Q&A: Listening to Ocote Soul Sounds

Ocote Soul Sounds was created in 2004 when Martin Perna (Antibalas) and Adrian Quesada (Grupo Fantasma) began to jam together and make what Perna describes as “Latin American folktronic-funklore.” Three albums later, they’re still experimenting with the Afro Latin groove that first united them. I recently caught up with the guys and here’s what they had to say:

How did you guys meet?

Martin: I recorded and performed very sporadically until about 2004, when I was on a road trip coming back from Mexico and broke down outside of Austin, Texas on my way back to Brooklyn. I stayed with Adrian Quesada, the one person I knew there, and we built a friendship and musical partnership that resulted in our first album, El Niño y El Sol. We released it independently. Adrian gave it to Rob Garza and Eric Hilton from Thievery Corporation, and before we knew it, we were signed to their label, ESL Music.

What's your inspiration?

Martin: My inspirations come from all over: nature, food, dreams, spirituality, my ancestors, my travels.

Adrian: My inspiration comes from the moment.

How is your latest album, Coconut Rock, different from previous albums?

Martin: Coconut Rock is different in that it has a more live, organic feel that reflects the broader pool of musicians that we invited to help make the record. There are a lot more vocal songs on the album whereas the first two records were mostly instrumental.

Adrian: It also plays start to finish like a record that has a live feel to it rather than a pastiche of sounds and ideas.

Is playing live ever a challenge?

Adrian: Both Martin and I come from a live background so assembling a cast of talented friends is never an issue nor is musicianship and experience, the challenge for me is faithfully and respectfully recreating these compositions we put down on record! It's a journey rather than a destination and we have fun every time we do it.

Adrian, you’re also a member of Brownout!; how do you manage leading several bands? Does it ever become too much?

Adrian: To be honest there's days when one band seems too much but it's what I love to do so I can't complain. The other 360 days a year it's a blessing to make music with my friends and know that someone out there wants to hear it.

Martin, I know you’re interested in sustainable living; how do you combine that with music?

Martin: Touring is not sustainable! It involves so many resources, is very expensive and wasteful even when you try to do it efficiently and cheaply. That's the hardest part of doing music—hitting the road and putting the rest of my life on hold. I was touring and travelling this summer and when I got back to Texas, my chickens were dead and my garden was completely wilted!

What's in store for 2010?

Martin: We are doing some shows in California in early February, and will be trying to finish our fourth record so that it comes out some time in the summer of 2010.

Catch Ocote Soul Sounds at the Mondo Mundo Festival at Hiro Ballroom in New York this Saturday at 7 p.m.