After a five-year hiatus, Cafe Tacvba returns with a unique approach to the live album.
On a cool summer night in July, music industry tastemakers were called to a clandestine meeting at East West Studios in Hollywood. Electronic devices had to be checked at the door. Inside the invite-only event, Mexican alternative rock band Cafe Tacvba was in a back room preparing to perform 10 new songs, to be recorded live for an album that would put a new twist on the unplugged acoustic theme.
The faces in the crowd -- everyone from Universal Music Latin Entertainment president Victor Gonzalez to musician/filmmaker Sergio Arau -- were in for something that rarely happens in music: a live recording (no talking or applause allowed) by one of Latin music's most iconic groups.
The showcase has become the heart of the band's next album, "El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco" ("The Object Once Called a Record"), which arrives Oct. 22 on Universal Music Latino. The project, produced by Academy Award-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla, is Cafe Tacvba's first album in five years, and the label is creating a marketing campaign that combines technology, social networks and touring to announce the act's return.
The July event, which coincided with the band's 20th anniversary and consisted of two Los Angeles sessions, capped off a short series that was recorded in countries including Argentina, Chile and Mexico.
"These sessions allowed us to renew ourselves," says singer Ruben Albarran, who along with keyboardist Emmanuel del Real, bassist Enrique Rangel and lead guitarist Joselo Rangel founded the band in Naucalpan, Mexico, in the late '80s. "It gave us the ability to transform through the sentiment and emotions of each audience-an energy that usually doesn't happen when recording in a studio alone."
"These sessions were magical," adds Santaolalla, the band's longtime producer. "Those in the room could hear the music as it was being recorded and this element also intensified the recording."
But unlike popular acoustic-themed albums, the audience was asked to stay silent while the group performed. Applause was allowed only after each take with the exception of "Pajaros" ("Birds"), after which everyone in attendance clapped. That clapping, which happened in each city, has been mixed and will be heard on the album.
In addition to the big-event feel of the sessions, a digital campaign has been equally important as the band's team works toward the release. "This is the first Cafe Tacvba album that comes out in the digital iTunes age," says Miguel Lua, senior product manager for Universal Music Latino and Machete Music. "We're being proactive in securing big things for the group."
To that end, the label has been working with iTunes to release the first single, "Este Lado del Camino," and the album was available as a preorder at iTunes in the United States and Mexico on Oct. 2. Additionally, videos will be released on Vevo.
The band's most successful album is 2005's "Un Viaje" ("A Journey"), which reached No. 2 on Billboard's Latin Pop Albums chart; its biggest singles include "Eres," which reached No. 38 on Latin Pop Airplay in 2004, and Calle 13's "No Hay Nadie Como Tu," on which the band appears, climbed to No. 13 in 2009. Cafe Tacvba has sold 142,000 albums during the Nielsen SoundScan era (1991-present).
"I don't want to say they are immune to a [weak] economy," Lua says. "But they have a loyal group of fans. A Cafe Tacvba album is an event."