Leo Machado: 'Without Passion, There is No Song'
Arriving at this moment as a solo artist was a journey--across time and countries. He immigrated from Nicaragua to pursue a life of music in Los Angeles. Before eventually striking out on his own, Machado played bass and guitar with Viva Malpache (remember the good-time vibes of local Latin Alternative music's "Pan Con Mayonesa" ?). Now he is front and center, with the funk-laced single "Que se Caigan las Estrellas" leading the way.
Before Leo Machado comes through the Juke Joint in Anaheim this Friday with his solo album, the Weekly asked the musician to share a few words with us.
OC Weekly (Gabriel San Roman): For a time, you were a musician with LA-based band Viva Malpache. How did you evolve into a solo artist from that point?
When the opportunity of the Latin Alternative music came up in LA, I found a way to express myself musically. Viva Malpache was looking for musicians. I jumped in. We started playing live shows all over and recorded an album. When Viva Malpache was done for me, because they kept going, I took a break for about six months and started playing bass for other bands and projects that never launched. After all this, I went to Nicaragua to visit my family and I showed my siblings my songs. They knew my music history. They were very encouraging. One of my brothers actually said, "You've been wasting time, just record your stuff and do it!" I must admit that back then there was a lot of fear and insecurity because being a frontman is a lot of responsibility. Thankfully, as I started playing live acoustically and recording songs, my best friend Oscar Coronel accepted my invitation to work with me as my manager, co-producer and publicist. It's been exciting times. Finally after three years of working on the album as an independent project we've been able to play in LA. I've been doing my best to go out of town and play for different audiences.
The culmination of that journey as a musician is the release of your first full length album Solo Quedan Palabras. What was the creative inspiration behind it?
I believe that without passion, there's no song. People have to be passionate about something for them to be able to speak about it. As I started writing songs, I realized that they were all related to my past relationships. I attempted to write something else, but the passion and intensity of loving these women from my past came through easily. There was even a time when I fell in love with a woman so deeply I lost 30 pounds within six months! When people hear something like "Que se caigan las estrellas y el sol y el calor" it sounds kind of cheesy. I hear it now and say "Eh, this is cursi!" In reality, when I wrote it down, I felt like if everything ends, I don't care. All I want is to be with this woman. It's good to be inspired by something!
The lyrical vibe of the album is romantically themed, but musically it is really funky, with good rock riffs and solos. Is that related to the type of music you started listening to later on in your teenage years?
Something very interesting happened. I attempted to go back to my roots. When I was in the process of pre-production I asked myself what I used to listen to as a kid. In Central America there is musica del recuerdo. Any of the romantic music from the late '60s/early '70s was considered musica del recuerdo. The band that came through the most was Los Angeles Negros. I started studying them, and even found a documentary on them! I realized that these guys were the first band to record romantic music like boleros but they had the rock and roll setting and the bass playing was very groovy. Then it started making sense as I said "Ah, Los Bukis did the same thing too!" The bass player was very funky. Naturally, I liked that. I'm a bass player and out of the ten songs on the album, I recorded seven on bass. It had to be funky.
You filmed a music video for your first single "Que se Caigan las Estrellas." What's the concept behind it?
I wanted to show Los Angeles from different angles. Sometimes we see LA in movies from a certain perspective and I wanted to show different images. The storyline is simple. I'm the main character and I'm walking the street thinking about a woman and wishing I was with her. It can be interpreted that when people see the couple together, I'm thinking or walking to her. I really like that we decided to show me walking alone in the beginning and at the end. It goes with the lyrics. In the song I'm saying that all I want is to be with that woman. More recently, I've been working on a second video. Three weeks ago, I shot the video for "Tener Tu Amor" which is the first track off the album. I'm looking forward to seeing the results of that.
You just returned from Mexico playing in support of the album, and as you stated earlier you want to take your music out of LA, so how was the experience?
I was able to visit two cities. In Hermosillo, Mexico I played in three different places and every single place, the audience was different. That's the one thing I've learned. It doesn't matter where you go, you never know what you're going to get. The first night I played in Hermosillo, halfway through the set, half the people left the room, so I finished early. The funny thing is, people left, but then they came back. But I perceived that as "Oh, they didn't like it." The person who booked me told me "You should have kept playing. What happens here is that people here just want you to keep playing. That's how they are." That didn't make sense to me, but that's an example of how going to different places, there's different ways of receiving music or even different ways of saying thank you. That first show in Hermosillo taught me that I played too little and not enough. Going out of town is better as the people are hungrier. At the same time, we all have to be ready expect any kind of reception, but in the end you're always going to find people willing to buy your CD, buy you a drink and be cool with you!
Leo Machado performs with Conjunto Nueva Ola and ¡Aparato! Fri. at The Juke Joint, 735 N. Anaheim Blvd. $8 pre-sale, $10 door. 8 p.m. 21+
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.