Embodying tropical rhythms and a carefree attitude, Inland Empire’s “Afro-Latin” ensemble QUITAPENAS, embrace more than the melodies that trace the curves of a body they’re moving, but of a simple mantra – be yourself.
With their first weekend of Coachella under their belt, Quitapenas— Daniel Gomez, Mark Villela, Hector Chavez, David Quintero, Ivan McCormick, and Eduardo Valencia—set forth once again this weekend to unleash their sound of the I.E. to approximately 125,000 festival goers, due to Goldenvoice’s 40-acre expansion for 2017.
Prior to the festivities, Valencia carved out time to speak to Girl Underground Music about the spiritual connection within the music, Coachella, and of course a new album in the works. Being humbled by the very fact of playing with so many “talented” artists, Valencia spoke in a calming manner that drew you in to his excitement. Similar traits radiated from the music to his voice that was simply welcoming.
“It feels amazing to be representing a culture” expressed Valenica. Mentioning huge acts on the bill, Valencia’s reflection was only of modest gratitude to be a part of this event, but still of acknowledgment of the band’s own worth.
Since their arrival in 2011 the band’s initial intent was to “make you dance and leave without a worry” but to construct their music to be “unplugged.” Immediately focusing on a natural and intimate performance, Quitapenas continue to hold true to this unplugged vision through the smallest of details; sporting only white for their Coachella performances allowing the purity and innocence of the music to be the only voice heard.
The “blank canvas” Valencia described startled the light in his voice, mentioning that their performances become almost a “spiritual awakening” through the connection of the music. Not only for the audience’s reaction but of the stories their music holds. “If we can connect, it’s personal, this feeling onstage…it’s amazing to see how the music makes them move.”
Each being well versed in the music they play that range from Salsa, Merengue, to Afro-Latin, Valencia’s time studying abroad renewed the spirit of the music. Recollecting the origin of “Afro-Latin” during a time where Latin America was involved in slave trade, arose this fusion where Valencia insisted that they are not telling their story, for the simple reason they can’t.
“We can’t speak for them. We understand that we aren’t them but (understand) where their rhythms come from. It’s a compelling dynamic but we are an extension of that story,” continued Valenica, “(It’s) a stamp in the history of musical movements of Latino People in color to inspire and create something rather than bring you down. We understood this, we respect the same rhythm; we understand that story, be ourselves; a source of inspiration.”
Pushing through language barriers and noting the translation through the universal language of music, Valencia’s sight on the band seemed to be an continuous growth.
“Earlier albums were young like we were,” stated Valencia. “We got a way with a lot and we were playing sloppy sometimes…we barely were scratching the surface.”
With about 30-40% of the new album completed, Valencia’s take continued to hint at growth. Since their arrival the band had an advantage to “play sloppy” being one of the only of their kind in the Inland Empire. Yet, as times continue to push for more diversity, the band continues to push themselves.
“The new music sounds like we grew up,” teased Valencia, “expect to hear more experimentation.”
Despite an album approaching in the near future, Quitapenas teamed up with Names You Can Trust for a vinyl release of their new singles “Ya Veran” and “La Bestia” showcasing a taste of what yet is to come through detailed compositions of conceptual stories and waves of tropical positivity.
Representing a soundscape of emotions that create a bigger picture, the focus specifically on Latin artists during a strenuous political world only weighs heavier to the band’s initial motive. Quitapenas isn’t another act that is riding on any “trends” but continue to focus on these smallest of details to weave a story that connects us all.
“I always say play your instruments like a cowbell,” expressed Valencia, noting throughout the entire conversation that percussion is the “heart” and “DNA” of their music. Skeptical and intrigued at Valencia’s constant visual storytelling, he effortlessly silenced my question and expressed the chemical reaction between each member.
“Music talks to each other.”
If you can’t catch QUITAPENAS at Coachella, see them tonight in Riverside at Romano’s for their Vinyl Release Party with Las Ligas Menores.