What do you get when you combine eight guys from across the Caribbean and Latin America with a passion for creating sazón? Bachaco.
Named after the leafcutter ant in Venezuela, an insect that's used to make salsa picante, the Afro-Caribbean-roots-rock-cumbia-reggae-ska band recently released its first self-titled album and the crew is already working on a new record.
With upcoming gigs at Blue Martini Brickell, The Stage, and Bougainvillea's, the Bachaco guys are also planning another U.S./Canada tour with hopes of crossing the border into Mexico and Puerto Rico.
So last week, we here at Crossfade sat down and spoke with them about the Miami music scene, trends, and making it in the industry.
And no reggae interview would be complete without some weed talk.
Crossfade: What do you think about the local music scene?
Edilberto "Eddy" Morillo, lead singer: It's a little harder out there to be honest with you. Because we've gotten into some places and we've had tough times as far as money, and that's the truth for any artist starting off without any capital behind it.
J.P. Guinam, sax player: [Local musicians] sell out short and quit many times.
So do you think it's hard to make it out here as a musician?
Farid Cure, lead guitarist: It definetely takes dedication. It takes an effort. I just think it's about waiting. I remember just joining the band having this conversation with Eddy ... just waiting. Like, the hard part is sitting there, and working time after time, not getting paid, and being broke and just keep going.
Eddy: I mean that's not the only way to keep going. Like I said, if you have the capital as an artist, you can definitely get far. But at the same time, if you don't have the experience having the money, how do you know you're going in the right direction?
Cristian "Mumbles" Rocha, bass guitarist: I think it all depends on what making it means to you. You can make a living here. Like, you can make money off of playing music. But then you won't be playing music that you love, you won't be playing organically. You'll be playing just to play as a job. You can make a living out of music. But if you wanna make a living out of your own music, then it's different. You put your heart out there for people to listen to, you're vulnerable and that's where there's less money, because people are waiting for you to prove yourself.
So you would say that making it for you is sharing your music, but not conforming?
Mumbles: Anybody can make a living out of everyone else's music. Make a cover band, make a tribute band -- you can make a lot of money. But you're not as happy as when you play your own music.
Eddy: Everybody has different visions of what making it really is. When it comes to a band, it's all about your music, so you have to prove yourself. This particular case, the truth is that money is secondary. The first thing here is to do what you love, to do the best you can, and for as long as you can.
Do you guys see any ongoing trends in the local scene?
Mumbles: There's more live bands. The thing is that Miami always has a period of time where live music is coming up and then it just dies down.
Why do you think that happens?
Mumbles: [Local musicians] get lazy. They don't wanna work anymore.
Bruce McKinnon, trumpet player: I also think that there's less of an appreciation for the music, actual music, not just singing. A lot of the times in Miami, people don't listen to the music of the track. They won't listen to an instrumental song that doesn't have a vocalist.
There's less of an appreciation for the art of music here in Miami, I believe, and that's why DJing is so popular. Talking about actual music, say with the violins, the guitars, the trumpets, jazz -- it's unheard of.
Farid: That appreciation for the musician performing, it's missing here.
Mumbles: Because I've been able to play with DJs as a bass player, and it's fun
and you see people dancing. But it's a whole 'nother thing to watch
somebody on stage, put themselves in a place where we're being judged by
everybody that's in front of us 24/7. So we're putting our skin out
there. And hopefully, we can connect. And it's so much more different
when I see a live performance and I see their art, I see their soul
coming out through music, people don't appreciate that. Miami, because
it's such a young city, just wants to, you know, uhntz-uhntz-uhntz all night, you know. There's nothing wrong with that, but I believe that's what doesn't allow live music to grow.
Farid: I think our music has done well because it's club friendly. It's a good replacement for a DJ and it's actually art, like music performance. So I think that's what were trying to do. We got tired of complaining and we are trying to do it.
Eddy: And at the same time, talking about
trends... the whole [Wynwood and Design District Second Saturday] Art Walk, I've been there a
few times and it's ridiculous what's happening. So the trend of the arts being appreciated is growing and that's a good thing. That's the trend that at least I'm seeing and we are taking advantage of that as much as we can, both here and outside of Miami.
Do you think the trend will die down or grow?
Farid: I think that Miami, being such a young city, we could play a part in
that [trend]. I think we have the blank canvas for us to be able to do something and to be forerunners on that scene and what could happen potentially here in Miami.
You have upcoming gigs at The Stage, Bougies. Do you have plans to perform at larger venues?
Eddy: Last year, we did a few large festivals and hopefully that repeats again this year. We haven't confirmed anything but we have plans of going to Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada, things that may lend themselves to big venues.
Would you say Bachaco is more popular locally or internationally?
Eddy: It's really hard to measure because more people know more about the
band than we can understand. As far as record sales, we've sold more in
New York. And in some cities, we have had more people than in Miami. And at
the same time, we have had shows [with a great turnout in Miami].
A lot of people, when they think of reggae music, they think of weed. Why do you think there's that connection?
Bruce: Because Bob Marley.
Alex Cruz, trombone player: The Rastafarian religion.
Mumbles: Reggae is more than just a style of music, it's a lifestyle. Even
professional musicians who study reggae, they say it's more than knowing the theory, it's about knowing how they live.
Farid: It's a scared thing. They respect it. It's not a party drug for them.For them [reggae artists], it's something special.
Should it be legalized?
Bachaco: [In almost perfect unison] Yeah. Hell yeah. I say yes.
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Do you think crime would go down?
Farid: I say yes, less people in jail for getting caught.
Bachaco. Monday, February 11. Blue Martini Brickell, 900 S. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and there's no cover. Call 305-610-0905 or visit bluemartinilounge.com.