By Derek Rhuland
Luis Maruette interview
I see that you two met at the Berklee school of music. There must have been a lot of talented musicians around. Why did you two decide to get together and start playing?
We both had an affinity for ritual music. It started by getting together and talking about music that goes beyond entertainment, that has a function, like does something. You know? So we are interested in that, and talk about that, and how to get to that, and exchange music. Anything from sermonic music from Mexico to Electronic Dance Music, which we feel like was doing similar things. And we had a lot of conversations about that, and through that we had the affinity to make some music together. Like, with that in mind. That as our goal.
Do you feel like you’ve achieved that goal, finding music that has a function? And if so, do you feel like you achieved that on your first album or only recently on Orcas? What do you think?
I think that, on one part that it’s a continuous goal. I don’t think its ever achieved. We’re always looking for it. So album after album, we continue to strive for that. And go further. And on the other hand, its hard to know how people react to the album. People can tell you, but it’s not a direct experience, so you don’t know. Like people are moved, people tell us they’re moved. People tell us they cry when they listen to the album. But it’s not a direct transmission. But then also when we’re playing live, we’ve definitely had a lot of experiences where people are moved, very moved. And very like, kind of, a communal transcendence experience that happens. And that doesn’t happen always, but it happens, sometimes.
You mentioned that Electronic Dance Music falls into that category of ritual music. And I tend to agree with you. I’m wondering, what, in your eyes, is the function that it serves?
Well, the function that it serves, I think is to kind of explore consciousness beyond the basic reality of eating, sleeping, you know, and working, or going to school. It allows, it’s such a repetitive music. A lot of trans inducing music, from like ____ music to new music, has a lot to do with repetition, you know? It’s like repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. And when you’re in there, slowly you kind of start loosening up, in a way. And you’re able to feel other things, think other things, experience other things. A lot of times this music is also paired with substances or experiences that take you to another kind of awareness. Either sleep deprivation, where you spend a long time without sleeping, so you start having other worldly experiences. Or different psychedelic drugs or different experiences that along with the music kind of break in to epiphanies or, you know, every person experiences it differently.
There is also something very communal about Electronic Music that I feel goes back to ritual music. When you’re dancing with a group of people, many times a sensation of group. The person that you’re dancing next to, that you don’t know, all of a sudden becomes very close. You know? It becomes a very intimate experience. So there’s also that.
It seems to me as someone from America that there’s perhaps a closer communication with ritual music in a place like Colombia than there is here, in the United States, where popular music seems to take all of the attention of the general population. Do see any differences in the reaction of the audience when you’re playing in a country that has closer ties to it’s indigenous culture?
Yes, I feel that, in a way, people are more thirsty for it here, because they don’t have it as much. And so, I feel that when people experience it at festivals or at our shows, people are much more into it and passionate about it because, you know, there’s a bigger thirst. Whereas, in Argentina or Colombia, where it kind of exists, more contact with it and stuff. People still have that connection, but it’s not with that kind of desperation or passion about it. Because there it’s part of the reality that they’re already living, it’s part of their life. But here, there’s a lack of it, and because of that lack, I feel that there is a bigger want for it, you know?
That makes sense. Have you ever collaborated with or had any experiences with any indigenous musicians from here in the United States, any Native Americans?
Well, we’ve, both Alejandra and me, we studied in Boston and then we lived in the Bay Area. And while we were living in the Bay Area, we got in touch with a lot of people from the Native American Church, and participated in many of their Teepee ceremonies and sweat lodge ceremonies. So we’ve learned a bunch of the ceremonial songs, and we’ve listened to beautiful singers and drummers from Native American community. And that also was absorbed into our music, and I feel it is respected from music.
There’s something universal about those people that it doesn’t matter if they’re from Peru or if they’re from Texas that, just the vibration where they’re coming from and what they’re singing about and for, is similar
Sonically, what would you say were some things you took away from that study?
I can tell you from my first experience in a Native American ceremony, when they brought out this water drum, which is this amazing drum that it has a deer hide and they fill it up with water, and they beat on it. And it has this really fast pulse that. (makes doom doom doom doom noise) Super intense. And the first time I heard it I was like, “Whoa, what is this?” Just the drum alone, it was very involving. It would kind of capture you, and at the same time something very dark and light about it. And when the drum tilts the tone of the drum changes (makes variations of noises). It would go down and up in pitch, with just one drum. So that, for example, is something that for me as a drummer something that I’ve included that kind of sound and that kind of drumming in our music. Because of the impact it had.
Oh, you’ve actually included the water drum itself?
Not the water drum as an instrument, because it is a sacred instrument, and I haven’t had access to it. But kind of the intention of how it is played and the intensity with which it is played. I’ve incorporated that.
You mentioned the sacred instrument aspect. I know that right now in the electronic dance community there is a focus won doing away with what is referred to as cultural appropriation, people wearing headdresses andthe like. Do you ever worry about your incorporation of sonic elements from different indigenous cultures, running afoul of this sensitivity?
Yes, well, one thing that we’ve always paid attention to from the beginning is to not do that. People will always ask us about what styles or what genres do you play. I feel like when I listen to music or when we listen to music, we kind of listen to it’s essence. So then I don’t feel like we are copying it. We’re not making a copy of Native American music. We’re not making a copy of (indigenous culture) music. We’re not making a copy of Samba music from Brazil. But there’s certain elements and there’s an essence that we resonate with, and somehow that is ingested and it comes out. It’s the same thing with Pop music. I feel like we all grow up listening as a fan of a big range of music, and all of it influences us to a point. And when we go to create something of our own, of course some of that is a little bit in it. But there is a very big difference between trying to be like, that is trying to be like a Native American or trying to be like Michael Jackson. And its very different when it’s like, oh this was influenced by Michael Jackson or influenced by these Native American chants. So in our place, we don’t really put on those headdresses or those spectacles, like appropriating other cultures. But we kind of mix ourselves with the other culture and then there is a new culture that comes out.
Like, I have another example for you. We went to this month long trip through Colombia, where we contacted a lot of indigenous musicians and Afro-Colombian musicians. And we were filming it, it was this project we did with (Vincent Moon?) And the result if called The Spin of the Tsunami, it’s this documentary. And the entire time when we would go and meet these musicians, our point was to go and listen to them and then mostly play together and improvise together. To make something new, which was not ours and not theirs, and it’s not about us documenting and archiving music. But it was something that we have this experience and they have that experience, and we can learn from each other and we can create something new.
Does that make sense?
Yea, that definitely makes sense.
Whereas, for instance, the relationship between western and indigenous culture, there has to be some collaboration, you know? We’re not imposing what it’s supposed to be on them and we’re also not taking. We’re like, “Ok, let’s play something together.”
Sure. That’s a sign of respect instead of appropriation, which is a sign of disrespect.
Looking at your tour schedule, it strikes me that you’re playing a lot of large markets: Oakland, Boulder, Albuquerque. But then you also make stops in much smaller areas like Mt. Shasta and Nevada City. Is that something intentional or is that just how the tour schedule shook out? Do you make it a point to go to more rural areas or smaller markets to play shows?
We make a point of going to specific places that we resonate with or that we have a connection with the community there. So, for example, we just played in Mt Shasta yesterday. And Mt Shasta that, if you’ve ever been, is very beautiful and there’s a vibe there that is really amazing. So, when were looking at our routing, we were like, “Oh, we’re going to be in Portland and we need to go down here. So let’s stop here.” All these places where we have considerable relationships with either the land or the people.
I actually have been to Mt, Shasta, and since we’re on the subject of the relationship with the land, I have to ask, have you ever heard of The Lemurians in Mt. Shasta?
What do you think about that?
I have my thoughts, but I don’t know if that should go in your interview. Haha. I don’t know if it should go there.
OK. What kind of connection do you have, or do you have any special connection with Taos, New Mexico?
Well Taos. This is the first time we play Taos. We have a big connection with the Santa Fe community. When we reached out to them about playing a show there, they always like to make really epic shows in special places. They were like, “We think this place in Taos is perfect. Do you guys want to play Taos instead of Santa Fe?” And we said, “Yes.” It’s this beautiful place called Taos Mesa Brewery, which is out in the open Mesa and they have a huge space outside and a really good concept inside. So it seemed like the perfect fit for us.
Cool. Personally, I’m down in Los Angeles. I was wondering if you’ve ever played the Teragram Ballroom before?
No. I had never heard about it. I thought it was new. But I’m not sure exactly how new it is.
When was the last time you toured in the United States?
Last time we toured the US was three years ago.
Three years ago. OK. I’d just like to ask in here, briefly, I know you’re going to be playing Enchanted Forest, and I know that you’ve played Lightning in a Bottle in the past. Could you just tell me briefly what are some of your favorite festivals to play in the world?
We just came from this festival, which is one of our favorites, which is called Beloved Festival. Which is, like, two hours south of Portland. It is a really amazing festival because the music line-up was really great. It really mixes… There’s a big world music aspect to it. So you have an African group, a Middle Eastern group, some Latin American groups, and it mixes it with electronic music. So then you have DJs, and house music, and bass music. So I really like that festival music, you have, kind of, everything. I get to see a lot of things that I would never get to see, if not. I get to see [unintelligible] from Africa, and there was devotional Pakistani music, which was really cool. And also the vibe there. It was a one-stage festival. So everything happens around this one field, which I think is something that works against most festivals. Like when there’s 3 or 4 stages, the energy is dispersed. You spend a lot of time in this sound battle in between stages where you hear 2 things and it just gets exhausting. So we really enjoy something like Beloved where everything is focused.
Interesting. On the subject of world music, I’m curious to know what you think about the category and the potential for your performances being assigned to that category.
Well, categories are difficult always. I feel like we’ve never fit in to any category. Like, they want to put us in Electronic music, but we’re not really electronic music. They want to put us into Latin music, but it’s not really Latin music. It’s not really World music. So, I feel like with categories, I don’t know. You need to use them so people can kind of understand, or people can approach the music to names. But I don’t think it really reflects what the music is.
OK. I know you said ritual music. Other than ritual music, what would you say reflects what your music is? What’s most important about it to you?
I think that in our music the composition, so the song and the lyrics, the composition works together with the audio part of it, the sonic part of it to try and create an experience. A sonic experience. An emotional spiritual experience. I feel like that’s what we really strive for. On one hand, I’ve studied psychoacoustics, and semantics, and things that have to do with vibration, and really think of sound as this vibrational matter. And then also listening to new sounds that are available, new trends and sounds, new sound systems. Our latest album the concept was, I’m talking about Orcas, if you listen to it on small speakers, it sounds like Folk music. If you listen to it on a system with bass, it puts a whole layer underneath that takes advantage of the new bass speaker technology. So, it’s hard to define the music, I think.
Our short hand version is always Electronic Folk. Or Electronic Folklore, which is a little different. That’s kind of what it is short hand, but I don’t really like it.
In what ways has your studying psycho-acoustics shaped your musicianship?
A lot. For me, the musicians that I admire the most are those who are thinking about what the actual sound is. Not only what notes are being played or what rhythms are being played, but how that sound is being transmitted out. So, being able to know a little bit of electronics, a little bit of sound engineering, and speakers. It’s almost as important to pick something because it is a big low end and the speakers will pump it out, whereas it is rhythmically to make it down. Or drums that fill up space. So knowing that [unintelligible] vibration. Vibration is something that you cannot turn off. Like your eyes, you can close your eyes and not see anything. Sound is something that you cannot stop. And there’s certain sounds that can make you go to the bathroom. You know, sounds at different volumes can make you shit yourself in your pants and different things. So knowing this has really helped into what our original intention is. To create a music that is not just entertainment, it is something that is happening. And it is not just emotional. It’s not music that is only emotional, like my feelings and what I feel. It is something else. It’s hard to define.
Would you say because of your focus on psycho-acoustics that Lulacruza music is more physical than other electronic music or other music out there nowadays?
Yes. Yes, I think so.
And that’s an intentional thing on your part?
Ok. Well actually, I’ve got to run. But I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
No. Thank you! Let us know when it is written and we’ll share as well.
Yes, I will. In all likelihood I’ll be seeing you in Los Angeles, so I’m looking forward to that show.
Awesome. Perfect. Thank you.