Monte Negro

Monte Negro

 Los Angeles, California, USA
BandRockLatin

Biography

As the world grows increasingly interconnected, the need for art to serve as both a mirror and a bridge grows increasingly crucial. But at its best, music is a subtle transit, initiating a journey effortlessly with the inescapable rapture of a simple melody. The music that wins our hearts needs only to trigger colorful visions and engage us in the moment. It doesn’t need to remind us that we are citizens of a larger world or broaden our horizons from within. But if it happens to do both, then something truly magical has happened. With its debut album Cicatrix, Los Angeles’ Monte Negro manages to establish itself as an important band simply by being a great one.

To grapple with the obvious, Monte Negro is bilingual. Effortlessly so, like so many first generation Americans of Latino descent. As songs like “Arde El Corazon (Triangled Love)” casually glide between English and Spanish, it becomes clear that the band does not belong in the comparatively narrow lane of the rock en espanol genre, nor is it unalloyed “alternative” rock. Even the Latin elements in Monte Negro’s music are searching and expansive, embracing the Colombian cumbia in “Lejos (Me Gusta),” while channeling more traditional Mexican musical elements on “Amor Finito.” Of course, as the sultry reggae of “Give Me Love (No Llores),” the anthemic rock of “No One Knows,” or the grinding guitars of “Don’t Let Me Down” might suggest, U2, Bob Marley, the Police, Jane’s Addiction, the Smashing Pumpkins and Epic Records forefathers the Clash all figure in the mix right alongside Caifanes, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs y Mano Negra.

Monte Negro’s music, however, surpasses the sum of any apparent influences. Guitarist Jason Li Shing channels incredible technique into guitar lines that elegantly support the songs, while bassist Rodax Rodriguez stirs their rhythm with a guitarist’s eye for kinetic progression and a born bassist’s sense of space. Meanwhile, drummer Xavier Lopez is a phenom, driving and twirling polyrhythms with the muscle of a metal skinsman and the vibe of the best jazzer. Vocalist and lyricist Kinski Gallo Rodriguez’s soaring voice launches from the band’s rich musical bed in earnest flight, a larger than life personality submerging himself humbly in his works. Also an accomplished sculptor and visual artist, it’s his pan-cultural designs that give the band’s artwork, videos and merchandise a style that is both universal and distinctive. Performing alongside his brother-by-blood Rodax and the close-knit extended family of the band, his visions have a whimsical personal touch that, like Monte Negro’s music, is totally disarming.

For a generation instinctively attuned to a looser, richer, more instinctive cultural mix, Monte Negro could well be the band that bridges between worlds. If the first major sea change in the post-rock world of American popular music was hip hop, it’s not unreasonable to expect that the next wave will be bilingual. And you could be forgiven for imagining Monte Negro somewhere near the crest. Epic Records saw the arc in (courageously) signing the band to its “mainstream” rock roster, while early supporters such as the influential MTV3 have seen in the band’s potential to develop a unique and largely unprecedented story and close the decade with a bold step towards a multicultural space that is entirely new and thrilling.

But the basis of any story told about Monte Negro will always have to remain its music. Spend some time with Cicatrix. Real time, on an open road, on a bed wrapped in headphones, with candles and a drink, in a club or a giant-sky festival, in flagrante or in reflection, sad, lonely, elated, searching, content, confused, engulfed, near, far or in transit between. It’s a record that will reward you every time, from a band for whom the journey has only just begun.

Discography

CD -- Cicatrix -- Red/Epic
EP -- Who Told You? -- Red/Epic