Argentine rock band Indios‘ first record has as many great tunes as most bands’ greatest-hits compilation: “Casi Desangelados” (Almost Soulless), “Tu Geografía” (Your Geography), “Jullie,” “Ya Pasó” (It’s Over).
Yes, it is true, it’s over: After a very successful debut, the band would rather explore than play it safe. And they triumph again with their second LP, Asfalto.
Singer and leader Joaquin Vitola’s house is a typical musician’s house. Where some people would have socks spread on the floor, he’s got cables, strings. But there’s more: There’s a fully operational home studio which, if compared to the small rehearsal space with no toilet in which they wrote their second album, feels like a palace.
Vitola makes himself some coffee. Nicolas De Sanctis, guitarist and writer, declares he’d like a cigarette. He doesn’t light it at all. He’s concentrated in the conversation, saying: “The previous record has great songs; it’s well done. And it came out at a time when there weren’t many albums with good songs being released. It was what we wanted to do, we felt there was an empty space in that sense, I guess that’s why it made an impact.”
And so it was. In a short time, some unknown kids from Rosario took over the airwaves armed with catchy melodies and relaxing sounds.
It was instantaneous, the release of the debut came just as the band set foot in Buenos Aires. Thus began the shows, the interviews, the Latin American tours. And the modern rocker cycle started over. It was time to record again.
“That is in a way the theme for Asfalto. We’re trying to describe how our life changed when we left our comfort zone, our family”, De Sanctis explains.
“This album has more melancholic songs that are also worth showing. Songs that have to do with the abstraction, the loneliness typically felt in the big cities,” he shared.
That change felt inevitable. The city was calling. And it helped define them in terms of their relationships. Vitola knows it: “We felt part of a movement, of many bands that are doing things we dig and that are dedicating their love to music. We feel close to them.”
While he speaks, he is thinking of Francisca y los Exploradores and in Juan Ingaramo, yes, but also in Barco and Bandalos Chinos, groups that link to each other from their influences and their sound but also from an underlying mission: the quest to raise the bar of pop.
Vitola notes and identifies what sets them apart: “We concern ourselves greatly with the writing, which sometimes is pretty much set aside. We took the idea from The Beatles and Fito to pay attention to the chords. I believe we bring something important to the table in that sense.”
Conversation shifts themes every now and then. Someone says Thom Yorke wrote a song that is 18 days long, another one says he’s glad that he didn’t have to rehearse it in their own rehearsal space, which lacks a toilet.
However, the band’s vocalist also understand that not everything can be scholarly, or talking about major or minor chords or searching for the complex harmony: “We’ve got to cut the drama a bit. Being a musician doesn’t necessarily imply playing well and correctly, but rather feeling the need to play with the music. The term ‘musician’ doesn’t mean anything.”
It didn’t take much for Vitola to feel that way (“To me, you’re a musician the moment you play a chord,” he says dryly), but it wasn’t the same for De Sanctis — it was a short time ago, close to the release of their new album. He began to consider himself that way, even though he doesn’t exactly identify the precise moment.
“Crazy things happen, like traveling and playing in another country and see someone singing things you’ve written. It’s something amazing”, he explains. “After a while you get used to it, it doesn’t surprise you anymore. And that isn’t that good, one should search for things that surprise you nonstop. New emotions, everything is vital for the creative process and for the band to move forward.”
In that search, that forward motion, there is something being built, unknowingly but constant. That which some groups don’t have: an identity. “I believe that a band has an identity, which can change at any given time. Identity is the average you get from all the songs and that can’t be a limiting factor: The moment we want to do another style, we’ll do it,” Vitola states.
De Sanctis, on the contrary, can’t seem to see the band’s distinctive personality we’re discussing, but it doesn’t worry him. “Not knowing the identity doesn’t feel wrong at all, otherwise you feel you’re stuck in a rigid spot and too self conscious where we only make rock and can’t do other things. In that sense it’s good to be reckless and not label ourselves.”
And then, as a passing comment, he notes an important detail: “The audience understands our identity far better than us.”
And it’s true. Maybe they don’t notice, but Indios has a very clear DNA: their songs are delicate and full of finesse, but also powerful and with a life of their own. Singing, jumping and dancing to them, unconcerned for what happened or what will come feels mandatory.
To them, what happened is pretty clear. Out of the blue, they became one of Argentinean rock’s most promising bands. And to call them “promising” now, given they’ve got their two LPs out on the street, is actually an understatement. In the meantime, what comes later is just wishful thinking.
“In a few years time, we feel we’ll be richer men. Richer in terms of experience, music. Capable men able to push the frontiers of what we’ve done and go for more. Here’s to hoping that we can keep on feeling surprised in every show. The idea is to see more thing in HD, to see the pixels in every moment. This is like watching a painting, as time goes by you find more and more details. That’s what we want.”