These guys may be un grupo de locos, but one thing's for sure: they are reggae/Latin/cumbia/fusion badasses.
Locos Por Juana was successful from the start. The release of their debut, self-titled album landed them a Premio lo Nuestro nomination in 2003 for Best Urban Artist.
The second album, Música P'al Pueblo, scored them a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album in 2005, and the third album, La Verdad, released under Universal Music, was nominated for a Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album at the Grammys in 2008.
The dudes recently released their fifth studio album, Somos de la Calle, and are prepping for an upcoming summer tour.
Crossfade caught up with guitarist Mark Kondrat just in time for Locos' June 8 show at Jazid where they will be celebrating the club's 17th anniversary. He revealed who Juana is, the challenges of the music biz, and the band's special bond with Jazid.
Crossfade: What inspired the name of the band?
Mark Kondrat, guitarist: We started off like in 2002. Most of us were in high school. The name is like, the beauty of the name is that many people can take it in different ways. Juana, for us, is like a mythical character, she's like the Latin woman we're all looking for, the strong, powerful woman who came here and started her life. At first, we thought it was funny and fun. We stuck with it and people loved it. Juana can represent something for each person. It could be the the woman you love, your mother, it's like an homage to women. For us, it's really important to respect the woman. We always sing a lot of songs dedicated to women. Latinos, we flirt a lot so its kind of flirty and fun.
You guys are a fusion of reggae, cumbia, hip-hop, rock. How would you describe your sound?
I would say it's a Miami sound. The cumbia that we play is not the cumbia you would hear played in Colombia - it's a cumbia that I feel could be born in the city. Miami is unlike most cities, and I think it's really beautiful how all of our cultures really mix. And it's not like other cities where barrios are spread. We have the reggae because we see Bob Marley's family because they live here, so that vibe is in our music. Each of the main members' Colombian roots have a lot to do with it... We love music, so for us it's really fun to take some elements from reggae, hip-hop, and to be honest though, it was never forced. Our sound is a very organic sound that naturally comes out. The city has a lot to do with our inspiration, but when we came together, each of the guys brought their own thing.
Locos' sound has changed from when you guys first started out. How has it evolved over the years?
The sound definitely evolved a lot. When we started, we were really young and more into punk, and a little more hyper, more punk, but the band has matured and we found our sound. We've also evolved as music evolved. We have elements of dub step. We did a European tour last summer and got really inspired by all the DJs and the electronic movement. We had an EP we released, Evolucion, that was basically our way of showing our fans that we're evolving. You always hear that signature sound, but we do evolve. I'm a big fan of music, of all music, but as a musician, we always have to look forward to new sounds and a new generation and what they're gonna be appealing to. Music is a universal language. It has no boundaries and doesn't need to be translated. We always wanna reach as much people as we can and want it to get to new generations too.
Music is a tough business, but in spite of the challenges, you guys have been successful. What is it that keeps you guys going?
It takes a certain person to really dedicate their life to music, not only music but original music which is what we do, and for the most part we release and distribute music. The way music is and the business, it's not easy. I would say music chooses you before you choose it. One way or another, we chose this path or it chose us, and it's a fire and it just makes sense for us. It's because we have this drive to always be creating music. We really feel music is a powerful weapon. There's a lot of conscious lyrics and messages which is something we always felt, if were gonna do music, we wanna have a purpose. When we started we had a lot of success off the back. Our first album got a lot of success. We were really young and had this success that showed us that this was what we were supposed to do. It was a blessing. We just never gave up. It's really hard. I feel lucky and really blessed, but there's many struggles along the way. You need to be really strong and really believe [in] what [you're] doing.
Jazid is the longest running club on South Beach. Locos will be performing there this weekend for its 17th anniversary. What do you think has allowed them to remain open for such a long time? What makes Jazid different from all the other clubs in the area?
Jazid has been the place that's been around since the beginning. We used to have a weekly, and used to write put songs there. It's a special place for us. It's like a shrine. We go there to let loose, let go, and play music.
The beauty of Jazid is the dedication to live music. Miami is an amazing city, I could never help but say it enough. I've traveled a lot and never found a city like Miami. I think that the only thing Miami lacks is the live music culture. Miami is a city where people come and go, and those roots haven't been planted. But over the last 10, 15 years, we've been able to plant a seed of that live culture in Miami. Jazid has always respected that and tried to promote that and supported live music when a lot of live venues didn't wanna mess with live bands, Jazid was like 'no.' They're committed to the scene. It's what made them... If it wasn't for Jazid, I don't think there would be like almost no live music venue. They've been great and really important.
You've recently released your latest album Somos de la Calle and are getting ready to go on tour. What are your future plans?
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I think we just try to inspire people in whatever they do. Those are the messages in our songs. The importance of our family, living our life, respecting women. Like Bob Marley used to say, it's a conscious party, we're gonna make you dance, but give you some messages.
Locos Por Juana. Playing at Jazid's 17th Anniversary Party with Spam Allstars. Saturday, June 8, 10 p.m., at Jazid, 1342 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-9372; jazid.net. Free.