The New Beat Generation
Kansas City Afro-Cuban indie band Making Movies might just be the best band you’ve never heard of.
Making Movies at Boulevardia 2015
In a city where jazz, blues and rock dominate, Panamanian-Mexican-American band Making Movies sticks out like a sore thumb — and in a good way. Entrancing audiences with their refreshing hybrid of Afro-Latin rhythms and experimental rock, the KC-based quartet made up of brothers Enrique and Diego Chi (guitar/vocals and bass) and bandmates Brendan Culp (drums) and Juan-Carlos Chaurand (percussion/keyboard), have carved a space for themselves in this city’s bustling music scene.
Heavily influenced by the band’s respective heritages (the Chis are Panamanian-born, Chaurand is Mexican-born and Culp is KC-born), the Afro-Cuban/indie band is a melting pot of diversity that, when combined, results in an enveloping sound that both moves and satisfies the soul. With their passionate delivery, heart-pounding rhythms and lyrics that weave tales of the Latin experience, Making Movies’ music transcends the potential Spanish-English language barrier and re-imagines the traditional Latin sound.
Now, fresh off the heels of their annual, locally based Carnaval music festival, the foursome, who has shared the stage with the likes of Arcade Fire, Los Lobos and Cold War Kids, is gearing up for the release of their second full-length album. Teaming up once again with famed producer and friend Steve Berlin of the Grammy Award-winning band Los Lobos, the yet-to-be-titled album has been described as “intense.”
While you await the release of their sophomore album, revisit — or discover — Making Movies’ 2013 release, A La Deriva (“Adrift”). Re-released through United Interests, the debut album is a testament to the power of music as a universal language. Equally split between songs in Spanish and English, the 11-track effort expertly navigates two cultures. Engulfing from the first cooing notes of “Cuna de Vida” to the final fevered guitar strums and wails in “Chase Your Tail,” the collection of dance-fueled and mid-tempo tracks follows the struggles of an immigrant family in present-day America.
Enrique Chi at boulevardia 2015
435 Magazine sat down with Enrique Chi, lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of Making Movies to discuss new music, their Carnaval and efforts to give back to the community.
435: So why the name Making Movies?
Enrique Chi: My dad grew up in this tiny town in Panama where they mostly listened to traditional Panamanian folk and dance music, and then some pop stuff would break through. He learned how to play guitar, and he had an affinity for rock ‘n’ roll bands like the Dire Straits. And so, when I was a baby in Panama, I don’t know if I even spoke yet, but everybody remembers me loving this Dire Straits song. My dad had all the albums, including Making Movies. It’s kind of neat to think that I loved it pre-consciousness. It’s kind of a nice metaphor for how powerful music is and it infects you at an early age and that I loved it without language being tied to it….I think that’s one of the most powerful things about music — how much a chord rhythm or a movement can move a bunch of people non-verbally.
435: Were you guys always an Afro-Cuban indie band, or was it a sound progression?
EC: It started as an alternative band, and I started writing some stuff in Spanish because I’ve been bilingual my whole life. I got really tired of rock ‘n’ roll so I started getting into Latin music and the music that my mom and dad were into. My dad ended up getting into some Latino artists like Rubén Blades, and Blades talks about the idea that these rhythms are the core of everything. His theory is that these African rhythms are closely tied to all of our origins, since all of our origins are tied to Africa. These forms of communication are in the deep recesses of our DNA. Even if we don’t know they’re familiar, they just are. And so I was like “Let’s just throw everything out. Every rule, everything that is a rock ‘n’ roll thing, let’s just ditch it.”
435: Everyone has an interpretation of your sound. How would you describe it?
EC: That’s a tough question. We haven’t thought of a great catchphrase for how to describe it. For example, rock ‘n’ roll at one point was this genre-bending thing where they were doing blues, country and updating it a little bit. They didn’t know what to call it. Every genre is like that. We haven’t figured out what to call what we do. But to me, to try and say it succinctly, we dabble with a lot of genres, but the center of everything is this idea that the West African rhythms that landed in the Americas are the foundation of everything. It’s a rhythm called the clave. It’s like a heartbeat. And it’s the same rhythms that founded the basis of rock ‘n’ roll.
435: Who were some of your musical influences growing up?
EC: I grew up loving rock ‘n’ roll: The Beatles, The Stones and art rock, and I remember that I didn’t like any modern music until somebody showed me Radiohead. It feels like the way Pink Floyd feels: adventurous and daring, all of that. I like to stay current on what’s going on musically. The stuff that I think is the most exciting right now is hip-hop.
Making movies at boulevardia 2015
435: How’d you hook up with Steve Berlin (of Los Lobos)?
EC: Steve loves to make records. He caught our set and said, “I want to do your next album.’ It was like stars aligned. Now we’re friends, and he’s a huge mentor for us. Very few people have done what he’s done. He has created a life for himself in music on multiple fields. He has accolades that people never reach as both a musician and a producer and has sustained that. I hope he reads this, but he’s a huge inspiration to me on just how to be an artist as a bigger-picture thing.
435: Your previous album, A La Deriva, was a concept album. Will this one be the same?
EC: I feel like when art has a bigger storyline to it, I enjoy it more. So this record has a concept as well. Like Lars von Trier, he has three movies that aren’t actually connected, but they all have the same vibe and close a chapter in his output. But I also like things to be immediate. So I don’t feel like you have to care about the concept to enjoy it. That’s what we’re chasing right now. We’re doing some pretty unique stuff. There are a lot more English songs, and it’s also a lot more extreme. The things that are quiet and pretty on the album are quiet and pretty and the things that are loud and nasty are really loud and nasty.
435: How did Carnaval get started?
EC: It was twofold: to invite our friends to participate in this space [Knuckleheads] that we have here, but also to bring music acts to Kansas City that don’t normally come. Our first year we brought Ozomatli, and they hadn’t been around for seven years or something like that. This year Hurray for the Riff Raff and Las Cafeteras performed. They’re national touring artists, but Kansas City hasn’t really adopted them yet, so we have to be like, “Hey, everybody, come out. These people are great. You don’t know it yet, but you will after tonight.”
435: What’s up next for Making Movies?
EC: We’re gearing up to put out the album early next year. The other thing that’s going on is that we’re organizing some music education programs [in the community]. Right now we’re more fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants; we’re just a bunch of friends who collaborate and ask organizations like Mattie Rhodes, “Hey, can we use your space and infrastructure to do something cool?” And they’ve been like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” Guadalupe Center has also been helpful in those ways. This year we’re going to do more. There’s also a lot of new music to put out, but I don’t exactly know when that’s going to shake out. We’ll be on the road, and there’ll be new music and new videos for sure this year.
For more information, visit mkngmvs.com.