Photo by Junette Reyes/FIUSM
Angelo Lopez/Staff Writer
Diego Saldaña-Rojas/Staff Writer
Junette Reyes/Entertainment Director
In the series of sit downs with local artists, FIU Student Media has had the opportunity to previously sit down and interview artist Smurphio from the local electronic funk band known as Afrobeta, local hip-hop artist Flight Williams from the collective rap group known as Outta This World, local DJ and producer Jesse Perez, and Harlowe G. and Lauren from Jean Jacket.
This time around, FIUSM got to interview two members of the local act ¡Suénalo! in collaboration with the WRGP Radiate FM program called Local Radiation.
¡Suénalo! is comprised of MC Amin De Jesus, bassist Carlos Guzmán, vocalist Michelle Forman, saxophone and flute player Juan Turros, Trombone and conch player Chad Bernstein, percussionist Edwin Bonilla, guitarist Eric Escanes, keyboardist and vocalist Adrian Gonzalez and drummer Abner Torres.
What are your roles in the band?
Juan: I play saxophone and flute and minor percussion.
Michelle: I am a vocalist in ¡Suénalo!. All of us compose in the band. We all come up with an idea and swap ideas and come up with a tune.
Are there any local acts that you work together with or have an admiration for?
Juan: There’s Palo, there’s Spam Allstars, Locos Por Juana.
Michelle: For me it’s ArtOfficial. There are a lot of local musicians here that we’ve either collaborated with or are close. It’s a tight community when it comes to music.
Juan: There’s also Afrobeta, there’s Elastic Bond, there are many many bands.
How would you describe your sound?
Michelle: Well first of all, I wouldn’t categorize us as salsa. A lot of people ask us to play salsa. We really don’t play salsa, we can but we really don’t. It’s a mix of American funk, rock and hip-hop and it’s driven by alternative Latin grooves, essentially fueled by Caribbean flavors from all our roots, from where we are from. We add our spices.
Juan: We all bring different things to the table, but we’re also quite diverse.
What does the city mean to you musically?
Juan: Miami is a cultural melting pot. But it’s a lot more dynamic than your L.A. melting pot since you get lots of Central Americans out there, you get Asians, Native Americans. Over here, you have everybody from Latin America, Central America, the islands, from Europe. We are a port town.
Michelle: A transient town.
Juan: All of us, everyone in ¡Suénalo! is bicultural. We’re from different places and we agree on the music. Miami is the place where we all met. It’s the place where we all get creative and that’s why it’s important to us.
Were all of you born and raised in Miami or are there exceptions?
Juan: There are exceptions. I’m a native Miamian.
Michelle: As am I.
Juan: We have Venezuelan-Americans, a Frenchman on guitar. As a matter of fact, Eric Escanes was not our first French guitarist. We have Chad Bernstein, who is from Chicago; Amin De Jesus is Dominican-American. We have Puerto Ricans in the band: Abner Torres, Edwin Bonilla and Allen Ramos. Carlos Guzman and our pianist, Adrian Gonzalez, are from Venezuela.We have American music in our blood but we also have the music from our native lands.
How does the process work, making a song from scratch?
Juan: It’s very democratic. We either bring an idea or something fully formed. If we bring an idea, then other people contribute. If it’s something fully formed we always add our own little stamp to it. Since we are from so many different places, if we agree on something we are going to enjoy it.
Michelle: I feel blessed to be a part of ¡Suénalo! because we have this organic natural ability to fuse all of these different sounds, and have made it our own sound in a way that you can’t really find anywhere else and I really feel blessed to be a part of that. Instead of going one direction or another, we found our own sound. That to me is really important, I really enjoy that aspect of the band.
Juan: To add to that…it’s strange. Number one, we know each other very well. We’ve been with each other for years and so we can be pretty telepathic musically.
You’ve reached that point where you’re all musically comfortable with one another?
Juan: Well, we started that way actually as an improvisational jam band. The jam band thing was the backbone but it was a bit more refined so now we are songwriters with a jam band mentality. We enjoy it. It’s also that we are very sincere about what we want heard. If we bring an idea it’s not like we are like, “Oh look these people are going to like it. Let’s produce it this way.” What you get is something, I like to use the word sincere, organic, something true to this town something that people here understand, but when we go out it’s pretty infectious because it’s something new.
How is the new album different from the ones that came before?
Juan: Well, the first one, “Collages,” was recorded live and it was at a time where different incarnations of ¡Suénalo! was very common. There are different people on lots of the tracks. It’s actually pretty cool to listen to. But our first studio venture that was self-titled back in 2006 took us about 6 months to record. We basically went in there with some ideas and then everything came from there. We spent lots of time in the studio. Our third one was recorded live over three nights in Transit Lounge. Evert Ramey, a very talented engineer recorded it in this incredible way that he got so much separation from instrument to instrument that we could go back and edit little things. And so we’re very proud of that one. It has the raw energy of live but it’s a little bit…it’s better than live.
Michelle: I’d say that’s my personal favorite, “Live At Transit.” I’m not even on it.
Juan: My favorite is the new one. We spent lots of time perfecting this beautiful project. We all put lots of time into it to make sure listeners truly enjoy it. This is my favorite.
¡Suénalo! will be performing this Friday, Feb. 21 at the Virginia Key Grassroots Festival. Their new album “Keep It Groovin’” is out now.