SXSW Entry #6 – Ceci Bastida: LA ENTREVISTA

Disclaimer: I want to thank Ceci and her people for showing me the utmost hospitality all throughout the festival. They were very gracious, and returned my text messages with a quick turnaround. Trust me, I’ve been interviewing pop acts for over 6 years now, and you don’t know how many publicists refuse to return your calls. Well, here’s the interview, enjoy!

Andrew: What are you currently listening to, besides 808’s and Heartbreak of course?
Ceci: Haha. I’ve been listening to Animal Collective lately, Micachu . . . Lykke Li, K’Naan, uh, OK I’ll get back to you.

(short conversation about how crazy Lykke Li is in real-life)

Andrew: You formed Tijuana No! at a young age, and they were successfully relatively quick, what was it like to be in such an important band at a relatively young age?
Ceci: I think I was just intrigued by the whole thing, I was very young and it was my first band, when you’re young you don’t really think about what you’re doing, even if it doesn’t make sense. It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot from them, not just as a musician, but being in a band, and the relationships between band members and touring, and being involved in some different things, like benefit shows. It formed a big part of musical brain, and it was great.

Andrew: So in regards to some of the band’s seminal works, like “Pobre de Ti,” or “La Esquina del Mundo,” do people still request those songs?
Ceci: Not when I’m doing shows live, though sometimes people request “Spanish Bombs,” but I’ve been playing a lot in the U.S., and that happens more in Mexico, where I lately haven’t played as much, and it’s also been a lot of years since Tijuana No!, the people who go to shows are usually younger now, and they probably don’t know those songs.
Andrew: I do, and I’m 23.
Ceci: Yeah but you’re different, haha…
Andrew: (blushes)

Andrew: After that, you joined Julieta Venegas’ band right after she had finished recording Bueninvento. So you were the singer in an alterna-rock band, then you join your friend’s band, who’s also an alterna-rock singer right in the middle of what I like to call her “batshit crazy” period (Writer’s Note: I mean “batshit crazy” in the BEST WAY POSSIBLE), but not long after you join the band, she becomes a pop singer, were you surprised by that?
Ceci: I was pretty surprised. I mean, I never thought of her as “rock” necessarily. It started out in a casual way, like “Hey, my keyboard player doesn’t have a visa, and we have shows in LA, do you wanna do it?,” so I did, and it was so much fun, cause I was able to hang out with my friend again. I didn’t really think about it, it just kinda happened. I learned a lot from that period, and when she did , her big pop album, she would e-mail each other all the time, and she would tell me “I’m doing these songs, and they sound kinda poppy,” a little worried, and I would say “Are you happy?,” and she’d say “Yeah,” and she was then OK. It was a little shocking when we first toured it, and it was like “The arrangements are so different!,” or, “There are so many harmonies!,” but it’s hard for me to think about it and be objective, I just supported her and let her know “I’m behind you.”

Andrew: You were in one band, that was a very communal effort, then you joined your friend’s band, and now, all of these years later, it’s your band, with your name on the marquee, how does it feel after all of this time to front a band?
Ceci: It feels good. Tijuana No! was, like you said, all of us together, and you had to give in sometimes even if you didn’t feel like doing something, you had to learn how to share, how to communicate. With Julieta, it was very easy in the sense that it was all her, I’ll do whatever she needs me to do, and that’s it, so I didn’t have responsibilities. It was kinda lazy that way, haha, but it was a lot of fun. I just felt the need to do something, though. I started getting very anxious, and I decided to give myself that chance to start writing again, and it became a very natural thing that I started to want more freedom.

Andrew: So the EP came out about two years ago, and it was just three upbeat songs, more like a teaser, really. And now you have the full-length ready to come out. How do you go about choosing the songs that make up your first record? I’d imagine that you had a ton of songs back-logged
Ceci: I just don’t think about it. I just record as much as I can, and when the record is ready to come out, that’s when I choose. There are some things I’ll record and that just wait there, and I’ll have all of these new songs recorded that I’m really interested in and that I’m proud of and want to include, so I’ll switch a few, but it’s hard to say how I choose.

Andrew: You’ve been performing Latin music for 20 years, pretty much. You started out in a garage band, which became an underground hit, then a mainstream alterna-rock band, then you were in a pop superstar act. Latin pop music is the only genre of music that’s actually increasing in sales as the rest of the music world panics. As someone who has experienced the scene from every level, where do you see the popularity of Latin music going?
Ceci: I think it’s definitely growing. When I was growing up, it was all pop-rock, but there’s so much variety now, there’s hip-hop, punk, non-mainstream pop . . . there are also a lot of bands who want to sing in English now. I don’t really get it, but I guess everybody wants to be out there, but not really be considered a “Mexican band,” I don’t know. It’s very strange, but I’m intrigued by it, since there’s a lot of good stuff coming out.

Andrew: In a related question, when you started Tijuana No! in the late-80’s/early-90’s, there was a dearth of female pop musicians making great Latin music. Really the only pop idols that girls could look up to were people like Gloria Trevi and few others. How does it feel now, after seeing the landscape change, to see what you and Tijuana No!, Julieta and others may have changed to the point that there are so many great Latina singers who girls can look up to and feel that they can make it as musicians?
Ceci: I think times have changed. It used to be people saying “Hey, you’re my daughter, what are you doing with a bunch of guys?,” and Mexican culture was just so traditionalist, but I’m excited about now. I mean, Natalia (Lafourcade), I love her—she’s such a great musician and does such interesting stuff. And others, I’m just excited to see what’s out there, and I just felt it was time—I mean, you look at the U.S., there were so many women to look up to since I was little, and why did it take so long in Mexico? It was natural that it had to finally happen.