This daring duo has captivated audiences around the world with their signature latin rock sound and their dedication to mixing things up and delivering albums that transform and transfigure listeners from song to song. It’s not every day we get to sit down with a pair of brothers as talented and fun as Jose and Jorge of Almas Band fame. But when we do, we like to get the inside scoop for all of you back home.
Could you tell us a little about how Almas Band started out? Did you both always know you wanted to pursue music?
Almas Band took its first steps in 1999. Before graduating from high school we knew we wanted to pursue music. We ended up grabbing our guitar and bass and flew to New Orleans to get an education and get involved in the crescent city music scene. Everything about New Orleans drew our attention. The music, the vibe, its history, and reputation.
New Orleans is a great city. Who were some of your early influences? What made you want to blend styles together?
Before New Orleans we used to listen to a lot of Rock en Español back home in Puerto Rico. We were magnetized by Draco Rosa’s first solo album, Frio. By the time Vagabundo came out we were full on “rockers.” Soda Stereo, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gustavo Cerati, Nek just to name a few. Also, we can’t deny our roots and what we were exposed to from birth. If we hear la “clave” our feet just go…”dos tres seis siete”…. it’s one of those thing you have inside of yourself; it’s what defines you – your culture. Our sister taught us to dance salsa at an early age, and my mother’s side of the family was really into playing our native music, “Bomba y Plena,” live at every family gathering. Good Times!!!! Also, as islanders, “Reggae Music” was a big part of every road trip we have ever taken to explore and get to know our beautiful Puerto Rico from the inside out; we used to spin from local reggae artist to international. Then, New Orleans came and we were fully influenced by this city’s lifestyle. Nola is considered the “melting pot of music.” We jumped into that pot like carrots for a stew and blended to perfection. The elegance of “Jazz,” the fun drive of “Funk Music”, the sorrow of “The Blues,” we were amazed by what we were listening, eating, and learning. This term of the “melting pot” helped us establish our identity and lead us to what Almas Band music was going to pursue. Serve society as citizens of the world by creating music that promotes diversity uniting different generations.
Last time we spoke, you were gearing up to release your third album. A lot has happened since, and you’ve got another great album out now, is that right?
Yes! Mission accomplished. Our third studio album, Entre Luz y Sombra (#elys) is available through www.almasband.com. Entre Luz y Sombra is the culmination of a long and intense search. It is an album where good and bad, joy and sorrow, the intense and the sublime, all join to create something fresh yet daring. The CD represents the concept of dualism, Yin and Yang. Each of the twin brothers represents energy, one in the form of light and the other in the power of darkness. Jose (#joseluz) is sharing some of the joy experienced during select highlights of his life, while Jorge (#jorgesombra) is exposing energy forced to the surface when dealing with the occasional darker challenges that arise.
Can you tell us about the making of Entre Luz y Sombra? Any funny moments you’d like to share?
The beginning of this musical work occurred simultaneously with decision as twins to give ourselves some time apart since we were vibrating in alternating frequencies. We separated for eight months. We took this time to nourish our individuality and prepare to be able to present ourselves to the public in a different light. When we gathered to share songs and experiences the music that we created gave birth to the work presented in Entre Luz y Sombra; where darkness and light thrive in perfect harmony.
The album Entre Luz y Sombra (#elys) was recorded between Puerto Rico and New Orleans. In Puerto Rico we worked from Oxlab accompanied by Rafael “Groove Regulator” Gonzalez and Dave Marrero. Oxlab is a creative space that thrives on exploration and interaction with momentary musical muses. Cachapa Studio is the place where we worked in New Orleans at the Musician’s Village. This is a unique place where musicians received an opportunity to live and create music after Hurricane Katrina. During this process we created a Web Series called: Calling Shotgun where we invited people to ride shotgun with us in the “Chillinger” (aka AlmasMobile) as we worked on the new album. We shared guests, songs, stories, and laughs as we tried to get where we’re going after having been where we’ve been. You know the feeling, when something was funny, but you really had to be there? Well, we saved you the best seat in the car, and we won’t even make you call shotgun. (Check it out here.)
How does this album differ from your prior work? Are we getting the same unique blend of styles?
Almas Band for many years has been defined by our search for harmony and diversity. With Entre Luz y Sombra we embarked on divergent paths, stressing differences, contrasting personalities and how both can be successfully managed. This effort recognizes and celebrates how human beings live and thrive in this magical and mysterious place called life, in the midst of Light and Darkness. Entre Luz y Sombra is a double album in which Jose took charge of one side, Luz, and Jorge took the reins on Sombra. We wanted to create different vibes of music for each side to completely change your mood when you sit down to listen. Luz is an uplifting, philosophical groove album, which will make you feel happy and infer that life is full of hope. Sombra goes into a spiral of emotions taking you on a psychedelic voyage ultimately expressing the fact that “we were not meant to be perfect, we were meant to be whole.”
Do you each have a favorite song from the album? Why?
Jose: Difficult question… That “song” always tends to change during the album making process, but if I had to choose one it would be Daydreamer. Why? Because it really captures our time living in New Orleans, and gives a fresh sound to the music we have recorded thus far. It gives us the opportunity to show our fans something special and expose them to new music genres.
Jorge: For me, it would be Entrelíneas for its patience, and for the open space feel that the arrangement brings. Those emotions help carry out the message of the song. It intensifies at the right times. Is very special to me because I will always remember the first time me and “manito” listened to the recording on our way to “Rincón, PR”. We did not say a word, but we knew those were the best 4 minutes and 38 seconds of the trip.
What advice do you have for young latino musicians who want to pursue music full-time?
“Lo bueno da trabajo.” It is important to have your own definition of “success” and work hard to conquer realistic goals. Being an “artist” is a lifestyle, you must embrace all of it; the good the bad the beautiful and the ugly. We believe it is crucial that within society we have people who dedicate their lives to creating art. The ones who feel passion, sincerity and commitment will surface and get their heads above water.
What’s next for you in 2015? Any tours, projects, etc. coming up?
2015 work hard every day. Keep our minds focused on achieving realistic goals. We want to keep on creating ways to reach and connect deeper with our fans. We are currently presenting our live show all through out Puerto Rico, collaborating with local artist on shows and new material. Just finished recording the video for “Super Aquello”, our next single from this production. Keep posted on our media outlets for a release date.
If you could do a collaboration with any artist, who would you choose?
Jose: Bruno Mars; I just want to funk it up and go downtown grooving on the 1.
Jorge: Jorge Drexler or Kings of Leon.
What’s on both of your playlists right now?
Jose: I’m currently spinning demos on tracks I need to record some baselines on and Louis Armstrong.
Jorge: My friend’s Jesús Pérez poems’, turning them into songs.