Four days before Christmas, Kansas City band Making Movies was in San Francisco, helping Los Lobos celebrate its 40th anniversary with a show at the storied Fillmore. The show was motivational in more ways than one, said Enrique Chi, lead singer and guitarist for Making Movies.
“They brought Juan-Carlos (Chaurand) and me onstage to jam with them,” Chi said. “This was one of the clubs where they cut their teeth. There was a lot of energy on that stage. You could catch the vibe from all the wonderful performers who have played there.
“It also inspired us to have an anniversary show of our own and remind everyone we’ve been here for five years.”
That show will be Friday at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road. Chi recently talked with Ink about the past five years and the evolution of his band, which includes brother Diego on bass, Brendan Culp on drums and Chaurand on percussion and keyboards.What was your first show?
Our first gig with Juan-Carlos in the lineup was opening for Aterciopelados, one of the biggest rock bands in Colombia. We’d got the opening gig for their Kansas City show (at the Beaumont Club), and then they added us at the last minute to their Chicago show, which was two days earlier. So we got to play with them at the House of Blues in Chicago, which was a pretty amazing first gig.
There was definitely a slew of gigs that followed that were a lot less glamorous, but from that moment we realized this had potential, and if we hit the road hard, something would open up.How has the creative process changed?
Brendan has really studied all the Afro-Cuban rhythms. At first it was really difficult to play those, but now Juan-Carlos and Brendan have made their own way of re-creating what is normally done by a three- or four-man percussion ensemble.
We have much more of a narrow focus on what makes Making Movies songs. So the writing process is quicker than it used to be.
And everybody is singing a ton more. That comes from two necessities. There’s the African style where there’s one singer and the group chant comes back and forth, and that’s prevalent in Latin music and we steal some of those influences. The other necessity comes from just being a four-piece and needing to make as much sound as possible.
So that does take up more time as we rehearse and figure out the background vocals.You said you have narrowed the focus on what makes a Making Movies song. What is that focus and what are the traits?
The melodies and harmonic structures may come from influences way outside of the traditional Latino influences, but they have to sit well with traditional rhythms. That ends up being the dividing line. It might be a cool song, but it has to fit right with a traditional rhythm.
That’s kind of our mission: to breathe life into those old rhythms that are hundreds of years old. If one of my songs can’t sit on top of those old rhythms, then we have to move on. Those rhythms make almost any kind of person want to move. And the more authentic and legitimately we play those rhythms, the better it translates.
The trick is to write songs on top of them that don’t make it sound like you’re listening to something that’s dated. It has to feel like something coming out today.What have been some of the biggest highlights of the past five years?
Playing with Los Lobos at Knuckleheads and meeting them, which led us to make the album with Steve Berlin (“A La Deriva”). And doing the anniversary show.
And last year, we went to Panama. But I went by myself first, and I didn’t know how we would be perceived down there or how our music would translate in the country I’m from.
Getting interviews was simple: “Oh, a Panamanian lives in the States and is making music.” But they insisted on doing the interviews before hearing our music. So I was in the (radio) studio with them when they first heard the music. It was great to see their reaction, like, “Ohhhh. I get this. I feel the Panamanian side and hear the other influences.”
That all came to a head when I was driving with a friend to a small town where my grandparents live. She was cruising through radio stations when she came to one playing our song “Cuna de Vida.” I was overcome with emotion. I’d dreamed since I was a child of making music and finding listeners in Panama.
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