Success at any level in the music industry can be accelerated by a combination of hard work and happenstance.
Last year good fortune visited Making Movies, an Afro-Cuban/indie-rock band from Kansas City. And the band is making the most of it.
The band has been in Portland, Ore., this month, recording an album with producer Steve Berlin, a member of Los Lobos. Berlin asked to get involved with Making Movies’ recording after a show in Kansas City last year.
Making Movies’ lead singer, Enrique Javier Chi, talked to The Star about getting the chance to work with an established producer and a member of a well-known band and how it has transpired so far.
Talk about how Steve Berlin first got involved with Making Movies.
We met all of Los Lobos in Kansas City at a Knuckleheads show (in September) where we opened for them. Before we had the opportunity to talk to them, they dragged (percussionist) Juan-Carlos (Chaurand) and me on stage to perform an impromptu encore set with them.
After the show we hung out with all of them, and Steve approached us about producing our next record. I guess he really enjoyed our set. It was perfect timing because we were already switching into that mode and were writing a lot of music.
The day after the show, our manager connected with his manager and we got the process rolling. We were en route to Chicago and he sent us a mix of a record he was working on and we all loved it, so we gladly obliged.
When did he begin to get actively involved?
He was loosely involved since October. We started demoing our song ideas and sending them to him right before we left for tour and continued after we got home. Overall, he was really excited about the songs and wanted us to keep sending him ideas.
In February, Los Lobos drove through Kansas City while on tour — and actually recorded a bit of a track here in town. We set up a preproduction day and went over all the songs with him. He took the tunes home and lived with them for a few weeks before making comments. We demoed 16 tunes, then whittled down the list to the 11 that will make the cut.
How vigorous is his involvement in the studio?
I can’t be more excited about this aspect of it. I’ve heard horror stories of producers being barely involved, showing up for a small percentage of the sessions, or spending all day on the phone while you are left making the record on your own. We’ve had the exact opposite experience.
Steve is here and mentally with us for every second that music is being recorded. He pushes us to get takes with the right feel, and I love that he knows exactly what he wants.
I’m indecisive as hell and on any given day — hate and love the music we make — so his input has been exactly what I needed. In Steve’s own words: “And that’s why God created producers.” He has even been playing a little bit on our record. He added some keys, flute and glockenspiel today. He has also been pushing us to use different percussion instruments on Brendan’s drum set to round out the sound.
What can you say about how it will sound? How different is it from your other recordings?
We’ve been on stage together over 300 times since our last record so I think the band is a more mature and cohesive unit since our last record. The rhythms are more Afro-Cuban influenced, and the songs seem a little darker. We’ve been tracking to a 2-inch tape machine that sounds incredible. It is giving our record some much-needed warmth. Also, everyone is singing a lot on this record. There are tons of background vocals throughout, and there will definitely be some horns on the album.
Any idea when the record might be released?
A.We’re not sure about the release date, but sometime this summer, I imagine.