN: And I'm speaking with Gil Cerezo. So what, what song should we go out on?
Mr. CEREZO: We're gonna end up the jam with this song that is called "Fuego En La Fabrica."
MARTIN: And that is from "Barracuda." We have been listening to Kinky here in Studio 4A, wrapping up their U.S. tour. Gil, thank you so much and everybody, thank you so much for joining us today.
Mr. CEREZO: Thank you. Thank you.
MARTIN: To hear the full versions of all the songs Kinky performed for us and to see a video of Kinky performing "Those Girls," check at our Web site, the TELL ME MORE page at npr.org.
And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.