Music » Music Stories & Interviews


Cafe Tacuba: Eclectic Mexican art punks. Courtesy photo
Mexico City's Cafe Tacuba walks four paths in one musical direction

The art punks in Mexico City's Cafe Tacuba have been releasing music for 12 years now, creating genre-bending album after genre-building album, playing exactly what they've wanted whenever they've wanted. They've made important records and been called the Mexican Beatles, the Mexican Pogues and the Mexican Radiohead. But they haven't been bogged down by their musical significance.

The wonderful thing about Cafe Tacuba (who will be in Texas for the upcoming Austin City Limits Music Festival) is how goddamn carefree they are. How else could they cook up music that brings together rock, ska, hip-hop, and pretty much everything else they've ever heard - while smiling through the entire process.

These barrio boys hooked up when they were all in art school. Somewhere along the path, they figured out that their palette was limitless, that attention-deficit disorder can be a gift, that it may take a while for the world to catch up, but who cares when you're having such a good time. Cafe Tacuba are the rare serious artists who don't seem to over-think things, who just throw everything against a wall to see what sticks and what kind of wonderful mess they can create.

"At the beginning and now, too, we've tried to reflect all the influences that we listened to in childhood, as teenagers," keyboardist/vocalist Emmanuel del Real says. "We listened to everything from traditional Mexican music to popular Latin music to all the things that come from the Anglo market, from the Beatles to disco music to heavy metal to bossa nova.

"We tried to be a band that we would want to listen to. The truth is, we're not the band we thought we were going to be."

Because nobody could have imagined this kind of band in advance. The band that Cafe Tacuba may resemble most, in ethic if not quite as much in sound, is the Dismemberment Plan, - D.C. art punks who know that Avril Lavigne can be as valid a reference point as Fugazi, who love both the Talking Heads and James Brown. One obvious difference though, is that the Plan's show-offy meter-changing madness is driven by their singular drummer, while Tacuba didn't even employ a drummer until their most recent album.

So Cafe Tacuba's new record, Cuatros Caminos, is the closest thing to a rock record they've ever made.

Saturday, September 20
Zilker Park, Austin
(512) 389-0315
"Every album, we try to do everything different," del Real says. "The album is a reflection of what we are now, and that's what it's always been for us. And now we try to play with a drummer because, of course, it's going to be a different energy. The way we play our instruments is different, the way we approach it is different.

"At the end, we're playing what we've always listened to, but there are new ideas. We feel pretty much new."

And many people are just now discovering Cafe Tacuba.

"I just think it's a matter of timing, like there is maybe a space `to fill` in music and there are no other bands showing up," del Real says. "The thing is, yeah, the reaction has never been like this before, and we're very happy about it."

It's been a pretty gratifying joyride even as all of Cafe Tacuba's members have been driving on their own road for the last dozen years. Cuatros Caminos is the name of a Mexico City train station, but it also literally translates to "four paths."

"Each one of us has our own personal thing," del Real says. "Now I am 34, and I'm thinking ideas I didn't when I was 20. Of course, we were more innocent about everything; we know more things about the media and the industry now. But it's natural how we're evolving. I would like to have those moments of innocence, when you're not thinking so much. But after 14 years, you express all your experiences, what you have learned through the years.

"Our idea and our philosophy is to be whatever we are and try to reflect our ideas and our feelings in the moment and to mix it `together`. The four of us, we feel very comfortable together. And I think the results have been very successful, at least artistically." •

Support Local Journalism.
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the San Antonio Press Club for as little as $5 a month.