"Do you want to get mean?"
So goes the new song from the long-running Mavericks, a band whose rootsy mix of styles often has been more a cause for celebration than social commentary. The track, "Easy as It Seems," is from the act's forthcoming "Brand New Day" album, due March 31, which will be the first for the band's new Mono Mundo Recordings label.
Yet the Mavericks aren't necessarily looking for a fight. "Easy as It Seems," which you can listen to below, is a dance-ready workout that lead singer and chief songwriter Raul Malo said grew out of his observations during last year's presidential election battle.
It hones in not on any of the particular candidates, but on the divisiveness among their various supporters.
"We all kept hearing about people saying, 'Oh, I'm not looking forward to getting together with my relatives or friends for the holidays because they voted for the other candidate,'" Malo, 51, said by phone from his home in Nashville, a brief respite before the roots country/Tex-Mex/rock/soul/R&B/pop band gets back on the road for another tour.
"Do you want to get cruel?" the song asks. "Do you think it's wise to play the fool? Take a look around you, it's easy not to see / Building walls between us doesn't fix a thing."
Musically, the track opens with funky saxophones blowing a Cuban-jazz rooted riff, and the horns are soon joined by the rest of the band — guitarist Eddie Perez, keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden and drummer Paul Deakin — who provide the song's sinuously swaying Latin-rock pulse.
The Mavericks have only sporadically ventured into sociopolitical commentary since emerging in the early 1990s with "From Hell to Paradise." The title track from the group's sophomore album reflected on the journey Malo's parents made from Cuba to the U.S. following the 1959 revolution in which Fidel Castro took power and overnight transformed the country into a communist nation.
Malo has often said he prefers to let his music do most of the philosophizing, taking the position that songs can unite people on the dance floor. It's a point of view that feelings of joy constitute a political statement as valid as any other.
He hopes that's the outcome of "Easy as It Seems" as well, in which the band's vibrant musical melting pot is a manifestation of the lyrics' underlying message, summarized in the final verse that asks, "Do you want to get real? / Do you want to have dreams? / Nothing more than this / Easy as it seems."
The launch of the Mavericks' Mono Mundo label comes after several years the band spent on Valory Music Co., an offshoot of Scott Borchetta's Universal Music Group-affiliated Big Machine.
"There's a real sense of freedom, that we can do anything we want now," Malo said. "There was no dissatisfaction with Scott and Big Machine, we parted on very good terms. But we were tied to their release schedule because they have all these different acts with records and tours they have to coordinate. Now we can plan things and only have our own schedules to think about.
"You know how people get to a certain age and they start saying, 'Forget it — I'm doing what I want'? Malo said. "I think that's sort of where we're at now."
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