Fernanda Ulibarri achieved what Family Matters TV nerd Steve Urkel could never do: make polka cool. The Latin Alternative songstress returns to the scene with Polkas de Amor. The four-song EP bounces along with tales of romance sung in Ulibarri's high-pitch, sugary sweet vocals. The Mexico City-born musician based in Los Angeles is reading a preview of her newest work in SanTana this weekend ahead of the EP's official release show.
"With my previous album átOma I had a couple of songs in cabaret style," Ulibarri tells the Weekly. "While promoting the album, I realized at a lot of my shows my audience wanted to dance." Her tempos sped up to get people moving. Ulibarri realized the songs started becoming polkas and spent a year experimenting with them at performances before heading into the studio.
"It was an exploration of rhythm with my audience," she says. "Once I realized they were all polkas, I said 'Let's just do it.'"
German polkas heavily influence Norteño music in Ulibarri's native country, but that's not that sound the singer set out to craft. "These polkas are my own," Ulibarri says. "Mexican and American traditional music comes from polka but I'm not doing that style strictly. They're still indie-pop songs."
The new EP is definitely a departure from Ulibarri's 2011 solo debut album, not only musically, but lyrically as well. Where Se Satura Mi Cabeza off átOma critiqued mass media, the songwriter now takes a more introspective journey.
"These songs are deeper and a little more honest than the previous album," she says. "It's scary to really talk about yourself and what you think about love, but this time I did it!" Songs like Lejos speak of the difficulty of getting along with someone near and dear. "Crush" is self-explanatory in its enamored ways. Ulibarri plans on filming music videos for "Crush" and "Ya Me Voy."
Transitions are nothing new for Ulibarri. She moved to the United States in 1999. "I've noticed that Mexico has become more of a place to go play but now I'm a Mexican-American and I enjoy living in California," Ulibarri says. "For this record, I would like to play more in the Southwest, the north of Mexico and, of course, Mexico City."
But first, she's set to perform in SanTana tomorrow night during Art Walk at the vintage music culture Beatnik Bandito shop. The evening also features a showcase of SanTana-based graphic designer Carla Zarate's flyers over the years for Latin Alternative shows across the Southland and beyond.
"I'm so excited!" Ulibarri says. "It's a good chance for everyone to listen to the songs."Polkas de Amor will be stripped bare for the upcoming acoustic show. With guest musicians, she's bringing with her a keyboard and ukelin, a cross between a ukulele and violin.
"With a full band, it becomes more of a dance track," Ulibarri says, "but in the acoustic song, people get to listen to the lyrics and see what they are about."
SolArt Radio presents Fernanda Ulibarri at Beatnik Bandito Music Emporium, 417 N. Broadway St., Santa Ana, Sat., 6-10 p.m.,Free. All Ages.