Calibre 50 Talks 'Simplemente Gracias' & Its 'Risky, Crazy, but Original' Sound

DO NOT USE - BB10 2017
Amanda Friedman
From left: Alejandro Gaxiola, Muñoz, Armando Ramos and Erick Garcia of Calibre 50, photographed March 26 at the Silver Nugget Casino & Event Center in Las Vegas.

Lead singer Edén Muñoz discusses the band's 14 top 10s on Regional Mexican Albums and more.

Norteño music band from Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Calibre 50 seems pretty self-assured.

The quartet launched its career almost a decade ago and built a name for itself undergoing a series of transitions which began when founding member and front man, Edén Muñoz, left his previous band, Puro Colmillo Norteño, to launch Calibre 50.

Renovar o Morir (translated in English to Renew or Die), Calibre 50's debut album earned the act its first Billboard Regional Mexican Albums chart entry and its first top 10 debut in 2010 (No. 8; it peaked at No. 6 a month later). "When you come from such a process where you have invested time, years, sometimes it is difficult to let it go," Muñoz tells Billboard over the phone. "But as time passes and one matures as a person and as an artist, one asks: Why didn't I leave it sooner?"

Five years ago, Erick García replaced Augusto Guido on drums and Alejandro Gaxiola substituted for Martín Lopez on tuba. "My compadre Martín and Augusto were part of the first phase of Calibre 50 for about four years," Muñoz recalls. "Then, each decided to take in a new project." Garcia and Gaxiola brought in their own touch of freshness and innovation. "Since then, everything has been fitting in well. We haven't been looking for things to happen; rather things have found us."

They have. Calibre 50 has since notched seven No. 1s on the Regional Mexican Albums chart, dating back to its first chart leader, Contigo, which debuted atop the list in June 2014. The set's musical experimentation with use of traditional folk instruments stands out. There is no tololoche or electrical bass, typical of banda music. Instead, Gaxiola devotes to the tuba for the bass notes, and in combination with a twelve-fret guitar, a diatonic accordion and drums, the group has become one of the vanguards of the genre.

The band started making music as a hobby, as well as a necessity for creation, fusing talents while becoming a family rather than making it a work matter. "In the almost 10 years we have been together, each one of us has realized his role and the role we play as a band," Muñoz muses. "It is not easy, but we have managed to cope with things as a family band. We are very good friends, we have a lot of confidence to tell the things how they are, the freedom to create and to live comfortably the process we are in."

As the band defined its style in 2010, mainly comprising of its members' influences, the name Calibre 50 was based on a bullet and the velocity with which the band aimed to thrive. "We didn't want a name that expressed something basic," Muñoz says. "We wanted something unique, something that would catch the attention strategically. Caliber 50 is the biggest bullet to date. It implies that there is nothing that can stop us; nobody stops us other than God."

Flouting the rules, the band's initial lyrics were somewhat controversial, including sexual innuendos before a segue to romantic ballads, and fed by the musical vein of Sinaloa, as party songs and corridos where well regarded. "There has definitely been a change in many areas, but I attribute it mostly to maturity," Muñoz says. "The change leans toward the growth we've had within our generation. There is a different sensibleness personally, artistically, vocally and musically ... being exposed to other cultures, getting soaked up by all the diversity of music influences, whether you want it or not."

With the ideology of free will, doing things for pleasure without a strategy, Calibre 50 has placed 14 albums on the Regional Mexican Albums chart, all of which have debuted in the top 10. "It is a bit risky, yes," Muñoz continues. "Our albums are risky and crazy, but that same risk has made us original. We are not necessarily the most well-known, there are many groups that stand out on par, but our sound is definitely easily identified. "

"Simplemete Gracias," the lead single and title track from the group's newest album, fraught with expanding arrangements, topped the Regional Mexican Airplay chart for three consecutive weeks (starting Aug. 3). The tune, originally composed by Muñoz as his wedding song, was created to be sung just once and put away, but the rest of the band decided to hold on to it. "When I played it to the guys they told me, 'Hey, this has such potential, we can feel it, it has a special texture'," Muñoz remembers. "We went to the studio to record it and see how it flowed. We decided that it didn't necessarily need to be my wedding song, so it became the first single of the new album by unanimous vote."

An escape valve which allows the band to say what it feels with boundless genre experimentation, music has become more than a tool for Calibre 50, which aims to conquer South America and collaborate with established artists outside of the regional Mexican domain. "Music is self-treatment for us," Muñoz says. "We are in the middle of a tour and the end of the year is around the corner. Things are happening at a fast pace. Above all, we would like for Simplemente Gracias to mature, for our audience to own this record and enjoy it, for our music to expand, and to perhaps work with artists already established, who have coherence, which could provide a different platform for us, such as J Balvin. We think it's interesting the different ways in which he takes his music, how he experiments; perhaps [we'll do] a collaboration with Residente, or even an English-speaking artist."

Here is a look at all of Calibre 50's top 10s on Billboard's Regional Mexican Albums chart:

No. 8, Renovar o Morir, peak date Dec. 25, 2010

No. 4, De Sinaloa Para El Mundo, April 9, 2011

No. 3, El Buen Ejemplo, March 17, 2012

No. 3, Grandes Exitos, Nov. 10, 2012

No. 4, La Recompensa, March 2, 2013

No. 2, Corridos de Alto Calibre, Nov. 9, 2013

No. 1, Contigo, June 21, 2014

No. 6, Lo Mejor De…, Feb. 21, 2015

No. 1, Historias De La Calle, Dec. 12, 2015

No. 1, Desde El Rancho, Oct. 15, 2016

No. 1, En Vivo: Auditoria Telmex, June 10, 2017

No. 1, Guerra de Poder, Nov. 4, 2017

No. 1, Mitad y Mitad, Aug. 4, 2018

No. 2, Simplemente Gracias, Aug. 31, 2019

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