Puerto Rico’s Los Manglers are actually familiar with the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection… However, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection is likely unfamiliar with them… Friday, July 10th, the quartet made an appearance at The Fire, which was attended… well, characteristically to performances at The Fire… However, the show was quite good, a collection of tunes that blend the sonic sensibilities 1950s youth culture (see: the soundtrack to John Waters’ Cry Baby) with 60’s surfy psychedelica and Johnny Thunders riffage… It kind of rules… On top of that, they look amazing and rock onstage like the Hall of Famers of Max’s Kansas City. And while Philadelphia didn’t exactly provide the band with a welcoming committee, I, personally, had a wonderful evening getting to know the band over drinks on the sidewalk of Girard, while the Phillies’ shortcomings were projected onto the bricks of the next building over served as our backdrop. The band (vocalist/guitarist Laira Diaz, guitarist Enrique Olivares, bassist Juan Antonio Arroyo, and drummer Mario Negron Gonzales) (along with their manager, Gabi) and I chatted about literature, cinema, marriage, divorce, baseball, the economy, the university system, the importance of wearing a jacket (even in July), Vice Magazine, and probably a dozen other things that I can’t currently recall. That night was the band’s only non-New York stop on a relatively brief trip to the US. The band have since returned to Puerto Rico, put out a new single (“Before The Mirror”), and played an LP release show. Well, that LP, Between Worlds, is out this Friday (When did albums start coming out on Fridays?!?!?!), July 31st, on Last Bummer Records and I recently got the chance to catch up with three/fourths of Los Manglers, who told me, on the record, about the roots of the band and all the things they get excited about.
Izzy: How did your recent time in the US go, aside from your brief time in Philly, which I was there for?
Mario: Touring is always fun. It gives you a chance to concentrate strictly on the qualitative aspect of performing music- How are you going to perform the same songs countless times within a finite amount of days without having it be repetitive or monotonous? It forces you to make the performances stand out and be exciting.
Laira: Being my first tour, I was nervous, but I quickly fell into the swing of things and I had a really good time. I felt people respond positively to our music and that made all the bumps on the road worthwhile. I’m definitely looking forward to tour again in the future.
Enrique: Once things took off, it was a nonstop fun! We started synching and playing tighter and the shows and people were really vibing, humping, and bumping. Plus playing and hanging out with all the different bands, not only from New York (The Meaning of Life, Boom! Said Thunder), but from Puerto Rico (International Dub Ambassadors, Balun) and even Chile (Adelaida) was pretty rad.
Izzy: So Los Manglers is still a relatively new band. Is there anything you think is especially important for fans and potential fans to know about your process of writing and recording or your “mission” as a band?
Laira: I always want people to open their minds and let themselves have fun while listening to our music. Dancing is always encouraged.
Enrique: Those intro to comp. lit. courses at college are finally paying off..
Mario: I think the recording and writing process should always remain somewhat of a mystery to the public. It is ultimately their job to inscribe any sort of grand truth or mission to pop music.
Izzy: What have been the highlights of the band so far?
Laira: I’d say the biggest highlights of the band so far have been this tour and the release of our first LP, Between Worlds. Even though we’ve been playing together for a while, Los Manglers is a relatively new band. Finally being able to get this LP out and playing shows outside the Island have been great steps for us.
Enrique: This record is our proper debut to the ball. It all seems like a natural progression from playing so many shows back home and releasing a 7” single, but it still marks a turning point in our sound and story. Plus, making a record is every 15-year old rock and rolling kid’s dream come true.
Mario: For me the highlights are many. The most important is that I get to drum on amazing tracks and back great musicians day in and day out. I get to hear Laira sing almost every day and I’ll never tire of that.
Izzy: It was great to find out that numerous of us have or do work in higher education at some point so, from the perspective of people well-versed in the humanities, what would you consider to be the most significant influences behind Between Worlds from outside the world of music itself?
Laira: The majority of the songs’ lyrics are written by Enrique. He is deeply inspired by literature and art, mostly from the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Once together we mold the songs. Between Worlds has songs that were inspired by our original sound, a more 60’s pop rock vibe, and songs that show our progress and growth as a group with a more psychedelic sound.
Enrique: We’re all voracious readers and literature figures largely into the creative process. We are able to work through these narratives, appropriating them and transforming them into new experiences in rock and roll. We tend to work these ideas subtly into the music, like an added dimension to the work. Music, like any art, has to reach people, and we’re very conscious that we can’t be highfaluting and lallygagging about aesthetics all the time! (I’m a professor and that’s the first thing kids these days teach you.)
Mario: Literature, art, and humor are integral to the creative process be it by having songs inspired by paintings or poems or by wanting to imbue a piece with a particular aesthetic element that binds it to an artistic tradition. It could be explained or justified in many ways but the truth is we make pop records and, after a certain moment in the past, pop music allowed itself to be haphazard, contradictory, progressive and stagnant, inclusive of both the old and new, the banal and the bourgeois. It allowed the writer to take inspiration from anything, to relate anything through any means. I see no problem in that since, if done right, it allows your source of inspiration, or your approach to arranging/developing an idea, to remain fresh and varied.
Izzy: And, on the other side of the coin, what are you currently listening to collectively (if you even do that), whether recent or not?
Laira: There are bands we all collectively listen to, such as The Beatles, etcetera. I listen to the radio, to people I find on Youtube, to Broadway musicals and more. It all depends on my mood. Currently, as I write this, I’m listening to Nick Drake’s Pink Moon album.
Enrique: On our way to Philly we were listening to Brian Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, and the Saved By the Bell theme song, so we’re all over the place. Personally, I’m currently listening to Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation and a lot of Ted Nugent!
Mario: The Beatles, Art Cain and The Rituals, Dax Diaz, The Hairy Krishnas, Angus MacLise.
Izzy: What would you tell potential fans who might not be familiar with your sounds to convince them to give Between Worlds a spin?
Laira: Give us a try. Listen. Enjoy. Have fun.
Enrique: It’s gonna get weird, but good weird.
Mario: It’s probably better than your band. That statement should, at least, make you curious.
Izzy: Finally, what are you hoping and planning for, as a band, for the rest of 2015, in addition to the release of your album? Anything you’re especially excited about?
Laira: I’d like to play more shows and visit some of the Island’s cities out west. With the LP out, I’m looking forward to people finally being able to get familiar with our songs, maybe even have a few favorites they’d like to hear at the live shows.
Enrique: I’m so excited to work on new material and do this whole process all over again! Play bigger, sicker, and definitely louder shows in our near future. Maybe a movie-tie in? Who knows!