To see a photo album of Chris Alfaro's travels, you don't need pictures. Close your eyes and listen to his beats. Sound waves unfurl into scenes of a serene countryside in Japan or the clamor of traffic and crowds in the heart of Spain, tracing the outlines of decrepit monuments and familiar images of home and family in far away lands. After being a citizen of the world for the last few years, it's always nice to see the seasoned producer back in his hometown, performing under his moniker Free The Robots. His arrival comes a week before the release of Karavan (out May 19th), an album he created with longtime friend and Brussels-born producer Lefto. Along with fellow SoCal beat wizard Teebs, the trio prepare for a rare US tour, starting with tonight's show at The Wayfarer. Ahead of the show, Alfaro caught up with the Weekly to talk about the long road to creating Karavan, his methods for tracking down local music around the globe and the influences that help him continue on his journey of making timeless music.
OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): What were some of the musical influences for you on Karavan?
Chris Alfaro: The concept came together while we were touring two years ago. Lefto and I did a run of shows in Asia and we had our laptops and very minimal equipment and we just started recording. It started out as an EP, 3 songs, 6 songs inspired by the road. It started out a couple years ago and we kept on going and we went on another tour and I met up with him in Europe a little bit and we working out of his house. And now there’s like 13 songs, it’s actually a full length, the entire time we working on it was on the road. Lefto is such a [crate] digger and we’re both into different types of music. It tells the story of what we listen to and just like the stuff we see. It’s all over the place.
What’s your method in terms of finding real cultural music in the places you visit?
I’ll ask the record store owners if I’m in a very foreign place. Usually they’re pretty in tune, you throw em a couple artists that you’re listening to and they’ll give you a couple recommendations. I’ve been caught in certain situations where I’ve had to act out what I’m looking for because of the language barrier. Sometimes I’m looking for heavy drums and I use these crazy hand motions and they still understand what you’re talking about and they’ll throw you some stuff and based on your reaction, if you’re feeling it they can tell. Record store owners are very passionate about what’s in their shop and opening foreigners up to new music like myself. Other than that, I look at the year of the record and the musicians on it, you do your research before and you find your way.
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Talk about the Mild Animals show podcast you do once a month. How did that come about?
Mild Animals is just me and Phil Nisco playing what we like. Most of it is kinda rare music so we just share random stuff that people are probably not [into] already. It’s two hours, we get a guest that we like, and our guests get really diverse/ The one that’s coming up we got RSI, Ricky Regretti from the Drum Metrics crew. He played all his 45s and some crazy shit. We want more of that as much as we wanna play new music, we also want to provide a platform for other artists to share their new music as well. It’s not always DJs either. We just get people who we enjoy. Some of them are diggers who just play records in their living room, painters, local creative minds that we build with. The more we can share what we are all collectively into the better.
What’s been inspiring your music lately now since the completion of Karavan?
I can’t even explain what really gravitates me to what I do. Just trying to stay in my own lane. I have another Free the Robots album I’m trying to release this year. When it comes to creating music you’re always tapping into this collective DNA of people and music that’s your into from around the world. I’ve been doing it for so long at this point, there’s no other agenda other than to just make it. I don’t really even mind if it does well or not, the goal is to make something timeless. You put something out there and somewhere down the line, people will discover it. I’m fortunate enough to accept what I put out and be part of this collective energy that we’re contributing to as artists.
Free the Robots performs with Lefto and Teebs tonight at The Wayfarer at 9 p.m. For tickets and full details, click here.