Mariachi horns meet DJ scratching, a mix of the traditional and contemporary sounds of Mexico fused together by Troker, a Jazz and Funk band playing out of Guadalajara, Mexico. Troker is an instrumental band, but it’s hard not to be captivated by the stories that they tell with their music – stories of every heist movie you’ve ever watched. We caught up recently with Baterista (Drummer), Frankie Mares ahead of their fifth album release to talk about the band. Here’s what he had to say….
Your music has been described as similar to if Salvador Dali created a heist movie. How accurate is that?
It depends on how you look at it. Dali was an incredible artist, someone who broke the rules and created their own language. It’s hard to imagine that we do something similar in our music. We have a way to go to even try. However, what we do identify with is surrealism. Our music is suggestive and slightly removed from this world. Our pieces do not conform to the structures and logic of popular music.
As for heists and chases, there is definitely something of them in our songs, which are typically action-packed.
If you could have written the soundtrack to any movie, which one would it be?
Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill or Pulp Fiction. The cinematographic language of Quentin Tarantino is definitely a great inspiration. He has an ability to make violence beautiful (maybe it’s the fact that we are Mexican that makes us identify with this) and satirize life, unfolding contrasts in a way which would offer opportunities for our compositions. He also makes use of a non-linear narrative – a structure you can readily identify in our work.
Where do you find your inspiration?
In Mexico, definitely. It would be hard to list all the things that inspire us in our beautiful, colorful, diverse, communal and surreal country. Besides that, there are the socio-political complexities that mark us as citizens. All of this baggage helps us build our musical language, along with the experience of playing together for 15 years.
Tell us about your best memory while performing, or the best venue that you have played at.
Without doubt our best memory is having played at the legendary Glastonbury festival in England in 2013 and 2014. This is an incredible event in so many ways: independent, democratic and full of identity. People love it.
Troker have been fortunate enough to be the only band invited in consecutive years to perform on one of the main stages. We cannot fail to mention that we had a great relationship with the organizers and producers of the West Holts Stage. For our second visit, they welcomed us to a backstage area covered with Day of the Dead decorations, in honor of the beautiful Mexican tradition.
Can you tell us when you first started playing music?
Each member began at different times and in different cities. I joined my first rock band at age 11…
… the bassist Samo Gonzalez began performing at age 14 with a traditional Mexican music group…
… and our keyboardist Christian Jimenez began playing the piano when he was still wearing diapers.
And when did you decide to form the band?
The decision to form the band came from me and Samo in 2004. They had come to the city of Guadalajara in search of opportunities to develop their careers as musicians. The original intention was to compose instrumental music aligned to classical jazz, but with the innovative addition of a turntable. They started recruiting local musicians to assemble the pieces and began playing in bars and restaurants around the city.
We notice you have a DJ in the band who scratches! Did you have this vision for the band when you started out, or is it something that has developed over time?
We have used a turntablist ever since our first live gig. The idea came from an album by Medeski, Martin & Wood with DJ Logic that blew our minds. Today we can say that we love working with the turntable, because of all the possibilities it offers us to incorporate it as another musical instrument.
Tell us about your experience of the music scene in Mexico.
We worked for years to achieve a certain level of quality in our work and that gave us a level of prestige within the independent scene. The problem was that was not enough to attract attention from festivals or the media. At that time, the industry had not yet fully defined itself, it was still using outdated practices and many sectors were resistant to change. So we decided instead to start exporting our music. We brought it to people who were willing to listen to a Mexican band with a different sound and that worked well.
Today, the music scene in Mexico is stronger than ever. There are hundreds of festivals, bands, schools, professional meetings. Troker is looking to find its place in this ecosystem.
From the outset we were clear that our mission was and will be to make provocative, unexpected music that makes heads turn. If the result of this effort never draws mass audiences, we are fine with that.
When you contacted us, you signed off from the “land of Tequila”! What is your favorite Tequila?
Troker’s favorite tequila is Siete Leguas, although that is not an advertisement! Whenever we travel abroad we buy bottles to share with people so they can experience and enjoy a good white tequila.
What’s next for Troker?
In November 2018, we are releasing our fifth album called Imperfecto. For the first time ever, we will have a couple of vocal collaborations – with the Mexican Renee Mooi and Freedom Bremner, the vocalist of Screaming Headless Torsos. We are very excited about this process and very busy. Meanwhile, Troker is always playing live. In 2018, we have presentations in the United States, Canada and South America. We are also working on a return to Europe for the summer of 2019.