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The diaspora of musicians resulting from the demise of all-girl band Anaheim’s Mystery Hangup in early 2009 has flowed in all directions. After more than a year, former singer and lead guitarist Cat (real name: Nancy Mendez) has re-emerged with a new avenue of expression; the exciting jarocho-rock hybrid known as ¡Aparato!
Joining forces with drummer Josh Duron and guitarist Alexandro Hernández, the band are experimenting with mixing traditional Mexican music with post-punk rock. In this laboratory setting, ¡Aparato! function much like an updated and Mexican version of Chile’s 1970s rock band Los Jaivas, who, with charangos and electric guitars, sought out a unique fusion of two seemingly removed musical realms.
Other more contemporary and local bands have incorporated son jarocho into their musical arrangements in various degrees from Quetzal to Oakland’s now-defunct Fuga. ¡Aparato! are quick to note, however, that they rock first and foremost; their offerings have already attracted the talents of John Avila of Oingo Boingo fame, who is recording the band’s forthcoming EP.
OC Weekly: How was the band name chosen?
Alexandro Hernández: The band name comes from a few sources. The initial spark is inspired by the song and concept of Café Tacuba’s “El Aparato” off their Re album. The song is about Pablo, who is from Veracruz and is abducted by a UFO, el aparato. Pablo is returned to Earth traumatized and refuses to talk about his abduction. It’s a great story and song, but not just that—the artwork depicts a few scared jaraneros wearing guayaberas, looking toward a UFO. It’s brilliant! The concept of rural-mestizo Mexico juxtaposed with a cosmic-phenomenal experience. This inspires ¡Aparato!
How did the sound of ¡Aparato! come about?
Josh Duron: In the beginning of the band’s creation, Alex and I, after a few years of helping out [bands] Quetzal and Olmeca, had wanted to start a “rock” band. With the addition of Cat, we had three very different creative forces and attitudes, with all three of us very competent multi-instrumentalists. Alex has spent many years studying jarocho, plus he spent much of his early years in Texas as a metal guitarist. I feel I bring years of musical experience in many musical styles with the variety of instruments that I can play, and Cat is a vocal dynamo who is evolving every day as an artist. Her work in the influential Mystery Hangup was very helpful to me as to how I would approach the band as a songwriter and performer.
What has it been like working with John Avila in the studio?
Cat: John is a true musician. When he recorded the bass lines to “Aire,” “Murolismo” and “Kriminal,” he really put his soul into it, and that was very admirable.
The music is truly unique in its fusion, but what are the band all about from a lyrical point of view?
Cat: Lyrically, our songs are windows to our inner selves, our emotions, and our relationships to the Earth and spiritual entities. I also raise awareness of social injustices and raise my voice on topics I feel strongly about.
Any time a traditional form of music is experimented with, purists will be quick to detract. How do you defend your music in terms of the authenticity of its melded elements?
Hernández: I have spent almost a decade studying son jarocho, mariachi, boleros and Tex-Mex/norteño music. I have great respect for these musical styles in their “traditional” formats. What’s interesting is since I began to study these genres, I also experimented with effects pedals and how a jarana, bajo sexto or requinto jarocho would sound to a rock or hip-hop song. My experience occasionally working with Quetzal solidified and made me confident walking the line between “traditional” and “fusion.”
Cat: Music is art; it’s imaginative, creative and inventive. Using the elements of son jarocho and son huasteco, whether it is by the use of the jaranas and/or rhythms, is not violating the “authenticity” of the traditional musical styles. Our mixing of rock with those styles of music is proof ¡Aparato! aren’t afraid of being innovative!
¡Aparato! perform with the Radioactive Chicken Heads at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, 117 N. Sycamore, Santa Ana, (714) 667-1517; www.occca.org. Sat., 8 p.m. Free. All ages.
Hey, Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, contact info, high-res photos and impending show dates for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly, 2975 Red Hill Ave., Ste 150, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Or e-mail your link to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column appeared in print as "Innovative Alien Invasion."