Monterrey Goes From Producer to Performer on Debut EP

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Producers often rely on collaboration. Some of the biggest dance hits of the past millennium feature guest vocalists. But sometimes, waiting around for others to help you achieve your dreams no longer makes sense.

For Monterrey, a Miami-based producer with a lengthy resumé in the city's music scene, that time came when plans to create a new sound featuring a female lead vocalist fell through.

"I was looking around for vocalists, and I'd rewrite songs — there were just lots of delays," Monterrey, whose real name is Roger Del Pino, says.

He was left with a choice — scrap the project or take center stage.

After more than a decade navigating the obstacle course that is the Miami music scene, Monterrey had grown accustomed to playing his part behind the scenes. Whether we like to admit it or not, a tentative sense of comfort comes with having someone else to blame when ideas aren't perfectly executed. A producer can step back with less fear of reproach from an angry audience or faceless commenters on YouTube. But to throw one's likeness into the spotlight as producer and performer is something rarely done at all and especially hard to nail gracefully.

But without a lead vocalist who made sense, Del Pino had to take matters into his own hands. Some months later, he now finds himself gearing up for the release of a two-song solo EP titled Neon.

The title track, "Neon," plays like an ode to hazy streetlights and kinetic energy. It's the kind of song best served blaring out of a car's speakers on a late-night drive to nowhere in particular, when the air is a bit crisper than normal and thoughts seem a bit clearer.

"When I finished the song, I took a ride in my car so I could feel what it was like — the movement in it — all of the spinning," Del Pino remembers.

"Neon" is lo-fi and contemporary by design, with faint traces of the childhood soundtrack that served as a backdrop to many Miami childhoods just like his.

"I grew up in Miami, and that electronic influence was always there in our music — from freestyle to the booty bass I'd hear at the skate rink. But now I'm incorporating parts of those sounds and giving them a modern twist."

Track 2, "Round and Round," is a dance-floor-ready track, but underneath the synth-heavy surface lies a deep undercurrent of longing. It's a glimpse into the vulnerability that either stops artists dead in their tracks or inspires their greatest work.

" 'Round and Round' is actually older than 'Neon,' " Del Pino says, pausing to gather his thoughts. "I've been making music since I was 16, but it's always been as producer, coproducer. I kind of liked to be behind the scenes." The transition has been an adjustment, but Del Pino has worked through it creatively. "['Round and Round'] was my way of dealing with the shortcomings that came with trying to find my voice musically, at a time when I felt I was falling short."

The two-track EP is slated to drop Sunday, September 25, and will be accompanied by a music video for its title track as well as a to-be-announced release party. After years in bands, behind the boards, and battling to find the right soundscape, Del Pino is ready to take his act to the main stage.

"I'm in the rehearsal phase for these songs, and since the songs are so heavy on production, I'm learning how to translate them into a great live show." He takes a second, as if reminiscing about a bygone era. "I love dance music, but my background is in rock, and I feel like there's always something missing at a lot of electronic shows — that live element — so I'm looking to find that middle ground for my own shows."

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