One of El Paso‘s most beloved band has returned: with new music and new instrumentation, and keeping their rootsy soud, Frontera Bugalú is ready to share their sounds and vibes they’ve been working on, the result being their new album, Alma de Jaguar. Lead singer and songwriter, Kiko Rodríguez, spoke to Fusion recently about the resurgence of the band.
What is this album about?
Perseverance and survival on the border, both spiritually and physically. Connecting to our roots and our grandmothers, their advice and wisdom about life. Connecting to our Native American past, represented by the jaguar. No matter who we are at our jobs, school, group of friends, we all have the rich heritage of belonging to the original families that inhabited this area.
Is there a central theme?
Alma de Jaguar, a spiritual point that anyone can find in themselves. This album is about believing in yourself and exploring what’s in you instead of always looking outside of yourself—money, power, status for happiness.
What was your muse?
Things that were happening to me personally took on the shapes of songs after a while. I also wrote about those around me. It is a very personal album. “Pueblo Sometido” is about the city erecting the conquistador statue at the airport and how betrayed many of us felt, as we consider the native history of El Paso part of us. “Oscuridad” is about the mistakes and the dark places we all go to in different stages of our life, etc…
I could see this stuff playing in a club or at your grandma’s house. I am still very focused on making music for all the generations.
Is this album a continuation from your first album or is it distinctly different? If so, how is it different?
I chose different instrumentation on this album, focusing more on piano and accordion. The group is being rebuilt as I left to do other projects for a few years. This album is much more mature than the last one, as I took almost a year alone just to write down basic ideas and another year or 2 to produce the right sounds. We still sound the same, but better hopefully.
How is it similar?
It is still very rootsy music. I could see this stuff playing in a club or at your grandma’s house. I am still very focused on making music for all the generations. I believe there is a strong connection between all of us, especially in El Paso.
Who contributed to the making of the album?
Props to Joel Osvaldo and DJ Birth DFX for helping me write and arrange it. Fabian Martinez of Kill Media produced it for me in California. Marco Ramirez of and Sonic Ranch mixed and mastered. They all played crucial roles in it’s various phases and each time someone would work on it just get better and better.
Many of my musician friends chipped in, coming by the studios to drop tracks. I felt really blessed; they are the best at what they do.
Where did you record?
El Paso, Bay area, Los Angeles and Albuquerque.
Who created the album artwork?
Zeke Peña did the cover. He did our last one and is one of our favorite artists from El Paso. Our good friend Yocupitzia Martinez did the lay out.
This album is about believing in yourself and exploring what’s in you instead of always looking outside of yourself.
You recently held a fundraiser to raise money to complete the recording of the album. Can you tell me a little about that?
Yes, we put the album on Indiegogo in order to complete production costs. Albums are very expensive and we couldn’t have done it without the support of 52 fans that contributed. We matched those funds with the ones we had been saving and in-kind contributions from many of the musicians and producers. It really did take a team of people to do this.
Will you tour?
Yes, we’ll be touring throughout the southwest and Mexico this year.
Who plays in the live version of Frontera?
The El Paso line-up on May 6th will be the best as we are having many of the people who worked on the album. Tania Rodriguez, my sister, and lead singer for FUGA! will be singing that night. Rafael Herrera will be on drums. We will also have special guests Leo Martinez, guitarist and singer for Los Chamucos as well as FUGA! and Amalia Mondragon, singer for Las Chamanas, as well as a veteran from the old Frontera line-up. Jim Ward is doing us the honor of opening up the show. It’s going to be great.
How will you release the music? Digitally? Vinyl? Where can people find your album?
The album will be available digitally on Bandcamp as of May 6th. There will be a special vinyl pressing of only 120 that will be made and we are still taking orders for. Check our facebook bandpage for details https://www.facebook.com/fronterabugalu/.
Text: Alex Durán