Photos and text by Luis Lucio.
I’ve known Native Sun for a year now. I met Danny because he was in another band around that time and we weren’t really friends but I would see him around and he was always really nice whenever I saw him. I met Mauricio when he first moved here a year ago and I told him that he should connect with and talk to Danny. So they met and they started playing together.
I basically did this interview because I really only take photos so I figured this was a new challenge and adventure. But more relevant to them I wanted to find out if they were actually real. For a lot of bands it’s not really about the music anymore. But when I talked to them they were passionate, really passionate about what they were saying to me.
For the interview and shoot we actually went to the cemetery. It was a week before Halloween and we had to trespass to enter and leave. It wasn’t meant to be a spooky thing, it was more of a philosophical decision. They actually had the flags with them already which we ended up using for the photos. I spoke to the band ahead of the release of their debut EP, Songs Born From Love and Hate out this Friday November 17th.
So why start a rock & roll band?
Jake: I think when rock & roll started it had a certain energy, a meaning and a way of communicating a message that now is lost but that spoke to us growing up. Now we have a voice and want to communicate and we want people to listen, a rock & roll band is the only way we know how to do that because that’s just who we are.
Danny: Yeah, it’s simple. This is just what we do. We have to do it otherwise you’re bordering the line between sanity and insanity. Rock & roll is the way I feel. Although it’s so far from it’s roots, you know, from the people? Because of the mass production market it has become, it’s a devalued art but we are expressing something genuine and there’s nothing wrong with that.
How do you feel about the New York music scene?
Alexis: Even when I attended shows all the time I was never in it. Now, it’s weird that you gotta prove yourself to someone that you don’t really care to prove yourself to. I don’t understand what the point is in having a confrontational attitude towards each other when we’re trying to do the same thing. That’s the first thing I noticed.
Danny: We don’t care about what other people are doing really. It’s a competition so what’s the point of doing it if you don’t want to be the best?
Mauricio: I just moved here so I don’t know the people in “the scene” but I’m in a band and our music is all I care about.
Jake: If there’s five core aspects of what it means to be in a band in New York, the last one is music for most of the bands here.
Do you have a message?
Danny: Bringing rock & roll back to the people and putting it into their deepest core.
But you could play other kinds of music, you’re talented musicians.
Alexis: Not me! [laughs]
Danny: I think he means “I can only play Native Sun songs.” I think that adds something to the music, we’re not trying to do anything but only what we really are and that makes sense in this band.
What I mean is you could play other stuff, there’s already many “rock bands”
Danny: It’s catharsis! It pours out from us. As soon as Jake grabs his guitar it translates to that, it’s his medium. The same way like Caetano Veloso, we’re obsessed with him by the way, and that’s someone that grabs latin and african music and mix it with country, rock, blues, pop—who we are as individuals and what we play comes out naturally. I’m latin so we play a lot with soul and rhythm, the music we play is very rhythmic even if it doesn’t seem like it at some points. They’re downbeat and upbeat for a reason and that’s maybe attributed to growing up with salsa music being played in the house and things like that, that helped to always have a groove going.
I love rock music but what if it didn’t exist?
Jake: It would exist! There’s no “if it didn’t exist.” Yeah there was a time when it didn’t exist but someone had a message and when it came out that was the way, via rock & roll. If we made it all the way to 2017 and it didn’t exist yet it would be on the break of coming. It’s in the air we breath.
It’s part of humanity…
Jake: It’s definitely part of humanity. It’s the natural way for certain type or group of people express them selves, so if that person didn’t find that voice until today rock & roll would be invented right now. There’s no way of imagining it not existing.
Danny: It’s very interesting, rock is just as much a label really. You can go back to classical music like Bach and maybe that was the rebellious music of it’s time or era—like jazz in the 1920’s. It was rebellious music. It’s just the natural progression of history, technology and the evolution of song writing.
Mauricio: I don’t know, it’s hard to say. It’s just a way of expressing yourself. If a kid is just learning to play guitar and maybe he’s angry and he express that, there’s rock & roll in that. I don’t know, it’s like heavy music, you don’t need to add a lot of fuzz and distortion, you can use an acoustic guitar and add deep meaning for a song and it could be the heaviest song in the world.
So you bring something to it?
Danny: Yeah we bring it back to that realness. We talk about real issues. Our songs are about real things not about dragons and fairies. It’s about the real life struggles of people we know and don’t know.
So if you weren’t doing music what would you be doing?
Danny: I don’t know, I don’t see it.
Jake: It’s tough to conceive. Whenever I’m doing random things I find myself either singing or tapping on something to make some noise.
How does your heritage factor into the way you make music?
Danny: It’s interesting in that context of “what do you do and why are you doing it?” I was reading this interview with Ray Davis where he talked about how music is for rebelling against parents or something else. He said it can be different kinds of rebellion, you know? It’s what you make it. I’m first generation in this country, so for some people in my family it’s like “what is he doing?” because also I’m the first one trying to do music. Our music—we have more perspective, we’re not another band of four indie white dudes that generation after generation got so much privilege. Rich kids trying to do art to be part of a “scene,” for us it’s more like life or death, we’re really risking a lot to do something. We’re showing our friends and family that are not here that we can do it.
What’s your ideal performance?
Jake: To be able to play for the dead. I’d love the opportunity to have my entire lineage in the audience. Being the least latin-American in the group, I think about my heritage all the time—where I’m from and what that means for me specially in contrast with the rest of the band. Would my great grand father be pissed and how would he cope with it? Just to perform is my way of communicating to the people that brought me here—it’s a full circle feeling.
What about for a famous dead person?
Jake: Buzz Light Year and Sheriff Woody [laughs]. Jerry Garcia because you gotta play for the Dead if you’re playing for the dead.
Mauricio: John Bonham because he’s the most important person in history.
Alexis: Jim Morrison, we would be best friends. He would drink whiskey and I would drink tequila.
Danny: Federico Garcia Lorca. He was killed for his art, you know? It would be interesting to bring your art to someone that was killed for theirs.