The five-piece outfit known as Kinky may be headlining the Pachanga Latino Music Festival tour that lands at Gas Monkey Live! in Dallas on Friday night but don’t get it twisted.
These guys — originally from Monterrey, Mexico, but now based in Los Angeles — don’t stick to anyone’s narrow definition of Latino music.
Veering from rock to dance, norteño to techno — as well as from Spanish to English and serious to playful — they’ve often upended expectations over the course of six albums, including the latest, MTV Unplugged, and a career of frenetic live shows. For lead singer Gil Cerezo, it’s no big deal.
“The city where we grew up, it’s pretty close to the border,” he says of Monterrey by phone from L.A. “We would jump into English and go back and forth. It was in the movies and a lot of the stuff we consume is in English.”
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Way back in 2002, keyboardist/programmer Ulises Lozano even told the Los Angeles Times that “language should not matter.” And Cerezo is no fan of the “rock en español” marketing label some record companies slapped on Latin American bands like Kinky in the group’s early days.
“It was really narrow,” he says. “It’s hard to explain a whole country or a whole musical movement with a single phrase.”
In fact, in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Monterrey — partly because of its cultural duality — was a pop-music hotbed attracting attention well beyond Mexico’s borders.
In addition to Kinky, such acts Plastilina Mosh, El Gran Silencio and Control Machete — whose infectious Sí Señor became a staple in American commercials and soundtracks for a time — were putting the spotlight on a city otherwise mostly known as an industrial center.
But it all would be overshadowed in the public mind by the rise of narco-traffickers along the border and the associated explosions of violence.
That was a death sentence for a music scene finding its footing.
“Live shows and going out are pretty important for expanding the music,” Cerezo says. “And it was kind of dead for four or five years. All of the principal places that we used to play got shut down.”
Still, Cerezo says that was not the reason Kinky — which also includes guitarist Carlos Cháirez, bassist Cesar Pliego and drummer Omar Góngora — relocated to California a decade ago.
“It was a circumstantial thing for us,” he says. “We do were doing a lot of scoring, for TV and stuff like that, and at the same time we were recording our second album [in Los Angeles].
“We found management based in Los Angeles that we were pretty close with. So we started to spend a lot of time in Los Angeles. And we like the city as well.”
Though there’s one thing he doesn’t like about living in L.A.
“You have people who work in the [music] industry around you and there are lots of chances to meet interesting people. But, at the same time, in our little scene, the Latin scene, it’s not as interesting,” he says.
Yet he says he feels at home when the band plays anywhere in Texas.
“Texas feels like an extension of Mexico in some parts,” he says. “A lot of the traditions, the people and the food.”
Speaking of Mexico, something that really pleases him is that the Monterrey scene appears to be rebounding from the dark days of drug violence.
“There’s a lot going on,” he says. “Back [when we were there], it was more underground. Now, there are big festivals and big acts come through ... It’s a more cosmopolitan city and the scene in Mexico in general has been growing … .
“Kids are doing music from early ages and there’s a bunch of new stuff happening from regional norteño to electronic to really interesting forward-thinking music. It’s a really interesting scene right now.”
Cary Darling, 817-390-7571
Pachanga Latino Music Festival
featuring Kinky, Compass, Motel, Ceci Bastida, Mala Rodriguez, Enjambre, Ximena Sariñana and Maria del Pilar
8 p.m. Friday
Gas Monkey Live!, 10110 Technology Blvd. E, Dallas
$20, $25 day of the show; $40 VIP