Chetes, a young singer with stringy light hair and a round boyish face was once a member of Zurdok—one of Mexico’s most innovative bands from the l990s and a project Chetes joined when he was merely 16 years old. At the time, the northern city of Monterrey was beginning to crack open the highly centralized Mexican rock scene with a psychedelic but harmonious sound. For example, with the inclusion of unusual instruments such as a banjo in the now classic “Hombre Sintetizador”, Zurdok became something of a cult band.
Zurdok dissolved after releasing a third album called “Maquillaje” in 2001, but Chetes, with ex-band mate Maurizio Terracina and Rodrigo Guardiola (Zoé), resurfaced a few years later, with a new band called Vaquero, and an album composed entirely in English. While Vaquero maintained some of the brit-pop and psychodelia from his days in Zurdok, Blanco Fácil—Chete’s debut solo record, which came out in the U.S. December 26th —sounds like an entirely different project to me, and it took me some time getting used to it. The record’s sunshine melodic pop took me by surprised, but the apparently uncomplicated style of some of its songs has slowly grown on me. One track, called “Que me maten” is particularly appealing because its structure seems to bridge the worlds of Mexican norteña and American Southern folk.
After reading an article by Josh Kun in The New York Times, I learned that Blanco Fácil was recorded in Nashville by Ken Coomer (Wilco), whose indie-rootsy approach to music appealed to Chetes and persuaded him to contact the producer by phone. He then travelled to Tennessee in October 2005 and began working on the album together with Coomer. During a recent phone interview, Chetes said that he had wanted to work with Coomer because he felt that the producer could help him develop Blanco Fácil into the type of album he envisioned—one driven by the lyrics and a melodic pop style. “I wanted a bare album, one neither overproduced nor saturated”, Chetes told me over the phone, “and I wanted the melodies and the lyrics to be the focal point of the record”.
I asked Chetes why he decided to work in English with Vaquero, “Well”, he said, “we had been working with Zurdok for such a long time and Mauricio, Zurdok’s former bass player, and I, wanted to do something really different. It was sort of a challenge to record in English and that was the main reason why we opted for doing it.”
I was curious about Chetes’ thoughts around the issue of language and the fact that many Mexican bands have started to work in English once again. “I think some musicians feel that English sounds interesting and that the language is naturally suited for rock. Plus the internet facilitates the possibility of sharing music with a lot more people these days. Myspace for example, has helped me a lot; and iTunes has been a very useful tool for me as well.”
The issue of language remained of interest to me and hence I asked Chetes why he decided to work in Spanish on this album. “I felt the need to work in Spanish, I missed composing in Spanish, plus this was a very personal project and Spanish is my main language and the one that allows me to be myself”. Talking about his life Chetes said, “Everything is very peaceful in Monterrey these days. Mexico City absorbed me and that’s why I stayed there for a while and I am really excited about all that’s going on with this album. Back in Monterrey, I just hang out with friends and spend time in the studio: a quiet life.” Finally, I asked Chetes whether this quietness is the reflection of life changes led to the creation of an album such as Blanco Fácil. “Yes, definitely, a lot has changed. I recently got married and as I grow older, my vision about life has obviously changed.”