'La Banda' CNCO Reflect on Fast Ascent of Their Slow Reggaeton: Interview

Courtesy of Billboard Argentina

Reggaeton gave birth to CNCO -- its first boy band, born from the reality show La Banda -- a musical phenomenon that wants to conquer Latin America.

The sudden success that boy bands garner in their debuts is a constant in the music industry. In the mid '90s, the Backstreet Boys took over the teen audience that eagerly demanded pop music. Next came *NSYNC, led by Justin Timberlake, which quickly made it to the Super Bowl in 2001.

In 2010, and hailing from the U.K., came One Direction, which conquered teen hysteria. And though many refuse to acknowledge it, in 1964, The Beatles made it to America and kickstarted this musical format.

CNCO is the first boy band to make reggaeton. In late 2015, five boys from Latin American backgrounds were selected in a reality show called La Banda. The next day, they signed a contract with Sony Music US and had their first record produced by Ricky Martin and Wisin.

The lives of Christopher Velez, Richard Camacho, Zabdiel de Jesus, Joel Pimentel and Erick Brian Colón changed forever.

The "Reggaeton Lento" single opened the doors for them in countries where the show hadn't been aired. Now, their debut album, Primera Cita (First Date), has taken them on a tour around all of Latin America. Even their fan club has materialized under the name CNCOwners.

Their sudden popularity can be attributed to the big names behind them -- Ricky Martin and Simon Cowell -- but it is actually the talent and the charisma of its members that makes them what they are.

Billboard Argentina: Does the fact that you came out from a TV show bother you?

Christopher Velez: We're proud of it. It opened the doors for us to fulfill our dreams. We mustn't leave that behind, it's where we come from, our beginning. It's been a school for us: Week after week, we'd learn the songs and the new choreographies. Now we're with Ricky Martin's team and reinforcing everything we've absorbed and turning it into something very positive.

The record has quite a production team, with famous people in it, Ricky Martin, Wisin and Simon Cowell. What things do you decide in your music?

Richard Camacho: Ricky Martin's team gives us a lot of space for our own ideas when in the studio, be it lyrics or sound. If our idea works, we do it. I remember that the day after winning the contest, we went to to Sony's offices, and they showed us over 100 songs. And they gave us the chance of choosing one with which we felt identified. That's why we connected with the album and a chance of putting our own spin on it.

Are you aware that in most of the Latin American countries, you are known for the music rather than for the show? Why do you think is that?

Zabdiel de Jesús: The show wasn't seen much in Latin America, it was mostly for an American audience. That made us work harder to reach the rest of the continent. With "Reggaeton Lento," we've become more known in countries such as Argentina, Chile and Bolivia.

Camacho: I think that the support that we've received in social media is immense mainly because they've realized that our love for the music is pretty honest.

Nowadays, J Balvin and Maluma's music is heard worldwide. Can you picture yourselves going to Europe, turning on the radio and hear yourselves?

Velez: I believe we'd be in tears [laughs]. The first time we heard one of our songs on the radio, believe me, it was crazy. We were on a van going to the studio and we lost our minds. Truth is that it is an indescribable feeling. You've got to live it to know about it.

What did you do for a living months before winning the contest?

Camacho: I had three jobs to help my father and my family while at school. I didn't go much because sometimes I'd work in the morning. I was a Zumba teacher, I worked at a gym and cleaning a hospital.

Erick Colón: I was 14, I went to school. I was a normal kid that played soccer. I wasn't the best, but I really enjoyed playing it. And when I saw the possibility of entering the contest on the television, I told my mum I wanted to audition, and well, here I am.

De Jesús: I went to school and had a hip-hop group. I wanted to do something with music, but everyone told me it was very difficult, almost impossible. It isn't easy, but I believe that if you really want something, from the bottom of your heart, and you have the necessary discipline, you can achieve it.

Joel Pimentel: I was at school and studied theater.

Velez: I was in the U.S., same as Richard, working to help my family. And I'd skate a lot, I love skateboarding.

What would you like in the coming months?

Colón: That our music is heard in the entire world. And to do something in the movies.

Camacho: That CNCO keeps moving people, that they see we're transparent and that we love music.

Pimentel: A Grammy.