Published in the December issue of Rhythms magazine.
Back To The Future
Rodrigo Y Gabriela take what seems like a backward step, in order to take two forward.
In a figurative sense, the tail end of this Year Of Our Lord, 2012, sees firebrand Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela, going backwards. Certainly not as far as skill, talent and sheer instrumental virtuosity are concerned, but more in an exploratory way, going back to how they began, as opposed to how they’ve evolved since.
Indeed, this may seem somewhat of an odd move for this pair, who over the past five or six years, have almost literally scorched their names into the minds of music fans the globe over, such is the ferocity of their twin guitar attack. Their move from the metal bands of their formative years to the acoustic firestorm they now control is well documented, and since this journey has begun, they’ve basically reinvented how one can play the acoustic guitar. And yet we now see them eschewing the evolutionary moves they’ve made, and taking it back to basics, as they see it.
Although, perhaps this is a misnomer. Perhaps what we mean to say here is that after their last album, 2011’s Area 52, Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero have decided to shy away from the sonic explorations that defined that record, and take it back to just the two of them. Talking to Sanchez ahead of their New Years Eve shows here in Australia (a place which has embraced the pair as fervently as any other country), you almost get the impression he regrets having brought in C.U.B.A (the Cuban orchestra), Anoushka Shankar, John Tempesta and the other collaborators who rounded the project out.
He doesn’t, of course, but it seems he’s more than ready for just him and Quintero, to really get it happening together again, just the two of them. And of course, within that return to basics, that’s where you find them evolving – it’s like the old adage, you need to spend money to make money. In this sense though, you’ve got to take it back to its beginnings, in order to grow it further.
“The first shows we did in London (last month), without the band (from Area 52) were great,” Sanchez says. “It was great to play with the band, but [these shows], it felt like this is where we belong. Even just talking to the audience, telling them that we were back and are [working towards a new album], you can feel people really embrace that.
“And I was very clear before the album, that this was only a project, it wasn’t a new direction or anything like that. We wanted to put the album out and do some touring with the band, and we really enjoyed that… our aim was to go to Cuba and meet these amazing musicians, and we had a chance to do it, and we did it and professionally speaking, it was a very good move. Now I feel very happy that we’re back, which was always the original idea.”
Back in the guise they’re most comfortable with then, it’s time to move on. As Sanchez alluded, there is a new record in the works, and it’s here, now they’ve ‘moved backward’, that they can begin moving forward. “The good thing about what we do, not being part of any specific genre of music, is that we have the freedom to do whatever we want,” he says.
“[With this new record], we know it’ll be back to the duo format, and probably we’re going to get a little bit of a break from the Latin rhythms, because the rock roots that we really have, they’re kinda coming out again,” Sanchez continues. “And it’s very challenging and exciting for us to be writing something that is not the old Rod and Gab, like on the first album, ‘Lets come up with something new’. It is challenging, but we’re very happy with what we’re doing.”
Samuel J. Fell