We're sitting here with Nelson Valiente Agular from Como Las Movies. Thanks for coming and playing for us now.
Nelson: Thank you for having us I'm really, thankful.
You guys just released a new EP Nuevo Wave, right?.
Yes, Nuevo Wave.
Bassist Jeff (AKA Jaguar) looking like a bad mama jama. Photos by Erin Eubanks.
This release is fresh, but Como Las Movies has been around since 2013. Where does Como Las Movies story begin?
It began in 2012 actually. I was in a different band and decided to remove myself from that situation. We'd been together for a while and it just wasn't working out. I wanted to continue with the songwriting ideas that I'd had by combining those elements (that you hear on the EP) and Como Las Movies was born right after I quit that band and ended up just by myself. I actually started with instrumentals because I don't sing so I said, 'well, I'm just going to do instrumentals and maybe I'll be a one-man band and get myself a sampler an play live.'
Singer Rene Chavez busting them chops during Sunday's Local Live set.
So that's how that started. I got some good feedback from some friends and then I got to talk to the musicians. I realized I really wanted a band again. We released a couple of singles in 2014 with the original lineup but things just didn't work out - people had different visions, wanted to do different things. So by the end of 2014, I was band-less again. Back to where I started.
Then, the singer Rene Chavez came up to me at a show and said, "Hey man, I heard you don't have a band anymore." He says he'd love to be a part of it. He's a great guitar player, but I didn't know he was a singer. Then I ended up with a different drummer friend of mine, and he brought in the bass player Jeff the Jaguar. Gardenias is our drummer actually. He's got nicknames in the band, but two nicknames, Jaguar and Gardenias and I don't have one.
Why the name Como Las Movies?
Believe it or not, it was a party in West Campus.
Was it like the theme or what?
Well, no, not the theme. I'm from south Texas and my brother decided to have a rager. A friend came out from south Texas who I don't think he'd been in Austin before. So he shows up and goes up to me and says, 'Nelson, this party is Como Las Movies.' "Just like the movies."
It stuck with me for, for years. As a kid, I grew up saying that. I'm not sure everybody can relate to that but I still hear it. I hear the kids used movies, still hear kids using that, which surprises me. Being Spanglish, being from the border, Spanglish rules as well. We just combined the English and the Spanish.
One hand taping bongos, one smacking the snare, percussionist Alfredo Rios beats to a multicultural beat.
Your music is so dynamic with influence and tones from different cultures. So when you were writing the songs for the EP, what was your overall goal and vision for the project?
That's a great question. Part of it is I've been writing for so long, that's just what I do. It's like therapy, but I think it was really just the idea of seeing it through. I have something to share and that hopefully, people will dig it.
I also liked the idea of bringing a little Spanglish dynamic, between lyrically in Spanish but taking the American influences, British influences, Mexican influences, and Southern American influences. Bring altogether. It's fun.
So a lot of what I do is because when you have a song in your head, you've got to get it out, man. It's a relief once it's out, like okay cool, I'm done. Releasing was my ultimate goal because I've been at it since 2013 and then all these issues were coming up. I was like, 'I gotta get this out.' All those songs are actually a reflection of what I dealt with. It's a hardship, but it's not a hardship like working in the fields, but mentally, it was. I found like-minded guys who supported me and it was great.
How's it feel after so many years that it's finally out?
Man, the fact that I'm here just talking to you about it, it's amazing. I'm a little older than most of you guys and I'm still doing it too, but I have the support. I have supportive of you guys, I have the support of my bandmates, just people in general again. So it's great.
You got to work with Beto Martinez from Groupo Fantasma and Brownout. Being that he is already pretty established in that specific music scene in Austin, how was it like working with them?
I got to say this about Beto. Beto is the sweetest, nicest guy. Most of this stuff was done in my spare bedroom on the laptop. Recording guitars, keys, whatever. He did give us advice if I'd ask him what he thinks, more like engineer stuff - tweaking this, tweaking that, a better tone for the guitar, let's try to get a little delay here.
He was very helpful there. I've known him for a while and his family's great and so we hang out and it's just a very relaxed, just like you're very relaxed atmosphere because it was just really laid back. I made sure he got fed, it was great.
Songwriter/frontman Nelson Valente Agular supports Chaves with backup vocals.
Doing the writing but not singing and having all these different band members, I'd like to hear about your creative process. How do you get what's in your head into our ears?
I'm glad you asked that question because I actually have, I think, a decent answer for that. Usually, on a Saturday or Sunday morning I wake up, either get on the piano or get on the guitar and then I'll just have an idea. I had this little idea that I recorded on my iPhone and a couple of days ago and then I woke up this morning and I'm singing it out loud. Singing what I think the melody should sound like, whatever. That's sort of the creative process. It just starts in a simple melody, as simple a guitar chord or just anything that you can spark an idea. Then I'll take it to Logic Pro, lay those tracks down and then present to the band.
Bassist and overall bad hombre Jeff (AKA Jaguar) slapping that bass silly.
Being described as cumbia/Latin fusion, you produce a unique sound with roots in two different cultural worlds. While today's political climate, there's a lot of rhetoric used by some politicians that place where you get your music from in a not so positive light. Is this something that you keep in mind when you're writing music at all? How, if at all, does it affect artistic decisions as a band?
Well, I think I became politicized when came to UT. I joined an organization called MEChA. And so before then I was sort of aware of it, I dealt with certain things. I mean believe it or not at this particular restaurant I actually dealt with someone asking, "who's the English speaking party here?"
That was exactly my response. At that point, I think it was a junior at UT.
What year was that?
Oh, a long time ago. This is '97, it's been a while.
In previous bands, we've all been political. Most of the bandmates have been Mexican-American or Latin. I think just the fact that I'm singing in Spanish in this EP I think is already political. Especially now with what we hear out there and what's happening now with people saying that we're this, and we're that, and that we're not good enough or that we should be sent back. You got kids now internment camps. Let's just call it what it is. So maybe every song isn't about social justice, but there's always some element of it, whether it be a love song or a political song.
I mean, minorities, women's rights, poor folks in general, that's what we stand for and I hope that comes through our music.
Bassist and overall bad hombre Jeff (AKA Jaguar) stunting on all of yall with mad cool accessories.
Just not being afraid of putting your culture out there.
Yeah! The mix of everything we do is a combination of the American aesthetic, the Mexican aesthetic, the Chicano aesthetic, the South American aesthetic, the British aesthetic. I mean from everywhere... African aesthetic. I mean Columbia comes from Africa so we're on this together. We're not saying this is everybody else's culture is bad, we're just saying, hey, come on, let's embrace everyone as we do.
What's next for you guys? Any tours to be announced? New music projects?
We have a couple of goods coming up. As the tour, we'll probably just tour around Texas for now. Hopefully, maybe we can land something a little later outside of Texas. But just pushing the EP around, trying to get radio stations all over the country to listen to it.
Sounds good man. Well, Nelson, thank you so much and we look forward to seeing you guys continue what you're doing.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.