Get Kinky

Another band from Monterrey is out to conquer the world

Don't get the wrong idea, Kinky is not the Mexican Marilyn Manson; its members don't wear bondage or leather clothes. They just like the sound of the name. In fact, says singer and guitarist Gil Cerezo, "We are like The Flintstones now, breaking down all the boulders we can to clear the road." He's talking about the work the band is putting in to establish a name beyond Mexico, including a U.S. tour last spring. Miami, for instance, was especially tough. Even considering some half-full houses on the West Coast, in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and San Diego, the band did better there than in Miami, where a free concert at Billboardlive didn't get a lot of promotion or much of an audience.

"It's like blazing the same trail we once opened in Monterrey, then in Mexico," explains Cerezo. Too bad for Miami. The band rocked the house as if those 50 lucky dancers that got into the groove numbered in the hundreds, or thousands. They played with the same enthusiasm, knowing that it's the only way, and that they have to keep up their spirits along the U.S. roads no matter what kind of response they got on their first steps into this territory.

The highlight was Los Angeles. In addition to the critical acclaim that follows Kinky wherever it goes, more than 800 people packed into Club Vinyl, leaving some fans screaming for tickets outside. Among the screaming fans inside were members of Cake, who were impressed with the band and invited it to join this summer's Unlimited Sunshine Festival, to also include ever-alternative band Flaming Lips, rappers De La Soul, and indie rockers Modest Mouse in sixteen cities.

But there's more. In Los Angeles Kinky also played live on April 25 on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, and somehow, that TV gig started a chain reaction inside CBS. As the strongest possible return to the U.S., on July 24 Kinky will play on Late Show with David Lettermanand then will move to St. Louis to start the tour with Cake.

Now, despite their struggle to get people's attention in this country, life for these five guys from Monterrey, an industrial city in Northern Mexico, is full of "magic things," according to percussionist Omar Gongora. Those magic things officially began when they were signed by U.K. record company Sonic360, an alternative label created by the Beta Band and Coldplay producer Chris Allison, who has said that nothing in Europe sounds as fresh as the music that comes from Latin America.

Allison was in Monterrey working with local heroes Plastilina Mosh when he got a cassette with some unfinished songs from this band called Kinky. It had vocals with more musical than lyrical value, lots of flavor, and an unbeatable groovy, jazzy layout. "He was like, 'You have no idea what you've got in your hands!'" recalls Cerezo.

"We needed that kind of support," says Ulises Lozano, the keyboardist/programmer, who established his leadership in the studio but onstage only gets the spotlight when he plays an accordion in what compatriots El Gran Silencio call a "very norteño style." "Before signing to a record label to follow the same route as every other band, we wanted people to get interested in the music, in the main project," adds Lozano. He notes that as soon as Allison started his record label in 2000, "he made us an offer which included total creative freedom, and we decided to sign and experiment a little bit."

A blur of boundaries is one of the keys that bands from Monterrey have used to open many doors in their country. And that is also what makes Kinky so special.

"That's the good thing about our music -- we can play in a rave or in a disco the same way we can naturally play in a rock festival," says guitarist Carlos Chairez, who onstage competes with the keyboard and the turntables, and often wins, showing his passion for rock.

Kinky is much more of a live band than Mexico City's techno rockers Titan, or the DJs from Tijuana's Nortec Collective. The group is stronger than friends and neighbors Plastilina Mosh, and mixes cumbia rhythms with the same rock vigor as fellow Monterrey band El Gran Silencio. Kinky enjoys playing live, and that washes over every bobbing head you see in the audience -- no matter what the head count.

More than all of its compatriots, without even trying to cross over and sing in English, Kinky now has the opportunity to play in the major leagues with an album that's a musical sure shot; the Spanish lyrics work like another instrument, spicing up the mix without requiring translation. The opportunity, says Lozano, comes at a time of maturity for the band, even though it has only existed for the past five years.

The five of them had previous experience in bands like Pasto, Sofa, Mamíferos Habituales, Enriquez, and Cuervos de Malta, where percussionist Gongora played with the duo that became Plastilina Mosh. He was in the U.S. when for the first time he saw that group on MTV. "I said, 'What are these guys doing there?' And I immediately went back to Monterrey."

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