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Los Amigos Invisibles have critical acclaim, a best-selling album and, for what it's worth, a Grammy nomination. And now they live in New York City, where they're preparing for their conquest of North America.
But the six Venezuelans would be a mere Latin American 'NSync if not for their not-so secret to success: sex, sex and more sex. This band puts the sex in sextet. Only porno-stealing teenagers hopped up on Spanish fly are more sex-crazy. Their music? Designed to make your ass move all night and force you to conceive children by dawn. Their lyrics? Sex, whether in the abstract ("Si Estuvieras Aquí" ["If Only You Were Her"]) or more graphic ("Ponerte en Cuatro" ["Put You on All Fours"]).
"We've been together as a group since 1993, and we're all good friends," said José Rafael Torres, the Los Amigos bassist. "And what do friends always talk about? Sex! From our conversations, we get our musical inspiration."
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Torres is a typical member of the band, all of whom are in their mid-20s: young, handsome and (he admits) perpetually horny, Torres speaks in the rapid-fire Spanish patois of the Caribbean. When Torres plays his bass, it's as if he's plucking something more intimate. Los Amigos' shows are famous for the band's near-orgiastic interaction with its instruments and worshipful audience.
"Primarily, we are a party band," Torres said. "We play party music, music for fun, music to dance to. We like to sing about sex, but all our lyrics are meant in good fun and humor."
Although the traditional sounds of Latin America run through their music, Los Amigos owe as much to MP3s as to the marimba. They are kids immersed in the worldwide club scene, as likely to listen to Cibo Matto as Celia Cruz. That world-music sensibility emerges in their albums, on which Los Amigos play every dance-music genre imaginable—1980's synthocrap, funk, Europop—all on a salsa/merengue foundation that makes it tropical yet universal.
In North America, this diverse repertoire is nevertheless labeled rock en español. "It's unjust," Torres said. "Rock is rock; there's no salsa or merengue in rock. Americans hear wildly diverse Spanish bands and put them under their rock en español label simply because the bands sing in Spanish. That's bull. Maybe when American stations start playing more diverse Spanish music, there'll be different labels for all the music coming out of Latin America."
Unlike your typical rock en español band, Los Amigos aren't explicitly political. But they are advocates of free speech in their own sexual sort of way. Many of their songs have double entendres; a few have created controversy. Take, for example, "El Disco Anal" ("The Anal Disc"), a song that's as graphic as it is grooving, with a refrain—"De atrás, de atrás" ("From behind, from behind")—backed by a salsa/funk beat that is one of the catchiest rhythms ever. But "El Disco Anal" outraged many listeners; government officials censored a Venezuelan DJ who, they said, loved the song too much.
Torres admits that Los Amigos puts out songs such as "El Disco Anal" as a way of exposing the sexual hypocrisies of fans. "It's our way of being punks," he said proudly. "People come ask, 'How can you sing such vulgarities? You guys are sick.' We ask them if they have ever done it [anal sex]. They say, yes. Then what's the problem?! For some people, the song is offensive; for us, it's a joke."
Sex is the end and the means for Los Amigos—their muse and their reward. Even when touring, they are plagued by the possibilities.
On the one hand, the band likes "to play JC Fandango because they helped us out a lot when we were barely starting," Torres said. On the other hand, "the girls in Orange County are beautiful."
Los Amigos Invisibles perform at JC Fandango, 1086 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 758-1057. Sun., 8 p.m. $15. call for ages.