Torreblanca: 'Things Are so Much More Vivid [in America]'

Categories: Q&As

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Following Perrozompopo's performance at Anaheim's Club Ember last night, OC's recent Latin Alternative revival turns next to a Day of the Dead celebration in Santa Ana.

Torreblanca, one of two bands from Mexico currently touring Southern California, will take to the stage on Saturday in the city as part of a line-up of musical performers entertaining the thousands of people expected to turn out for the Calacas/El Centro Cultural de Mexico organized 8th annual "Noche de Altares." 

The Mexico City-based musicians take their name from singer-songwriter Juan Manuel Torreblanca, who is lead vocalist and pianist in the band.

Heralded back home for his creativity-and '80s hairdo-Torreblanca has lent his talents to established Mexican artists such as Natalia Lafourcade and Ximena Sariñana.

Now, with a band to call his own, the musician is venturing forward with a debut EP Defensa. The four-track album features collaborations with Lafourcade, as well as the lead vocalist of Hello Seahorse.

Before Torreblanca performs in Santa Ana, the Weekly spoke with him about his new musical direction in life:

OC Weekly (Gabriel San Roman): You are well known for your collaborations with Natalia Lafourcade and Ximena Sariñana. At this point in your life, what made you want to strike out on your own musically?
Juan Manuel Torreblanca: It always starts on your own. My first encounters with music were through discovering the piano in private lessons at home, when I was a kid and the songwriting process, it's learning process, it is mostly a lonely one.

It is mostly your own demons and struggles and reflections that you just have to put out there or you'll explode that make you start writing songs. I think, afterwards, I have been discovering the sheer pleasure of just trying to make music that surprises you, that gives you pleasure as well and also the magic of writing with someone else.

But it began as a lonely thing, so making my own project was just natural. However, I would have never made it here if I didn't have the awesome band that I have. They are my friends and my inspiration and my co-arrangers and organizers and strength. They are just as important as I am to this project now.

What was the artistic process like making the Defensa EP?
It was a blessing. Leonel García (ex Sin Bandera) offered to sponsor everything. He gave us free time at his home studio and paid for the recording! We did it all in four days and it was just extraordinarily easy. So I think that some of that spontaneous joy got into the recording. It is a nice EP and I am proud of it. And we are all forever grateful with Leo for his unending gratitude and support.

Tell us about the lead track, "Defensa" and what you try to convey lyrically in your songs.
"Defensa" is sort of a meditation on loyalty and treason. One that became so deeply moving to me, that I decided--with my partner in creating the visuals for this record, the brilliant designer and photographer Dorian Lopez-that I wanted this song to give the EP its name and its look.

The dog on the album cover conveys loyalty, but it being scared and bound tries to talk about how when you don't value someone's loyalty, when you don't let them speak out you might be sowing some treason there. Then, inside the album cover, you find the crow a beautiful animal and the symbol of treason. They're like the contrasting opposites, both beautiful and natural and lyrically, the song came from the realization that I am the dog and the crow (as I think we all are) and it hurts when you surprise yourself capable of treason.

We all want to be the heroes of our stories, but, if we don't pay attention to ourselves, we might do wrong sometimes and if we do, then there's no good in trying to justify our actions, there's nothing we can say in our defense except "I'm sorry." Then take it as it comes.

So, lyrically each song is a different challenge for me, honestly I don't always know what they're going to talk about in advance, they surprise me, they are sort of like my unconscious speaking to me. So many times, it's not until after I have written at least the first draft that I know where they're going and then I can put my own conscious input, try to play with language, try to edit, make it sound right, make it fit the rhythm. It's so much fun, really.

How did you go about assembling the musicians for Torreblanca and what sound were you looking to create?
It has all been a miracle; a good luck streak of chance and coincidence. I just happened to find the right people on my path. I didn't have a specific sound in mind. I just wanted everyone to feel this as their band, to take the place that they wanted in it and to give it as much as they wanted to creatively and musically.

And we're still learning how to do it, but I think that it really helps that we all have tremendously different backgrounds. Abuelo,  the bass player, is a rocker. El Tío, on flute,and saxophones,  likes musical comedy and classical and big band. Andrea, on accordion, voice, keyboards--she loves French chanson and alternative pop and really passionate and intellectual music, Jerson--drums--is the jazz man, and somehow, he also loves pop. All of that, added to my love for singer-songwriters and many other things gives us our sound, I guess.

Is this your first time touring on this side of the border with Torreblanca? And are you excited to have a Dia de Los Muertos show date, so far, yet seemingly, close to home?
We are more than excited! I have been noticing that things are so much more vivid here. I guess that maybe because the nostalgia of not being there at home, in Mexico, makes people cherish them more and then they try to make it more beautiful, more spectacular! And they do!

So yeah, we are happy, excited, and grateful! We hope people enjoy what we came to share!

Torreblanca performs at 4:30 p.m. followed by Pilar Diaz, Los Romanticos de Zacatecas, Son del Centro, Very Be Careful and others at the 8th annual Noche de Altares Dia de los Muertos Celebration on the corner of 4th & Birch Street, Santa Ana. www.nochedealtares.org
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