Nebula Rosa
Nebula Rosa
Courtesy photo

Nebula Rosa Is New Orleans Spanglish Psychedelia by Way of Miami

Miamians somehow tend to find one another wherever they are in the world. Singers and guitarists Josh Starkman and George Elizondo were born in South Florida and found different paths toward studying music at the University of New Orleans. Elizondo's parents met in an English-language class in Miami, where he was born before moving to Managua, Nicaragua, and later going to college in the Crescent City. Starkman was a Cypress Bay High School and Florida State University grad who was advised to head to New Orleans for graduate work. "I was told it's one of the only cities in the world where you can make a living as a musician," Starkman tells New Times. "But I was mostly playing jazz standards. I wanted to write music with vocals, so five years ago, George and I started jamming in each other's living rooms."

They shared an affinity for the classic rock everyone knows and loves, such as the Beatles, but Elizondo began turning Starkman on to music the jazzman had never heard: Latin rock. Starkman developed an appreciation for famous bands like Maná but also more obscure acts such as Nicaraguan folklorist Carlos Mejía Godoy. Along with Robin Sherman on bass and Isaac Eady on drums, the pair formed Nebula Rosa, becoming the rarest of things: a Spanish-language psychedelic rock band in which three-quarters of the members don't speak Spanish. "We've had to learn a lot, especially Robin, since he sings backing vocals," Starkman laughs. "But New Orleans was built by Caribbean people, so a lot of the music here has similar rhythms."

Nebula Rosa's debut album, Bengala, set to be released November 9, will appeal to all psyche fans regardless of their fluency in Spanish. Reminiscent of Os Mutantes, the Beta Band, and even Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, the record reflects a mishmash of cultures across the Western Hemisphere. "One of the songs has a waltz rhythm borrowed from Nicaragua called son nica; another sounds like the Beatles' 'Tomorrow Never Knows,'" says Starkman. "We had a Cuban percussionist listen to our song 'Feroz,' and he said it was a Cuban-African rhythm. We don't premeditate, but we listen to the music later and we realize we're influenced by all these different cultures."

One nonmusical influence on Elizondo's mind is the political situation in his homeland of Nicaragua. "It's the hardest thing I've seen happen to my country," he says. "I haven't been back in four or five years, so everything I know is from the internet and friends and family, but I've seen relationships torn apart for political reasons. I've had friends hurt during protests who've had to run from acid being thrown at them and being shot at and bombs going off. I'm so proud of Nicaragua that the peaceful protesters haven't met violence with violence."

That pride manifested itself in a new Nebula Rosa song, "La Gota." "It means 'The Drop,'" Elizondo explains. "What is the drop that makes the glass overflow? What is the people's boiling point to take to the streets?" The chorus and verse are in Spanish, but the bridge is in English, reflecting the band's multilingual spirit. Perhaps it will inspire peaceful dissent in this nation as well.

Though it might take awhile for South Florida to hear these songs live, the band hopes to make a tour stop in the Magic City next spring. For now, curiosity seekers will have to stream Nebula Rosa's album to learn if it holds true that you can take musicians out of Miami, but you can't take Miami out of their music.

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