Last year, when the Mexican rock band Zoé won the best alternative music album award at the Latin Grammys, many critics considered the recognition long overdue.
The group, which first came together in the late 1990s, has been among Latin America’s most consistently brainy and enlightened explorers of neo-psychedelic rock, with album titles like the 2006 release “Memo Rex Commander y el Corazón Atómico de la Vía Láctea” (Commander Memo Rex and the Atomic Heart of the Milky Way).
Like, far out.
But beneath the phantasmagoric lyrics and genial Beatles-influenced harmonies lurked a rock-steady beat: Zoé never allowed its lush atmospherics to swamp its post-grunge aggressiveness. Its style gradually invited comparisons with Stone Roses, the Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen.
Now the group’s charismatic lead singer, frontman and songwriter, León Larregui, has stepped out with his first solo album, “Solstis,” released late last month by EMI Mexico. He spoke briefly, in Spanish, with Pop & Hiss this week from Colombia, and said he plans to perform later this fall in Southern California (date and venue to be determined).
Here’s are a few excerpts:
So this solo project doesn’t signify any change in your relationship with Zoé, does it?
No, not at all. After a long period of too much work I had a space to take some time off and I took advantage of it to make this record. It’s a side project.
This record shows your affinity for classical Latin romantic songs by composers like Agustín Lara and Serge Gainsbourg.
Yes, I believe it has to do with my evolution as an artist and with my age and everything. What I always want to do is write songs, and these are some of the people I admire a lot. That has always been really my goal, to be a songwriter more than a “rock ‘n’ roll star.”
When did you begin planning this record?
I’d been thinking about it for years.
Are you writing songs now?I’m always writing songs. If I didn’t write songs I would die, because it’s a way of processing everything that’s going on in my life. Writing songs is my form of salvation, a natural process of salvation.
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