In Mexico Morrissey has always been a prophet with honour. His songs of love, loss and longing, with powerful imagery and metaphors have found a huge audience and chimed with generations raised on rancheras and mariachis and their singers who were not afraid to cross the line.
Now the love has been returned, with a band made in Mexico City reinventing Morrissey’s and The Smiths’ songs south of the border. Together they sound like a brass and string led combo from the smallest village with the biggest bleeding heart. The first of the gang is Camilo Lara, the force inside Mexican Institute of Sound, who has put together, in Mexrrissey, a team of musical gunslingers from Mexico’s finest bands.
The band has had an incredible trajectory from a first try out show in Mexico City in April 2015 swiftly followed by a sold out mainstage debut at the Barbican in The La Linea Festival in London, a UK tour (including an emotional sold out Manchester gig) and triumphant shows at BAM in New York and The Regent in Los Angeles.
The band’s debut album, No Manchester, released in March 2016, was recorded in Mexico DF and Tucson Arizona. The album was produced by Camilo Lara. The arrangements are by Lara and Sergio Mendoza. The album was mixed by Jack Lahana, winner of multiple Grammys for his work with Phoenix and Daft Punk. “No Manchester” is a Mexican slang phrase meaning “No Way” or “Are you kidding me?” but more than that it means that these songs, born in Manchester, have grown up, changed their hair and the clothes they wear and are living in Mexico under an assumed name.
Taking us on a journey of love, loss and longing is an incredible team of big hitters from Mexico’s rock and pop world, who immediately said yes to Mexrrissey’s invitation. Live the band performs as a seven piece with a revolving and evolving line-up of the whos who of the whats what of the new Mexican music scene, which includes underground legend Chetes (Zurdok) on guitar, Jay De La Cueva (Moderatto /Titán) on bass, Ceci Bastida (Tijuana No) on keyboards, Adan Jodorowsky (Adanowsky) on guitar, Liber Teran (Los de Abajo) on guitar, Alejandro Flores (Café Tacuba’s favourite violin player), Alex Gonzales on trumpet (Twin Tones), Ricardo Najera on drums (Furland), Sergio Mendoza and Jacob Valenzuela (both from Calexico) on vibes and accordion and trumpet respectively and always Camilo Lara adding his trademark sampling and electronics. Vocals are shared between four of the band who also add other flavours from a range of traditional instruments.
Andy Wood, Director of the La Linea Festival in London approached Camilo Lara with the initial idea to put together Mexrrissey. Andy says, “ It just felt like time. I had a sense of the feeling for Morrissey in Mexico and the way that his music could connect with so much in Mexican music. It was time to return the love and Camilo was the man who could round up the right posse of dirty pretty things.”
Camilo takes up the story, “I always thought that there were these invisible lines between what Morrissey and Manchester represents and what Mexico City and Mexican pop culture has. And if these are tiny coincidences, we’re making them a little bit bigger on this occasion with a concert of broken hearts and forgotten dreams.”
Sergio Mendoza worked on the arrangements with Camilo, “I think we took a really big risk with all these arrangements and the way we’re really flipping these songs.” One starting point was to either find a song with a Mexican connection or something that Camilo and Sergio could imagine recasting with a Mexican flavour. There are some obvious selections like Morrrissey’s paean to the country Mexico. Another starting point was to simply select a song that they were big fans of such as, Everyday is Like Sunday.
Camilo Lara says “I think for the people that know the songs (which is probably everyone!), I’m sure that they will be amazed that the songs can go into these directions of cumbia and boleros and sound actually as if they were written in that style. Though it’s the words, the playful turns of phrase, and the sighs that are the trickiest to translate into Spanish. Camilo adds “We try to get a glimpse of the poetry in Morrissey’s work and to capture the irony, the anger and the happiness at the same time, that has been a challenge.”