An Interview With Santa Lucia LFR by SBS part 1
German! Byron! welcome! Just wanted to reach-out personally to say thank you for taking the time to talk to us about your music and feature you on our site and being a part of our journey. Totally stoked to talk to you about the wild-infusion and exotic sounds of your music. Jer @SBS studios.
#1 SBS: Before I even get into the questions Santa Lucia, thank you so much for being here with us on our internet-page and being a part of our journey. Totally stoked to talk to you about the wild-infusion and exotic sounds of your music.
German: Thank you! It’s a pleasure to be here.
Before I give anything away, what would you say the defining characteristics of your sounds are? Describe the music, the vibe, and maybe a little history for us. For anyone out there that might not be familiar with the music of Santa Lucia yet.
Byron: Santa Lucia blends punchy horns, playing off funky bass grooves, spiced up with some vocals from the locals. It’s a combination everyone can get down to, it’s upbeat music, and seems to evolve on its’ own sometimes!
#2 SBS: As far as I could tell, Santa Lucia has been around since 1999. Just before the ol’ turn of the millennium and all that. From where you started back then, to the music you make now, what would you say has changed along the way?
German: The whole industry ha-ha. Well! A lot of things have changed I mean, time changes and you have to change with it. Right? You know, adapt or die, from the way you conduct business in the industry to what you present musically to festivals. It’s a constant and revolving change.
SBS: There’s a ton of versatility and variation in style & sound as far as I can tell, but on the inside how did the band grow throughout the years?
Byron: I feel progression of sound is bound to occur, short of some busier horn lines we have stayed true to our vision. That being said, the beauty of playing in a fusion band you never know where our music will go next as far as vibe.
German: When I started this band I had a set vision and that was to bring to Canada the US Latino sound. In the early 2000’s there were a few bands making the trip up here from LA and San Francisco to play gigs. These bands will come up here and perform songs with a message that was irrelevant to the Canadian market. We worried about different things in a different way up here, our concerns are more tied to the Canadian identity and how we view the world.
Those early days gave me a lot of insight and I was able to change the format, the vision, and how to present it to my Canadian fans. Living up here is a lot different than living in the USA, and you have to change the way you choose your topics, and the message has to be slightly differently.
#3 SBS: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started to record and make your music?
German: How incredible you can sound on a bigger stage such as the Vancouver Jazz Festival, how our music has been the perfect fit at Canada Day festivals in downtown Calgary and Vancouver.
Byron: Yeah, I wish we would have known that major festivals were so eager at eating this music up. At the time we just didn’t know what their acceptable formats were.
SBS: Is the current line-up of seven the same one that originally started it all?
German: Surprisingly yes! The core members anyways in this day and age this is a rarity. The friendship and the bond is strong among the members, our horn section varies depending on the gigs and availability of players. At the moment we are working with a set of horn players who spice things up pretty good on live shows.
#4 SBS: German – tell us about the talents that each of these players in Santa Lucia bring to the music! What makes them the perfect fit, perfect choice, perfect sound to bring the music you write to life and how did you find each other? What makes the current bond between you all an unbreakable one now in the present-day?
German: I think the attitude we all take towards music and a genuine desire to make this work. I mean, there’s not a whole lot of the bands playing this genre right here in Canada so I think most of the guys in the band feel that they are a part of something they don’t get to do much on a regular basis. For the Canadian market this isn’t your run-of-the-mill kind of band, the challenges are enormous, and I think that’s the one thing that make us bond. Musicians are a bunch of misunderstood visionaries, with a common cause to bring something to a level that has never been on the musical radar in this country. It is quite a common goal we share.
Byron: I feel that we are always open to every players own style. We lay down what our vision is, but we are never afraid to see through another’s eyes, that’s how growth occurs. Not to mention keeps our live shows fresh. I think this comes from a no BS “let’s just have a good time” philosophy. We’re like a family that can put up with each other, ha-ha…
German: I never had trouble finding good talent, my challenge was to convince people in the beginning to play this kind of music and that they could have a good time doing just that. Byron was playing with his jazz band years ago, someone told me, there is this kid in the valley who plays a mean sax, and he’s amazing. First thing I thought was, huh! Saxophone player, second was, is he sexy enough to play this music? Ha-ha. So I went to see him, when I met him that night I told him right away, “Look man, I got this project I want to get it off the ground”., I went on, when I finished my pitch he looked at me and asked me “what kind of crazy person are you?, you want to play what?” before I answered he looked at me up and down and said “but I think I’m crazier” and the rest is history.
#5 SBS: With some of the band coming from as far away as Nicaragua and Latin America – how in the world did you end up choosing Vancouver as the place to base the music from?
Byron: I live here already, German just had to come and find me (laughs).
German: Well, first and foremost it was the other way around. I tailored it to be around the members’ lifestyle, outside the band everyone was building their own lives around family, jobs, etc. I came here via San Francisco under political asylum. I lived in Winnipeg and Toronto for a while but it was not where I wanted to build my life. I came west because I’ve always been a west coast boy, meeting all these guys here to form the band closed the deal. I mean Vancouver, is a really great place among mountains, the ocean, and all the outdoor activities you can possibly do; it adds a certain attitude to the music.
#6 SBS: Aside from the Latin influence which we mentioned, there are also a massive number of elements to the music of Santa Lucia that create the sound, funk, rock, salsa, even world-music. World-music itself tends to catch my eye and attention for what sounds to be an ‘all-encompassing’ type of music, it typically has one of the hardest to attain fan-bases and struggles to gain acceptance often. Why do you think that might be?
German: I think because it’s always associated with African music when it’s more than that. What I found out about us when we play live is that our fans tend to be loyal rock followers with a sophisticated taste of world music. Byron: I think being a fusion group can work for or against you, I think that comes down to how you market yourself. I mean, how do you? We’re a like a buffet of musical styles, one thing is certain once fans catch on they are loyal to the end. We love our fierce fans.
German: It can be dangerous for us on stage sometimes because we’ve notice that those fans and even new fans tend to demand not just a rock feel for an AC/DC tune we might be playing but to have an exotic twist to it.
SBS: Tell me about the current album, your recent release called Suppressed Anthems. As far as I understand, this is the third official album for Santa Lucia, correct?
German: Yes, it is.
SBS: How did the music evolve this time around for the latest recording sessions?
German: The music evolves with your experiences, and maturity and in my case coming from a political background, not from the sense of belonging to a political institution. Rather being the victim of politics it really reflected on my writing for this album. This was the best platform for me to write some of my experiences and views because financing my own record gave me free range to do so. If I were to sign to a label I probably wouldn’t have done so.
#7 SBS: What kind of themes or story lines run in the music, and what made the recording of it all a memorable experience for you?
German: I set the theme for this album around my own experiences, as a young boy living in a poor country bombed by the U.S. Army. A good example telling instead with the song “War” “they’re dropping bombs in my hometown. People skip them while shopping around, the army pilot in the sky above claiming he is only doing his job”. It’s sad to think that it is a job for someone to go and kill people. This became a turning point in my writing because for the first time I have the chance to talk about an issue that haunted me for so long. Just like what the Syrians are experiencing right now. This doesn’t hurt me in the least to watch it all go down on TV. Like a goddamn good reality show pick up the phone and text your vote. The song concludes pointing out how we take on things for granted thinking it’s just a reality show.
Now at the same time explaining how memorable this was for me has another different explanation altogether. Larry Anschell was the producer for such bands like Pearl Jam, Sum 41, and Sarah Mac among others. I had this ballsy feeling that if I get to convince someone of Larry’s caliber to help me do this record I would cut a lot of stereo types in half, right then and there, and have a good quality product to present to the market.
Lucky, for me Larry understood what I was aiming at, I can drive people a little crazy with my ideas. He was studying psychology at the time we were making the record. I think that’s why, (laugh). Larry and producer Brad Graham guided me through the challenging combination of music and lyrics for this record. Secondly, for a poor refugee kid from Nicaragua it was a huge deal to go into a studio like Turtle you know, a huge dream fulfilled.
#8 SBS: Was there anything you had learned from your experiences recording the previous records that helped you get a better head-start when recording the new one this time around?
German: Yeah, for sure. When you’re going into a studio like turtle and have Larry working on your record you have to be really organized, you have to have your shit together you know. It’s like you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Byron: you definitely learn a lot.
#9 SBS: Album titles aren’t always the most interesting thing to me…but yours definitely caught my attention. Suppressed Anthems…it almost seems like a pretty heavy-statement…but maybe I’m confusing suppressed with oppressed when it comes to the meaning behind the album’s title. So help me out a little Santa Lucia…who or what suppressed these anthems of yours and what made NOW the right time to break’em loose and put them out into the world?
German: The whole industry haha,. Well!. A lot of things have changed I mean, times changes and you have to change with it right? You know.. adapt or die, from the way you conduct business in the industry to what you present musically to festivals. It’s a constant change.
#10 SBS: What are the plans for supporting the new record from the live-stage?
Byron: yes indeed, for our up and coming show we are playing the evil twin version of the band, a bit meaner, crunchier rock with the exotic sounds our fans love to dance to of course. A Halloween show and all.. (laughs).
#11 SBS: I’ve heard a rumour that you’ll be onstage in Vancouver at Studio on Granville this October on the 29th, pre-Halloween jamming! Very cool… It’s an awesome venue and seems like it would be a great place for Santa Lucia to play in for sure; what about beyond that?
German: We have a couple of corporate gigs towards December, yeap,. That’s right, we also play those. Also going to Victoria for a fundraiser for the Diabetes society.
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