Chikita Violenta Interview: No Violence Just Laughs

10/12/2010

After touring along with Built to Spill and Ra Ra Riot, Chikita Violenta is headlining their own tour in the US. The four friends grew up together in Mexico loving bands like Pavement, Sonic Youth, Built to Spill and later Broken Social Scene. The group’s good taste (we’re fans of most of these bands and interviewed them as well) caught SFCritic’s attention—then their music. They play at the Bottom of The Hill on October 14th. Here’s a ten-question-get-to-know Chikita Violenta asked to guitarist Esteban Suarez via email correspondence.

Chikita Violenta: “Sunburn

[audio: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/11598506/05%20Sunburn.mp3]

1. What is your name and role in your band?

Cheech (Esteban Suarez ). I play guitars.

2. When you’re a band touring across country, you haven’t had a great tour until…

You’ve had a raging party back stage with the venue staff and the other bands (and lining up for “turbochelas,’ or as you guys call them “shotgun beers”).

3. Is there a particular Chikita Violenta the band is named after?

A friend in high school came up with the name. He used to love Blonde Redhead’s album, La Mia Vita Violenta, and apparently the name was inspired by it.

4. Were you a problem child when you were younger?

When I was a teenager I once ended up in jail for trying to steal a police car. Besides that, I didn’t get into a lot of trouble.

5. What do you miss most when you’re traveling, besides the comfort of your bed (because I’ve heard that one before)?

Eating healthy and doing exercise. But when I’m not on tour, I miss the adrenaline of playing everyday. So in a way, you always end up missing something.

6. What’s the biggest misconception about being a “Mexican band” when traveling abroad?

That we’re supposed to play mariachi music and go up on stage with big sombreros. No, just kidding. We don’t present ourselves on stage until after the second or third song not to predispose the crowd. When we finally announce we’re from Mexico people seem really surprised, it´s funny but it has some truth to it. There are not many (if any at all) Mexican rock bands that sing in English touring the US.

7. Originally a DIY band, but now signed to Arts & Craft, and working with Dave Newfeld, what have you learned and are doing differently when marketing, creating, and conceiving an album?

We learned that a producer, especially one as involved as Dave, plays a big role in the band when recording an album. And not only in achieving a special sound for the album, but in song writing and lyrics as well. On our first trip to his new studio we helped him plant like 15 big pine trees for three days before we had a chance to record anything. It´s a funny anecdote, a kind of sensei Mr. Miyagi teaching, “before you learn karate you need to learn how to paint fences and wax cars.” It was more like “before you can record an album you need to learn how to plant trees.”

It´s a funny anecdote, a kind of sensei Mr. Miyagi teaching, “before you learn karate you need to learn how to paint fences and wax cars.” It was more like “before you can record an album you need to learn how to plant trees.”

Actually the name of our new album, Tre3s, was inspired by that aneadote. In English it´s pronounced “trees,” in Spanish it means “three.”It´s our third album and was recorded in three trips over three years to Canada.

8. I notice you sometimes speak in Spanish, other times in English—does your band’s identity feel different when you travel?

It´s always been very natural for us to switch from Spanish to English, we practically grew up with both languages. We don´t try to prove we are more “Mexican” because we are in another country, nor the other way around.

9. How did you first connect with Stars and Broken Social Scene?

It all started back in 2004 when we first contacted Dave by email. He was interested. We went up to Canada to his studio in Toronto for our first recording session. The guys from Broken Social Scene would pop into his studio occasionally to say hi and that´s how we met them. We´ve now developed a pretty strong friendship with them.

10. You’ve toured, or hang out with a lot of the bands growing up you followed like Built to Spill and Broken Social Scene. Were you nervous or awkward when you first met some of these guys? Got any embarrassing stories?

The first night we played with Built to Spill we were hanging out in the hotel with them and talking about music and influences. Our drummer, Zoell, commented he didn´t hear about BTS when he has younger. He was saying he was more into Guns and Roses when he was a teenager.

Doug Martsch replied to him, “Maybe if you weren´t listening to that shit music when you were a kid you might have heard of us.” Three seconds of silence and then we all broke out laughing! He didn´t mean it in a rude or bad way, but he was very honest. That definitely broke the ice with them.

Esteban Suarez