Los Amigos Invisibles: It's a miracle we're still together
Los Amigos Invisibles have the kind of sound that puts the dance in the pants of six-year-olds and 60-year-olds alike. It's irresistibly funky, a sort of crazy Latin-jazz fusion that happens when you blend smooth disco with salsa instincts. For years, the band and press have been calling this unique sound "gozadera."
The Venezuelan natives just released their eighth studio album, Repeat After Me, and with it, the band continues their 18-year tradition of bringing fierce dance parties around the globe. It's not fair to call the upcoming Los Amigos show at the Varsity tonight night a concert, because it's guaranteed to be so much more than that: a flawlessly executed global-sounding riot would be a little closer.
Gimme Noise chatted with lead guitarist José Luis Pardo over the phone about where "gozadera" comes from, how Venezuela still influences the Los Amigos sound, and how the band has seen the industry change.
Gimme Noise: I've heard your sound referred to as "gozadera." How do you define that term?
JP: Oh, I know! But it's like a joke. Or it started as a joke. It's a feeling of joy, pretty much. It's like the new sound of the Venezuelan joy, like the "new sound" of Venezuela, really, and then we realized it wasn't a common word outside of Venezuela, and now people say that we play that. I guess we do -- we dance and we play in clubs, and people that go to the show have a good time. We took over [that term], so now that's our music.
Let's talk about the album Repeat After Me. How long has it been in the making?
The particular thing about this album is that this is the first album that we did without taking time off. We did it on tour and pretty much wherever we could when we had a couple days off -- in Caracas (VZ) and in Spain, so about a year and a half. It was great, because we didn't have all the time to do the songs because we had a limited time in the studio. We had to get it right on the spot, so as a musician, sometimes you work on the song and they're never ready, and it kind of reminded us of the first time we were in the studio, when we didn't have a lot of money.
You're from Venezuela, but you've been living in New York City for the past 12 years. How do you think the change of scenery has influenced your sound?
It's interesting... We grew up in Venezuela, where there's a lot of open eyes for the culture that comes from outside of the country. It has a strong Carribbean influence. It was great to grow up in a country where everyone wants to listen to something new, but it was great to move out because there's everything passing by. But on the other hand it made us realize who we were for real. We took what we do in my country for granted. Like salsa -- it's not so obvious here, and it made us reinforce it. For us, it was great to be more exposed to more culture, and it was great to miss some of that stuff.
You're obviously still very attached to your Venezuelan roots. Do you feel that coming out in your music? Is it important to represent Venezuela in your sound?
I guess it is. We cannot deny who we are, so we definitely support the idea that we're Venezuelan. We cannot be from somewhere else, and we love our country and we love the place where we grew up. A lot of people went there to play--a lot of bossa nova, salsa, meringue, punk, English rock and English pop, and it was great to grow up in a place where all the music was well received, so we respect that.
You've been creating and releasing music together since 1995. That's a lot longer than most bands on the scene today.
I know! It's a miracle that we're still together. We don't have fighters in the band. We're just chill. That might be the reason that we're still together.
How do you think things have changed over the years?
Things have changed a lot. I'm one of the optimistic guys... We got to see the record business as it was, the big budget for video and tour support, and we were really well-treated by Warner Bros. when the first two albums came out, but we had to adjust at the end when the record business when nuts with the internet. But being here and being close to that moment, it made us realize that we had to create for ourselves and self-support the band because that was the only way we were gonna survive, and now ten years later after whatever -- 2001, when the internet crack happened -- we're proud to say that we're still here.
The most important thing is that the musicians have more power to make music and reach their fans through the internet and through social networks. You make a track and in five minutes someone could hear it in Singapore. I think everyone in music is trying to figure out how to make music the right way, and no one has nailed it down but we're still trying. I think it's awesome. Of course, it would be great to have the budget that musicians used to have, but it's just the moment that we're in and we can't have it all.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned about the business?
Nobody cares that much about your music than yourself. You have to take care of your music and what you do, and believe in it. People are getting smarter about music lately. You have to do something good, and if you try to do something good and try to sell without being real, then people won't buy it.
Los Amigos Invisibles are playing on Monday, April 15, at the Varsity Theater. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $18-$30. 18+. Info here.
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