Q&A: Three Questions for the Cuban Cowboys

Bilingual band The Cuban Cowboys play surf rock muddled with a shot of Habana Club. Led by Miami native Jorge Navarro, this foursome put on a roaring live show that always includes some mention of Fidel. I caught up with “Hialeah Jorge” to talk about his upcoming album, The Devil’s Dance (out April 2010), and here’s what he had to say:

What stories can we expect to hear in the album?

Lots of family stories, claro, along with some social and political issues. For instance, “El Danzón de Noventa Millas” is about the 90-mile chasm between the U.S. and Cuba—an unfortunate, inhumane mix of politics and idiocy from both sides. "Liberace Afternoon" tells the story of my grandmother’s passion for playing the piano. She was a piano teacher in Cuba, and, finally, after 10 years in the U.S. my family was able to afford to buy her a piano. She played continuously/daily—much to the chagrin of my father and me. I did not realize until many years afterward that she was my first music teacher. “Señor Balaban” relates how/where my grandfather got sex advice from a Habana street character, El Caballero de Paris, while also describing how my grandfather and father once tried to talk to me about sex.

What or who are your influences?

In no particular order: The Pixies, Tom Waits, NYC's Lower East Side, The Clash, Buena Vista Social Club, John Dewey, Beni More, Arsenio Rodriguez, William James, The Holy Roman Catholic Church (iconography), NYC's F and G and L Trains, Rushdie, Marc Ribot, Wilco, Dwight Yokum, Silvio Rodriguez, the Cuban Exile Experience, Iggy Pop, My Dad's Alcoholism and Philandering, Old-97s, Steve Earle, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Jonathan Richman, Conjunto Matamoros, Hialeah, Florida, Miami, Bukowski, Miami Cubans, Oscar Wilde and Bola de Nieve.

And what part does Fidel Castro play in all of this?

Ironically, the Castro regime has been part of the tension running throughout TCC’s songs, imbuing the narratives with bitterness, resolve and a certain purpose. I consider myself “Pro-Cuba, Anti-Castro and Anti-Embargo.” While in several key ways, the Revolution and Fidel are to be admired, the human rights abuses, hunger, and brutal repression cannot be ignored. Cuba must be free, but said freedom is for the Cuban people to determine. Cuba's future and freedom must not be determined by anyone or anything else.

Catch The Cuban Cowboys this Friday at the Here Comes Trouble showcase at the 92nd Street Y in New York.