At the Harvest of Hope Festival this year at the St. Johns County Fairgrounds I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Agrella and Ryan Slate of Look Mexico, a rock band on the rise, recently relocated from their home town of Tallahassee, Florida, to the biggest, most beautiful circus of the south, Austin, Texas. I’ve been a casual fan of the band for about four years now, an ex-girlfriend turned me on to them, I’ve since remained casual with Look Mexico, but not with the ex-girlfriend. We don’t really talk. But I digress. Point is, I think I’m warming up to Look Mexico a bit more now. Their sound has changed since I heard them last. They’ve parted ways somewhat with songs that you might think were an homage to a Sharks Keep Moving or Minus the Bear tune, and have begun crafting their own quality of sound. We discussed this and other topics including online downloading, mega-big rock bands, and their songwriting process as I sat down with them a day after their very impressive (and ultimately too brief) twenty minute set at harvest of hope.
Eric Streichert: I remember the first time I saw you guys, smaller venue obviously, in Melbourne, fl. Where are you guys from if not from there?
Look Mexico: We’re actually from Tallahassee; our old guitar player lived in Melbourne.
ES: The first song I ever heard from Look Mexico was Call off your lapdog, which kinda had that signature finger-tapping, slick, minus the bear-ish guitar style to it, the cutting drums. What I saw from you guys yesterday during your set seemed a departure from that in some ways, incorporating more driving, straight-forward rock elements to complement the parts where you go into different time signatures, more complex guitar riffs and what not. Was this a deliberate move, or did it occur organically over time?
LM: A little bit of both. I guess a little bit of growing up…not to say that what we were doing was immature of us, but we wanted to focus more on the songs not so much on the complexity of the music, it’s definitely flattering to have those comparisons, but we wanted to kinda have our own sound and progress as Look Mexico. The parts are still very important to us, to have those intricacies, but again and especially with the new stuff we’re focusing more on the songs themselves.
ES: I think that’s cool. When I saw you play in Jacksonville a few years ago it seemed like you guys were just turning the page as far as this different direction is concerned, do you have a new record coming out, and if so how much of this new record is a move, not necessarily a deliberate one but a move nonetheless in a different direction for Look Mexico?
LM: Yeah, March 23rd, To Bed To Battle, on Suburban Home records. Well we played three songs from the new album, and uhh…yeah, I’d say it’s definitely more a culmination of all of our own personal influences. We have some new members for this new record too, and now I think we’re focusing more on making music that we’d sit around and listen to, whereas before, you know, we’d come to each other and be like, “hey check out this sweet part I wrote” or “check out this riff!” and that’s still important but we’re definitely more focused on the movement of the songs and our dynamics. Before it was all on all the time, now it’s more about the ebb and flow, the wax and wane element.
ES: As far as songwriting goes, how much of that is a collaborative effort, does one of you serve as the chief songwriter, what is the process?
LM: We definitely all put in, for the most part Me (Matt Agrella) and Slate (Ryan Slate) come up with the initial idea and then we go from there. We’ll come up with something we think is catchy or interesting and then we’ll work on it as a whole. Our older stuff, you know, the song might be completely written by the time it made it to the rest of the band. I’d say for the most part with this new record the songs were written in a room with all five of us.
ES: And how long are you guys on tour?
LM: We’re actually…this is the last stop on our tour, we recently relocated as a band to Austin, Texas, so we started the tour there and made our way over here. We’re playing a last minute show in Tallahassee, then back to Austin where we’re playing four shows for SXSW, then we’ll have some downtime to relax and write.
ES: With Suburban Home being more of an “Indie” record label, a smaller record label, how are you guys going about distributing your music, especially with how music has changed so much in such a short amount of time in terms of availability? Are you guys doing anything differently in terms of how you market your music given this swift change in how music is obtained these days?
LM: Yeah, I mean, we have advance copies of our record on tour with us now, so people can buy them even though it doesn’t officially come out for another week or so. But it was really strange because we were on tour for like a week, and already the album had leaked onto the internet. It’s hard for a blooming band, a young band you know? We’re all still working at restaurants and anything we can make from this is a plus, so it was kind of a hit to us to see that it leaked, I mean, we had people coming to us saying, “Oh I like the new record!” and stuff, and it’s cool to get the feedback but at the same time we weren’t sure what to do. I mean, at this point, we’re not making a huge amount of money from record sales anyway, so one thing that was good that came out of it was the buzz it created for the shows, we definitely noticed an impact in the turnout after the leak.
ES: It’s interesting you say that. I read an interview with Tony Cavallario (Lead singer, guitar player in Aloha), and he said something that struck me…he said that the way music is now, with it’s availability and how quickly music can be shared he doesn’t believe that a great band can slip through the cracks anymore and go unnoticed, so I think it’s pretty interesting and I think I’d have to agree with both you and Tony in the sense that, you know, it’s out there now –
LM: I mean I could see it hurting the Foo Fighters or something, because they’re massively huge and record sales would go way down…I mean, it couldn’t hurt the too much (laughing), but you know, for us we just kinda had to embrace the fact that it was out there, and the guy who runs Suburban Home was really cool about it and just decided with us that we’d put the record up for pre-order now, and if they pre-order now they can download the album from the Suburban Home website right away, so it was cool, ‘cause y’know, it wasn’t like, “hey we’re angry, can’t believe this happened…”
ES: You’re not Metallica –
LM: Right! And it’s not like “hey we’re in a bad spot we need some money!” you know, were glad they have it and we’re glad they like it, that’s just the state of music today, it’s a commodity and it’s readily available and there’s a big demand for it…and I think it has helped the shows for sure.
Soon enough, Look Mexico isn’t going to need inventive ways to create buzz around their shows, as their musical direction has only improved over the band’s six year history thus far, and if their set was any indication, this band’s up-coming album is sure to generate a great deal more excitement toward their music and bring in listeners who might have previously written them off for either exploring well-worn territory or for making music that was over their head. Look Mexico deserves it, they’ve worked hard at it, they’ve toured non-stop, and, well shucks, they’re real nice guys (they had guys passing out free copies of their e.p.’s during their set). With that kind of approach, I’m feeling this thing between myself and Look Mexico could become something more than casual, if y’know what I mean…(customary elbow jab to rib cage).