Hombre Bestia Interview: Mexican Progressive Sludge
Mexican alternative/prog rockers Hombre Bestia are on the verge of releasing an EP titled Janus. The release is scheduled for November 17th. Guitarist and vocalist Alexei Galar (AX) and bassist Alejandro de Buen (AJ) talk to Manchester Rocks about their musical beginnings, the EP, and more.
How did you first get into music – through school or your parents played music?
AX: Mexico school teaching is not always very good, at much you end up disliking music - which by the way happened to many friends of mine - so I’m glad I did not have any school music lessons. My family has had many musicians, with at least 3 bassists that have had groups of many genres and levels. So naturally I started with bass, which I had to work for at a local coffee shop because my mom did not want me to get started into music. That was around 10 years ago. Since than I have learned to play guitar, piano and sing.
AJ: My father played in different kinds of bands, which got him to play the bandurria, the keyboards, and have a general sense of how to play the guitar. Him and his musical tastes were my first influence, and although what Alexei says is true, I was one of the guys that enjoyed their musical lessons in elementary school. Though I despised the recorder (but decided to pick it up again a few years ago), I liked the theoretical part. Between that and my older brother starting to play guitar, I decided that I wanted to play the bass guitar since a little before my teenage years (best decision I’ve made), and have been picking up other stuff on the way.
What do they think about the band – do they support you?
AX: If by they you mean family, I’d have to say the have become very supportive. At the beginning there were lots of changes they were not to happy about. Spending family time for rehearsals, leaving early at reunions because of gigs, etc. But with time that has become part of the routine and they’ve become very supportive for the band.
AJ: For me, it was kind of the other way around, they have always been quite supportive, my parents were the first ones to be surprised when I decided that I didn’t want to pursue an academic career in music; but as Hombre Bestia has gotten more and more time consuming, they aren’t the happiest about me spending less and less time with them. Still, at the end of the day I know they really always have my back.
What was the first instrument you picked up?
AX: Bass.. and still my favorite!
AJ: Recorder (like any kid with a music class in elementary school). Then bass guitar.
How did Hombre Bestia get together initially as a unit?
AX: The story goes back to around 8 years ago, when Santos and I got together at my house and recorded some demos using a small audio interface. We recorded as simple as guitar and voice songs all the way to sequenced pieces with drums, keyboards, etc. Lyrically we knew we wanted to say something that mattered, so we tried social oriented themes. But being 16 year old and wanting to be deep is quite difficult.
With time we began rehearsals around 2010 with what would eventually become Hombre Bestia, having our first gig in 2011.
What is your working relationship within the band like?
AX: I think It’s very democratic. We make decisions together and though we discuss and have lots of arguments - both when composing or arranging music and taking management decisions - there has never been a fight within us. Which is curious considering how much time we spend together.
AJ: That’s true, though at times our drive to keep everyone happy does result in small tensions. I guess what keeps everything sane and easy is that we all know our common goal is really getting what’s better for the band. We are all quite stubborn, but ultimately we all want the same.
Do you identify as part of specific Mexican scene or with an international scene of heavy music bands? Do you feel part of any community?
AX: until recently we felt there was not a specific music scene we could relate locally. We’ve always identified with International acts such as Porcupine Tree, Opeth and Tool, which have a fan base at mexico but not locally. Fortunately we have been working amongst many collectives and bands from post rock, prog rock and alternative rock and are slowly constructing what I think has the ability to become a formal scene. Just to cite some, there is the “Festival de rock progresivo y jazz fusion” and “La Prog-Society” which are local efforts to generate a voice for the genre.
AJ: Those two are great examples, though it is true that they are still in a growing phase. There are also other collectives with which we feel a strong fraternal bond and share many ideas about the industry, such as “Aqui No Hubo Escena”, but I guess we don’t always fit in terms of genre.
Tell me more about your new EP Janus. What does it bring?
AX: Janus is a mix of the two faces we developed. There is the electric and more aggressive sound of the band - which now features keyboards - in the form of two unreleased songs that we recorded last summer at Estudios Noviembre. These songs talk about loss and death as a journey of many shades, where leaving this world can be an injustice and a causality, themes unexplored for the band. The second part consists of 5 acoustic versions of our whole repertoire, with new arrangements and even different parts. You could think of it as a mature revisitation of our work.
AJ: It also reflects a more unified musical vision, which I think is reflected very positively on the sound!
What’s the touring like with Hombre Bestia? Do you play a lot in Mexico or South America?
AX: We haven't had the chance to tour to South America - though we’d totally love it - but we do play a lot in Mexico. We have had the opportunity to play outside our hometown which is a great experience. About what is like to tour with us, there is a video on YouTube where we recorded some parts of a small tour called Simbiosis that we made with De Algún Tiempo A Esta Parte, a local Puebla experimental band. I think we can be very spontaneous, some days we end up quite late having a good time with everyone at the gig or at someone's house, some other days we feel the necessity to just sleep and feel like we have a normal life.
AJ: He couldn’t have said it better. It’s a lot of fun, at least for us, and it is also quite physically demanding; they’re usually very long and very busy days.
Are there any plans to tour other continents?
AX: Yes! For now we are focusing on North and south american market, with the idea of soon visiting US. But there is a plan for visiting Europe after we record the second LP, hopefully by 2017. I know that is a long time but we really want to do heavy touring when we have lot’s of new material to offer.
AJ: You want us playing somewhere? You tell us! The great thing about having our plans for the future more or less open at the moment is that we can really explore and study our market and tour accordingly.
If somebody flipped through your record collection what would be an unusual or unexpected record they would find?
AX: Good question! I think the first Blink 182 album would be a huge surprise. That and a compilation of Enrique Bunbury, which I totally love and sing to every chance I can.
AJ: A huge amount of indie folk, one Celtic Woman record (it was a present, but it does contain some good tunes), and a Sum 41 album that I deeply love and almost know by heart (we were all teenagers, weren’t we?).
Interview: Annie Grossman