It’s not everyday you get to talk to people who are risking it all by speaking out. We caught up with Latin-Grammy winners La Santa Cecilia after seeing them perform two sets back-to-back in an intimate TV taping session for the KCET show Studio A. They became really popular after making a video for the song “Ice El Hielo,” where they cleverly, and quite accurately, portrayed the unjust and dehumanized practices of repatriation and deportation. They showed the effect that one ‘law enforcement’ group has in society when deciding that the best to for them to make a news headline is to break American families apart. Although sad, it was a great video directed by Alex Rivera (Sleep Dealer) and the best part about, it’s that they used real families and immigrants as actors and at end, some of them come out admitting they are undocumented. As if that wasn’t enough to show that they are not afraid of repatriation aficionados, one of the band members also comes out admits that he was also undocumented at the time, even though he only lived in Mexico the first 6 years of his life.
Even though with a political edge, they have the stage presence and musicianship that speaks of their experience and the dueling guitar solos to prove it. From busking on Olivera Street in Downtown Los Angeles to the impacting popular band they are today, they promise to get Latin music recognized the American sound it also is.
LatinAlt: How are you guys doing?
Alex: CSUN! (Honoring KCSN and LatinAlt’s home university, everyone loudly cheers)
LatinAlt: CSUN! There you go, you know what’s up! We just got done watching you guys perform, how are you feeling?
Marisoul: We’re still excited from getting off the stage, really happy to be able to play a TV recording with us playing live and having a live audience.
Alex: We usually do playback, mimicking ourselves and stuff (laughs) but now we got to play live, it’s really cool.
LatinAlt: It was great. So, how is your guys’ songwriting process? Do you write together or separately?
Marisoul: Everyone brings something to the table. Sometimes Alex brings some lyrics or a melody, then I bring a poem or melody, Pepe brings in the guitar or the accordion, or Oso might say “I want a play a song with this rhythm,” then it’s up to each of us to add a little of our own flavor, we just experiment with the song until it turns into what it becomes, you know, there isn’t a certain order of how we mix music. We just get together and share with each other and jam out our ideas and that’s how songs come out.
LatinAlt: Talk a little bit about your new album Someday New.
Oso: We recorded it here in the (San Fernando) Valley, the producer’s name is Sebastian Krys and it’s released by Universal Latino. It’s continuation of our first album 30 days which we also released with Universal Latino, right? (everyone laughs). A lot of our shows are influenced by our roots, where we come from. We have Colombian music, merengue from Dominican Republic, some New Orleans jazz, etc. We have (a version of) Strawberry Fields but done with samba, bolero, norteño, tropi-pop, all mixed in one song. It’s a very Pan-Latin album, where you’re gonna get a little bit of everything from Latin America. We also have a ranchera that we love called “Como Dios Manda.”
LatinAlt: How was it working with Sebastian Krys? How long did it take you to record the whole album?
Oso: The whole thing took about a month, it was really fast. Luckily we just take our ideas to him and he can say “go back and work on it” or helps us mold and focus it. We loved working with him because he’s like the fifth member of the band and we respect him as such. We don’t really feel like it’s an outsider coming in and trying to change our music.
LatinAlt: I know you guys have gotten a lot of TV placements, I was just watching the episode of Entourage where you guys come out. How was that? And how do you guys see placements benefiting the industry as a whole?
Oso: Being in entourage was fun because we used to watch the show, you know, we miss it! I got to hang out with Turtle (laughs).
LatinAlt: Oh yeah he was at the scene of party when you guys come out.
Oso: Yeah the scene was at this party in a mansion. It was cool to get a placement like that because it puts our music on the spotlight for a lot of people, music supervisors and people who place music in movies and TV shows. I think it’s a great avenue for bands and musicians to have their music placed because it’s a good way to make money and to get your music out there.
LatinAlt: You guys are well known for your video “Ice El Hielo.” How was it working with director Alex Rivera? and whose idea was it to, have the balls, for lack of a better word, to come out in the end and say “These people right here (actors of the video) don’t have any immigration documents even one of our band members doesn’t either?” Most people hear of “illegal” immigrants and they don’t realize that a lot of people they know are undocumented.
Marisoul: The song was a very special song for us. It was a way for us to express the frustration we had because not everyone in the band had the proper documentation to travel. It was the need for us to tell the story of a lot of our peers and family. We want to humanize the issue of deportations. Millions and millions of people have been deported and we want to let people know that “hey, this is what happens when you take a mother, father, daughter, a son, from their house, from their home, from where they’re from.”
It was a very special song because the day we wrote it, we did it between crying and telling each other’s experience with immigration. We all know because we’ve all lived it, we’re from immigrant parents or some us came to this country very, very young. It was a song that, man, whenever we would play it for somebody the would really feel it and start crying. Then we shared it with the people of the National Day Laborers Organization Network (NDLON), who were like “man, we are starting this campaign called Not One More, we wanna stop deportations and we think this song would be great.” We said yes, we were all about it.
This is how Alex comes into the picture, through the people from NDLON; Pablo Alvarado, Chris Newman, they hit him up, then after that we all met up at our friend Margerie’s house and just started talking about how can we could make this video and then Alex Rivera said “what if we have real people in the video” and actually, that’s the day that Pepe got his driver’s license.
Marisoul: Yea, so it was a big deal. Sometimes I guess music is… like magic (she says it with the enthusiasm of revealing a wonderful secret and her hand waving the shape of a rainbow) and it brings people together. It brought us together with the people of NDLON, Alex Rivera, and with the people that are in the video like Eric Candeola, Isaac Barrera; people that have come out of the shadows and more than that, have become leaders of this movement. We are honored to have been able to film this video and to have shared this song with such an important cause, y aquí seguimos you know, todavía nos hace falta.
Oso: Pablo and Chris from NDLON were also thinking about using real people because these better direction than actors do, sometimes. Then Alex was really sharp and organized all the ideas we had. It was all very quick, like a simple afternoon chat, like Marisoul said it was magical; he got it, he took what we all said in that moment and just produced it.
LatinAlt: It’s an amazing story. They show you these immigrants and then one of them happens to be one of the ICE officers who takes the others away to be deported, even though his own mother is an immigrant who works as a janitor.
Alex: They really took that risk with us.
LatinAlt: Pepe, did you volunteer to come out in the video?
Pepe: Yea, I felt the importance of coming out and saying “I’m here, I’ve been contributing to this country since I was 6 years old!” It’s important for me to come out at this time because I felt, and still feel, the need for an immigration reform. The only way to get that it’s by not being scared anymore and saying: “you know what, que venga la migra! ni modo, que venga!,” and now (says emotively while chocking up and visibly holding back tears), I was approved for Referred Action and was finally allowed to travel with the guys to Mexico. We started the band seven years ago and, the guys would take off and tour, and it was hard, it wasn’t easy! seeing my bandmates go, seeing my dreams fly away. Luckily it was right before I turned 31(-years-old)
LA: You look young
Pepe: I am young!
Marisoul: He is young!
LA: Ok, young-ER… 25.
Pepe: (Laughs) Anyway, I was finally able to do it. Vive Latino was last week and dang, that made me so happy because it’s a huge festival and just being able to continue on with my dream… it’s great. I urge everyone who is listening to us (or reading this) out there, and are going to college or whatever, to never give up on your dreams, you know, never give up on your dreams. If you want to travel there are ways to do it now. If you were approved by Referred Action, get information. There are people who can help you out and if you are in school, that is one reason how you can travel outside the US. Never let go, hay que echarle muchas ganas que venimos a triunfar.
LA: Muy buen consejo. Thank you for your time, I hope you guys have a wonderful career.
Marisoul: No’mbre, gracias a ustedes. To everyone out there, thank you so much! Thank you for listening and we hope we can accompany you in all of your adventures!