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"A lot of bands we end up playing with on those gigs are kind of like high school bands," Culp says. "They all tend to have the same sound, which is basically Latin music influenced by the Cure or the Smiths or something. And it's been that way for about 25 years now."
Within the Hispanic community, Enrique says, there's a lot of variation in the music-fan demographic. Low-income immigrant workers gravitate toward more traditional rural Latino sounds. But there also are Latino kids with better educations who come from a higher socioeconomic background, and media and marketing groups don't quite know how to reach them.
"It's like the difference between somebody from rural Alabama and New York City," he says. "It's just drastically different backgrounds. These kids might be into indie bands. They might be Buzz listeners. They might be into hip Mexico City bands. So there's this weird gap that we're trying to fill, and part of the challenge is to get the mainstream music business to not see you as only part of Latino culture. A traditional venue sees us on the edge there and says, 'Well, you wouldn't make sense opening up for whatever buzzy indie band.' When in fact we would and we have, and it works. We've done it.
"So one big lesson we've learned from Lobos is not to be afraid to try new, weird ideas," Enrique continues. "Lobos toured with the Clash. They functioned like a punk-rock band. It was a do-it-yourself, book-your-own-gigs, trade-shows-with-bands type of thing. That's how they started, playing with the Blasters and the L.A. punk scene. That's what we try to do. We play underground shows here in town at Club Moustache, and we'll play with punk bands on tour in San Antonio or whatever. Or we'll play a Mexican festival and just not give a shit that we're different than the other bands and just let whatever happens happen. To me, we're a fuckin' punk band. We're outside of the music business. If people like what we're doing, fine, and if not, fuck 'em."
Listen to A La Deriva and you'll quickly pick up on some of the fiery confidence that Chi's hinting at there. On Making Movies' 2009 debut LP, and last year's Aguardiente EP, there are some Anglo-pop moments, but largely the songs hew to familiar Latin rhythms and cadences — the salsa, merengue and cumbia records that the Chi brothers absorbed from their mother's record collection growing up in Panama, with some modern-rock flavors sprinkled in.
There's no mistaking that A La Deriva is rooted in Latin music — more than half the songs are sung in Spanish, and Chaurand's inspired Afro-Cuban backbeat is a constant — but there are plenty of moments when you wouldn't think to file Making Movies under any genre except plain old rock. Or, yes, punk: "Pendulum," a highlight, snarls and chimes like a London Calling track, and Diego's dirty, restless bass turns it into something irresistible. "Ciego Sin Querer" is sung in Spanish but has guitar tones like you'd hear on Radiohead's Hail to the Thief or In Rainbows. "Ready for the Rain" shows some new range; its gray soar has echoes of a slow-burning My Morning Jacket ballad.
It's a big step forward musically. I was a casual fan before, but after hearing A La Deriva, I'm kind of a believer. I'm not alone. In recent months, NPR and CNN Español have run segments on Making Movies. The band is getting strong play on KTBG 90.9 (the Bridge). And to get the word out about the album (out officially March 5, though you can pick it up on CD at just about any record store in town), Making Movies is doing a long run of dates that includes trips to Panama, Puerto Rico and a month through the American Southwest. Riding a strong new album and a publicity push, the group hopes to see significant added turnout on tour this year.