Whether you like it or not, Aztlan Underground is forcing you to stop and listen.
Like the powerful and socially conscious music of Ozomatli and Rage Against the Machine, and with a call to spiritual enlightenment, Aztlan Underground resurfaces with a new self-titled album and with the desire to provoke self-reflection through their music. I caught up with Yaotl, lead singer of the L.A.-based quartet, who gave Al Borde readers a quick intro to their new album, and also gave credit to other local artists who, according to the band, are putting something positive on the table by speaking to the people and keeping it real.
Since our beginning in ’89, our music has been a mix of poetry, jazz and rock with the feel, instrumentation and spirit of the indigenous culture. We don’t only write about politics, war and pro-immigration issues, but we also touch on other thought-provoking themes, and about our abilities and potential as human beings. Our new album, Aztlan Underground, encompasses all of those messages. Although each track is very unique in its own independent way, the tracks intertwine much like a concept album in that they have the same themes of battling fears and self-realization. The third track for example, “Light Shines” is a song that represents what the band is all about. That song talks about self-realization and hopeful intent; hope for peace and love, which is what we think that all human beings want out of life.
With this new album, the recording and composing process was different than our previous work. We’ve always been fans of hip-hop and so before we used to do loops, write the lyrics and then complete the entire songs. Aztlan Underground was based more on unifying our energies and arriving to a place where each song would be born in a collective way. It was a long battle to complete the album but we are very happy with the outcome of it.
From the time of our last release (Sub-Verses, 1998) to now, we remained musically active and continued to perform locally, nationally and internationally for various causes. Those performances sustained our viability while we continued to write songs for Aztlan Underground.
When it comes to popular music, we know that our music is outside what some may consider the norm. We have the advantage of not having to conform to any type of forced way of being, but we also understand that the music of Aztlan Underground will only be understood with open minds. Our music is on a different level than mainstream music but it is still very, very powerful.
There are other powerful local lyricists and musicians that we admire for giving positive messages. For example, we admire and respect El Vuh for their cultural messages, legendary lyricists 2mex and Xololanxinko, La Bestia for keeping it outrageously real, Killsonic for uniting people with their music, Ollin who work non-stop like us, Ninja Academy, Sherman Austin, 400 Blows and Geronimo to name a few awesome and sincere local bands. Each of us from the band also participates in other local bands as well. Alonzo has his own project with a band called Broken Ornaments, Jose “Peps” has a jazz band, Caxo has his own rock group called Cara de mil Putazos and I do the acoustic versions of Aztlan Underground, which goes under the name of Aztlan Unearthed. Those are all side projects but, as Aztlan Underground, we’re focused on this new material and are eager to hit up Los Angles and Chicago with our new music.
We’ll begin writing a new album as soon as possible and will hopefully not take as long as we did with Aztlan Underground. With the support of our families who have encouraged us so much throughout these years since Deconolize (1995), we’ve come a long way. We have both our long-term followers encouraging us as well as a new generation of fans. We’ve prayed together in many different forms and will continue to try to connect spiritually with the people every time we perform.
Catch Aztlan Underground as they shake the walls of LA’s The Troubadour on October 18th, as well as those of Chicago’s Casa Aztlan on October 30th.
For more Aztlan Underground, check out the band and the album, right here.
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