Rey Pila are a band from Mexico City, a fact that was repeatedly emphasized last night by the glances of Spanish I caught bouncing around Glasslands. Their origin was one of the things that drew me out on a rainy night and post-SXSW exhaustion to hear their brief live set last night. I personally don’t understand why there aren’t more Spanish indie rock bands? More Japanese, African and Indian ones? I know they exist but they so rarely seem to make it into the conversation. I think half the reason we’ve become so bored with indie rock in general is because of the narrow lens of experience it tends to spring from. It seems like boredom and backlash are all I hear about lately. Concertgoers are bored. We’re bored of indie rock, we’re bored of brands. We’re bored of Britain and Swedish electropop and New Zealand superstars.
Into this unforgiving ennui steps the Mexican revolution–Rey Pila. It won’t just be Rey, and they sing mostly in English, but still, there’s something fresh in the groaning, slow rolls of the band’s sound. There’s a sense of the arid expansive landscape of Mexico in these glittering riffs. The songs are contextualized differently and I think we can chalk that up to where they come from and what inspires them. There’s the feeling of desolation amidst commercial outposts. It feels just right that the group are putting out their second record through Julian Casablancas’ label Cult Records. The aloof nature of The Strokes haunts their sound, though they exhibit playful aura on-stage that tends to exist only in bands that aren’t “big” yet.
Rey Pila began as the solo project of Diego Solorzano, who put together their self-titled album back in 2009 and then toured it into the ground. Opening for the likes of Muse, Ariel Pink, and TV on the Radio, the band would also headline shows in Mexico City. Eventually, they caught the ear of Casablancas, relocated to New York, and recorded their sophomore album in DFA Record’s New York studio. The Glasslands performance was something of a one-off for the outfit after the grueling schedule of SXSW, and since I missed them down there, I decided to come out to the show.
But I was unprepared for Diego Solorzano dancing with the kind of reckless abandon usually reserved for the very drunk or the very small–though he was neither. No, instead it seemed merely that he was enjoying himself, that making music made him happy. The songs too reflected this carefree feeling, something that’s been missing from the darkly existential and serious rock that’s made its way to the peak of the zeitgeist recently. The band’s Twitter bio reads “Chill Apocalypse” and it’s that kind of tongue-in-cheek happiness that filled their songs and performance. It’s worth noting too that the band has already racked up 28K followers on Twitter, not essential proof of fans by any means, but a fairly large number for an indie export on their sophomore record.
It was also impressive to see a relatively large crowd trek their way to Glasslands on a drizzly Wednesday. I got there an hour before their slated 11:00 p.m. set time and the venue was nearly empty. But within an hour, both the dance floor and the ample balcony above were filled with people. When they played their new single “Alexander” people knew the words, sang along, and freely danced, no doubt loosened up by Solorzano’s own freedom. He would occasionally quit vocal duties to work a sampler, and even ventured down into the audience at points, as he did during “Alexander” to dance more closely with the crowd.
Overall, the five piece impressed me with their slick, bombastic sound. What’s more, their interspersed cries of “Mexico City!” between songs is certainly nothing I’ve heard yelled at a Glasslands show before. Solorzano can make his voice a deep gravely baritone reminiscent of The National, but still shies away from their internal, existential pain, as closer “No Longer Fun” aptly demonstrated. It has huge, ripping guitar hooks and a half-sung, half-yelled chorus that ironically celebrates the apathy it proclaims. This last song seemed to be the one that finally got the crowd into the swing of having fun, but there was no encore. Still, the show was more than enough to convince me that when their sophomore record is ready, it will be a fun one to hear.
What a Nice Surprise
No Longer Fun