What do you get when you combine Mexico City and an unwavering love for the 80’s? Answer: Rey Pila, the band signed to Julian Casablancas’ own Cult Records. Ever since the band was discovered via Casablancas stumbling upon their rehearsal and hearing “Alexander”, they’ve been making headlines for their innovative and futuristic sound.
Rey Pila are the frontrunners of Mexico’s growing rock scene, splitting their time between Mexico City and New York. As the tension in the United States continues to grow over immigration and walls on it’s Southern border, it’s telling that the musicians who call both home only feel a heightened sense of community. Their most recent release Wall of Goth is a perfect embodiment of this, fusing past and future with elements of dark pop and reverberating synths.
We got the chance to ask frontman Diego Solórzano some questions about Wall of Goth, what it’s like to be in the studio with Casablancas, and the differences in working between two rapidly changing cities.
I’m interested in hearing about how your latest EP, Wall of Goth, came to be.
We had a bunch of demos ready to go. We released The Future Sugar relatively not that long ago. Well, we had written and recorded that record around four, five years before it came out. So we were writing new material, we were ready to go, and we gave it to Julian [Casablancas] and Shawn [Everett] at the Red Bulls studio in New York to start recording. The idea was to have four main songs and take it from there. In the end, the decision was to have an EP – I’m not the biggest fan of EPs, but everyone decided that was what they wanted. It seemed like a good decision to move it though so we released the EP relatively quick to have some material out there and not have to wait decades for it to come out.
The name of the EP is a bit of an inside joke. There’s a pub down here in Mexico called The View Under and they have a wall filled with pictures of famous goths – artists of all kinds of artistic expression. The guys from Bauhaus, Oscar Wilde, Beethoven, Edgar Allen Poe… So we joked about wanting to be on that wall, and the title became Wall of Goth.
“No Man’s Land” has a certain sentimentality – is there a particular significance behind it for you?
Well, when I was writing that song, I was about to get married. It’s a song I wrote for my wife. She really liked it. When she said that, I pushed a lot for the song to be on the EP and Julian and Shawn ended up really liking it as well. It had a really good connection with the production at the moment. It all came out pretty well with that song, actually.
You’re signed to Cult Records, the label of Julian Casablancas, who has been producing your work. What would you say he brings to the table in terms of capturing your sound?
I think we both share the same love for an aspect of 80’s music. There’s been some comparisons to 80’s bands, which is pretty cool, because we genuinely really like that sort of sound. Not all 80’s are good. It’s a lot of nostalgia for an era that actually did so much harm to the world, but I think Julian likes that part a lot as well. I think when we talk about music with him and recorded the album, we had a really clear layout of what we wanted to do.
Is there anything we’d be surprised to learn about him?
I think songwriting-wise, he’s very smart. He knows how to get to the point and fast – that’s something we like in songs. I think we learned that from him. We learn a lot from him, he’s a cool dude, but I’d say that’s been the biggest lesson.
What influences have you been drawing on as of late?
Everybody in the band has different taste. I really like trash metal – that’s how I learned how to play guitar and that’s how I started playing in a band. You know, it’s funny, it’s like a cycle. Now I’m older and I hear these albums I used to listen to when I was a teenager and I still feel the same excitement. Not exactly the same, but parts of it. I also like weird shit like Boards of Canada, some of the Warp Records 90s era catalog. The other guys are more into Deerhunter, Sonic Youth, Pavement, Depeche Mode… myself included.
How does the difference in vibe and culture – being from Mexico City, living in New York City – shape your sound?
We don’t actually have a homebase that we consider a muse. We’re certainly inspired by Mexico City because it’s where we’re from and we really like it, but we also really like New York. I think the combination of both makes us feel more insular in that way, like a band apart from everything but also a product of where we grew up and the music we listened to when we were kids. It’s the same vibe, in a way – both really big cities, a lot of shows, a lot of people. People who actually know what they’re talking about in New York as well. [laugh] You get all kinds of crowds. I think that’s a big part of what’s influenced us the most.
I know this is out of your ballpark, but I’m interested in hearing your perspective as a latino musician. With the success of “Despacito”, do you think Spanish language music is becoming more widely embraced worldwide? Is there something happening there?
Well, aside from immigration being one of the biggest issues of the century – certainly really important to point out, since America is divided by people who speak English and the rest speak Spanish, basically – I think that’s probably it. A lot of people are moving to the United States where they have a big machine that echoes everything into the world. When people from Mexico and South America migrate there, they’re spreading the culture and that includes what they listen to. Unfortunately, the thing is it commercially evicts reggaeton. For me, that’s basically humanity taking ten steps back instead of forward. It’s shitty.
Important question: Real Madrid or Barcelona?
For me, neither of those – there’s some guys in the band who like Barcelona. I know Julian does. Our drummer likes Real Madrid. I’m a Roma fan – that’s my team.
What’s coming up for Rey Pila? You have an upcoming show at Baby’s All Right with a pretty cool roster – are you excited to perform in New York again?
We’re definitely excited to return to New York as well as Chicago’s Ruido Fest, a latin festival. We’re also playing Philly, for the second time, as well as Columbus, Ohio. It’s always a trip and it’s always fun.