An interview with the Mexican garage rockers, whose debut album arrives this week via Get Hip. Above photos by David Barajas.
BY JONATHAN LEVITT
Ed. note: A month or so ago we here at BLURT got righteously dosed and premiered a smokin’ track from Mexico City’s Viv and the Sect, whose album This Will Pass arrives September 30 on America’s premiere garage rock label Get Hip. Not to push the whole “wall” metaphor excessively, but we still think that rawk ‘n’ roll is intended to bring folks together, not separate ‘em, and these four young men make excellent sonic ambassadors. Will someone in Washington, DC, please get these dudes a permanent work visa before November 8? Because after that, it’s possible that the only way to make American great again will be for us to start tunneling under that goddam barrier into Mexico and sneak musical talent like Viv and the Sect back under the border. Meanwhile, just to make this whole trans-cultural mashup-cum-garage-melting pot even weirder, our resident Viv fanatic, Jonathan Levitt, currently lives in Beijing, China, a locale not exactly known for its fuzz, distortion, wah-wah pedals, snot, and sneers. But as the saying goes, roll over Chairman Mao, and tell the Party the news. Take it away, Comrade Levitt… [Check out the band at the Get Hip site and online at their Facebook page: facebook.com/vivandthesect – and below, you can watch part of a recent live clip. Following the interview, there are also videos of a Mexican television appearance the band made last year.]
BLURT: Tell us how you all met.
VIV & THE SECT’S RHO MORAN: Hi There! I’m Rho I play the drums on Viv and the Sect. I first met Aleph [at] a gig of his first instrumental-surf band called “Terror Waves”, he and Israel were friends before. After a couple of months Israel had this idea to [form] a new band influenced by ‘60s bands like The Pretty Things, The Crawdaddys, etc. So we met together and started practicing some covers. This was [early] Viv and The Sect. I met John [at a] party, then when Israel left the band I asked John to join the band as a singer and he said yes, we played some gigs as a power trio until John introduced us to Mario, they met [at] school. We needed a bass player so John invited Mario to play with us, and that’s how Viv and The Sect [got] together.
Is there a healthy garage psychedelic rock scene in Mexico City?
RM: A few years a go there was a couple of bands doing some garage rock, but about garage psych there weren’t too [many] bands. These days [there] are so many garage and psych bands, the scene is getting bigger and bigger. There are gigs with international bands, like The Mystic Braves or The Night Beats, something that you didn’t think could happen five years ago.
ALEPH AGUILAR (lead guitar): The scene is getting bigger and it’s because all this music now is [viewed] as a new form of expression, it’s not just a Pink Floyd or Sgt. Pepper’s revival. It’s about [experimenting] with music, visuals [the total] psychedelic experience.
How did you guys manage to get on Cynics/Get Hip Records Impresario Gregg Kostelich’s radar?
RM: In 2012 we opened for The Cynics [at a] show in Mexico. Ernesto Fuzz [is a] friend we had in common. He is the one who made [that] gig possible. We are very grateful with Ernesto and with Gregg because he liked our stuff. Michael [Kastelic] knew us before Gregg I guess because [of] the song “I’m so Excited” this song is [on] a Spanish compilation called Mundo Salvaje [on] Rabia Teen Records.
Do you guys use any vintage gear?
RM: In Mexico [it’s] very difficult to get some vintage gear, but we are trying to get some real cool stuff, I have a ‘70s A Constantinople crash ride, it’s a rare edition, because it was only produced in the ‘70s. I also have a ‘70s Premier snare drum.
AA: Luckily we have been acquiring vintage gear. I have a ’63 Silvertone 1448 and a ‘70s Bush amplifier, which is a Mexican brand. On the record we used a lot of vintage gear, the producer had a lot of [vintage instruments], we used a ‘70s Ludwig, Burns guitars, a ‘60s Bass Fender Mustang.
Regarding the album This Will Pass, go into some detail if you could about the genesis of the record.
RM: When John and Mario started on the band the four of us began work on new stuff beside covers, when we had like 10 songs, we recorded a demo with some of them to see if [people would like it] and luckily, people loved it! So we decide to record an LP; we [were] looking for the right place because we [wanted] to sound like old stuff. One day we received a message [on] the [Viv fan] page [inviting] us for a gig. Then this guy told us that he had a home studio, we went to see it and we loved it! It was amazing to see all that vintage gear. [Hugo Quezada is a] well known producer here in Mexico. So we decided to record there. Gregg [hooked us up with] Jim Diamond to [cut the] master. [We love the sound] we got on the record, and are pretty sure that you guys will love it to!
My favorite track is the opener “Bleserone”—tell us how that track was born?
RM: John brought the first idea, and then we began to improvise; some ideas come up and we started to work on them. With these ideas we all imagined the path the song had to take. [We all began to work on] some ideas, and we tried every one of them, we all decided if those ideas worked or not. So the songs starts to sound like we wanted. The funny thing here is the name: Aleph imagined a song title that doesn’t have a real meaning in the dictionary or stuff, so next to the rehearsal room we saw graffiti written in some weird type [saying] something like “Bleresones” but we couldn’t remember what the exact phrase was. It’s our favorite and people love it!
AA: I remembered more of the history of the song, jajaja. I remember that I was with Rho in our rehearsal room, John was in Guerrero. We started to jam and make some riffs until the main riff was created, then we decided to do an aggressive part as an intro. We imagined how [we] could sound [like] the steps of elephants, so the first time we started the song like that. We thought that part was so aggressive at the beginning so Aleph suggested something different, something The Electras would do, soften [the] intro [with] more melody. So we started more melodic and later we exploded the song with those “Elephants Steps” to get the guitar solo. [That’s] what I remember, was at the beginning until we [arrived at the] song [that appears on the record].
Is the album only available on Get Hip or will it be released on a different label in Mexico?
RM: For now, it’s only available on Get Hip. In Mexico [it’s] hard to be heard by record companies, even for indies. We’ve been lucky because some of the indies media and underground media [have] listened to us and [liked] our stuff. We are trying to [promote our] music in [as many places as we] can.
Who designed the cool cover art?
RM: Vikki Vaden. Gregg thought she was the best choice [to] do it and when we saw her work we also thought the same. The picture on the cover was taken by a very talented photographer and a friend, David Barajas.
How under the radar are you guys in Mexico City? What are the crowds like at your shows?
RM: Now we are trying to get to some new public, is nice to go to gigs and see all our friend’s faces enjoying our music. Some of the bands which we used to play with are [no] longer playing or they are [on hiatus]. So [we’re] trying to play more gigs with bands that play punk, shoegaze, surf, etc.
AA: We like that our music can fit into many musical tastes in the city. Although we don’t know if we [have] a mainstream sound, we can say that our music is more easy to be heard [by] all people with [a variety of] musical tastes.
Can you tell us about some other bands in Mexico City that you feel are worthy of mention?
RM: There are a lot of new bands that deserve to be listened. My favorite bands are Los Selvaticos, Bang Bang Bang y los Espectros, El Shirota, The Cavernarios, Telekrimen, Los Explosivos, Los Mustang 66, Electric Shit, Moon Moon, and more.
Will you all tour for this album? If so, what are some of the bigger shows you have slated?
AA: Surely we [will] organize some gigs [across] Mexico to promote the record, but [there’s no concrete tour as of yet].
Any big garage music concerts in Mexico City?
RM: Recently there are some festivals down here in Mexico. Wild’ O Fest or Dark Zone gigs, [that] is where we met Gregg and Michael. And recently Mirador, they are doing more psych gigs with bands like The Mystic Braves.
Besides Mexico City are there other regions of Mexico that are into rock and roll? Juarez? I happen to be from El Paso, Texas.
RM: Yes! Beside Mexico Shitty (city) there are places like Aguascalientes or Puebla that began to make some noise in the scene, and lots of other places, I think Tijuana is one of the best places because [it’s] near the border and they do lots of festivals and the bands [that go there find it easier than travelling all the way down to] Mexico City.
How have Greg and Get Hip mentored you all as a band?
RM: We all think it’s amazing to be on Get Hip, because without [their] support we couldn’t have worked with cool people like Jim and Vikki. And it’s amazing to be a part of the Get Hip Family [with bands] like The Paint Fumes or The Maggie’s Marshmallow, they are amazing, and of [course] The Cynics.
Now that this album is out there what’s next for the band?
RM: Conquer the world!
AA: To be heard in all [parts] of the world, play in festivals, and be able to leave the country to go around the world.