"¡Te voy a dar jarabe de palo!"
That is a common phrase used by Spanish parents to chastise their children when they act up. (It translates along the lines of “I’m gonna hit you across the head with a stick.”) The saying also inspired the name of Spanish rockeros, Jarabe de Palo.
“It's something mothers say to make their kids react,” Jarabe's lead singer Pau Donés explains. “And just as hearing those words coming out of your mother’s mouth force you into doing something, we have songs with messages that motivate people to think, and that’s the secret of the group.”
Another of the group's secrets: hard work. Donés and his crew are in the middle of their Tour Americano 2015, and the band will have performed 30 shows in 38 days by the time Jarabe de Palo arrives at Grand Central in downtown Miami.
“It’s our job,” Donés says. “Personally, I love it. One day, we’re in a city and it’s snowing. The next day, we’re having a beer in the middle of the desert in Tucson. It’s like a roller coaster. It’s always something new. I don’t wanna stop doing it.”
After years and years of playing in Europe and Central and South America, the group's most recent conquest has been the United States, and the Tour Americano is proof of its increasing popularity here. Yet for this band hailing from Barcelona, Jarabe's growing stateside fanbase still comes as a shock.
“We’re very happy and surprised,” Donés admits. “We didn’t think the group would have so much success in the U.S. We were very successful in Spain and Latin America. The U.S. was like a territory to discover. We were doubtful, but it turns out we were wrong."
These recent strides with American audiences may have been unexpected, but Jarabe has been steadily working toward this sort of breakthrough for decades, from the release of the band's debut album, 1996's La Flaca, through last year's Somos. However, it wasn't until 2008 that the band realized its full potential and left the major-label world to start working with the independent Tronco Records.
“We went through two phases. We were with Virgin and EMI and then Warner in our first phase. But in our second phase, we went independent for the creative freedom,” Donés says. “The major labels were focused on selling, but we always wanted to conserve our quality and make music. That's why we've been together for 20 years — we have credibility.”
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To Jarabe de Palo, writing songs, playing shows, and working hard is about much more than just making money.
“The idea is that music transcends whether you're Japanese, Argentinian, or German, boy, girl, or grandmother,” Donés says. “The message is transmitted through music and it gets to the people, wherever they are.”
Jarabe de Palo's Tour Americano 2015. With special guests. 9 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-377-2277; grandcentralmiami.com. Tickets cost $30 to $100 plus fees via eventbee.com. All ages.