DC's own bilingual folk rock band gears up for album release show
I recently had the chance to catch up with Elena Lacayo, singer and songwriter with DC based folk rock band Elena & Los Fulanos in preparation for their debut CD release show on July 31st at Tropicalia. It was definitely a no-brainer to feature this band in Voces Femeninas- an emerging female artist that is also local? Yes, please! The band's bilingual lyrics and sounds ranging from classic Americana to Latin rock appeal to indie and international music lovers alike; artfully intersecting cultural diversity and exploration.
VF: Tell me about your upcoming album Miel Venenosa. What can we expect? How is it different or similar than your previously recorded songs?
I recorded my older songs in my basement, so the quality on the album is way better. We went all out recording this album and worked with a grammy award-winning engineer. I'm really excited about the sound that it will have as a result of layering and incorporating different instrumentation. For example the title track has totally different instrumentation than we've used before, including a piano and banjo. Up until now we've been kind of a live band, but for the album I wrote the songs in a very different way and arranged them more intentionally. I loved the writing and recording process for Miel Venenosa and want to experiement more with it. Since starting out as a singer/songwriter I've always wanted to have a fuller sound, but wasn't quite sure how to achieve it. This process defintely opened me up creatively and I'm really happy with the results.
VF: What is one of your favorite songs to perform and why?
It's hard to pick one song, it's like picking one of your children! (laughs) If I'm playing with the band, then I would say "Last Kiss." This one is awesome to play live because it's easy and fun; it has a great rhythm and we all kind of jam to it. It's one of the oldest songs that we perform and it comes really easily for us to have fun with together. When I'm playing alone or in a quiet audience, I love to play "I'm Not." I'm really proud of the lyrics in this song, as they are a play on words. It's also the only song that I curse in! (laughs). Other than that, it kind of depends on the performance because every audience is different and there are songs that shine more live while others shine more in recordings.
VF: What are some of yours and the bands musical influences?
I grew up in Nicaragua, so even a subconscious influence is all of the stuff I was raised around- salsa, merengue and folkloric music. In future projects I want to integrate more Nicaraguan folk music, especially with the marimba. Growing up I was super into American rock, and particulary drawn to women and things that I could sing; especially artists and groups that weren't necessarily underground in the US but were on the fringes in Nicaragua. I loved Fiona Apple and also bands like Green Day, Counting Crows and Ben Folds. On the Latin side of course Mana, old Shakira, Soda Stereo and Gustavo Cerati are huge influences on me. More recently I'm into Julieta Venegas, St. Vincent and Sufjan Stevens. The guys in the band are really into punk and some play with local punk bands, and Danny the violinist grew up playing mariachi and jarocho. The diversity of music that they're into is really incredible and speaks to how open minded they all are.
VF: The members of your band seem to come from diverse backgrounds and disciplines; how did you all meet and form the band?
We are kind of a hodgepodge, aren't we? (laughs) I knew of Danny the violinist through a mutual friend and work with Latino advocacy organizations, but then we ended up being roomates randomly from Craigslist. The guitarist, Craig, was the next to join. He was my roomate so we played music all the time together. The drummer is a childhood friend of Craig, and he offered to play with us after coming to a show. I had been playing guitar since age 13, mostly covers and grunge stuff from that era. I wrote a few songs with my friend in high school but we never did anything with it. Then I started playing open mics in college, still mostly covers. I wasn't writing music then, I guess I felt like I couldn't really do it myself. When I moved to DC, I slowly started writing music by myself. I found that it requires really putting yourself out there so it took me awhile to build up the courage to write and share more. But as I began writing more, I started to get more gigs. People were encouraging me to play my own stuff, and I got little nudges here and there. Then I decided to quit my job to focus on music. I loved my job, but kind of hit a wall. I applied and got in to grad school, but realized that a summer off before starting school wasn't enough time for me to focus on my music projects or anything I wanted to do. So then I decided to just go for it and focus on music since I'm kind of free right now in my life. I wanted to have the space and time to write music, especially to get in the mind set to write.
VF: Is there a tour or more shows in the works following the release of Miel Venenosa?
Something like a tour is undetermined. I'll keep playing and perfoming, but everyone has full time jobs so something like that seems pretty impossible right now. I'm open to whatever is going to happen, and trying to take it one step at a time. Currently I'm trying to get as much attention on the album as possible, with the hope that will open up new opportunities for more shows, possibly a small tour or even an individual tour. I'm tying to let things play out and see what happens next after the album is released because everything is an opportunity for growth and change. The awesome thing with a full length album is that we have something to show, and people don't have to be in DC to hear us now. I'm planning to do a second CD release show in Nicaragua where we have our second largest fan base outside of DC. It's a small place where you can do alot, so getting more exposure there could be a cool way to market myself and the band more.
Make sure you come out and celebrate the release of Miel Venenosa with Elena & Los Fulanos on Thursday, July 31st at Tropicalia! More information can be found at http://elenalosfulanos.com/ and http://www.tropicaliadc.com/.
Can't wait until the show to get your hands on their debut album? Click here for advanced purchase- http://elenalosfulanos.com/music/