Since their ground-breaking US debut the Amigos have lived a double life. In their hometown of Caracas, Venezuela, they’ve hosted underground club nights for years (the most recent called ‘Super Sancocho Variety’). Then, insouciant single-entendre songs like “Sexy” and the doggy-style anthem “Ponerte En Cuatro” landed them on MTV and radio, and before long, the six young men found themselves pop idols. It wasn’t hard, but their hearts remain on the dance floor and in the clubs.
AREPA 3000 is live instruments, start to finish. “Electronic music tries to simulate human sounds,” says the guitarist. “It’s really easy to buy a groove box or an 808 to make us sound like techno. So we try to get those sounds from our instruments, to go the other way. Make the human sounds sound electronic. When we do our club shows, I’ll spin before our set and we’ll add live instrumentation. We can play four, five hours like that.”
“Amor” is a prime example — a bumping slice of SalSoul-era disco beefed up by Masters At Work-style production. The ridiculously catchy anthem is actually the work of a little-known Venezuelan composer Jorge Spiteri and his band Ma–ana. “No one knew about them here, but the song was a UK number one dance hit in 1980,” says Jose Luis. “We were amazed, we knew the guys — they’re session musicians and they do jingles.” And it was fate when he walked into their practice space a day before they were to travel to San Francisco to begin recording their new album with a stack of his old records under his arm. “We fell in love with all of them, but when we heard ‘Amor’, we were like, This is incredible!”
From junglist Roni Size/Reprazent to relative newcomers Groove Armada and Rinôçérôse, Jose Luis has watched club culture swing back toward live playing. “It confirmed our theory,” he says. “It’s really fun to see a band playing and feel the energy…The deal is to understand that a DJ has all the possibilities, all kinds of music to make the crowd happy. Then the live band brings the energy. So if you can have a live band play like a DJ, it’s the best of both worlds.” Even better, the Amigos know no stylistic boundaries. Sexy tropical dance tracks like the hyper merengue “El Sobon”, the classic salsa “Llegaste Tarde” and electro bossa nova “Si Estuvieras Aqui” demand respect on Latin dancefloors. Mixing house, funk, and Latin elements with nods to hip-hop, drum ‘n’ bass, and lounge, Los Amigos’ versatility is worth their weight in vinyl.
But compared with that of bedroom beatmakers and solitary DJs, the lifestyle of the touring band has its advantages. Sort of. “We started writing ‘Masturbation Session’ about life on tour,” says Jose Luis about AREPA 3000’s most salacious track. “But life on tour isn’t so much about groupies, it’s more about masturbation, about porno mags and movies and watching them in the hotel.”
Nonetheless, with a Road Rules style adventure behind them — the band spent two months living communally in San Francisco recording the new album – the Amigos are ready for their closeup. Expect more of a dance vibe from the Amigos when they board their 1986 custom Venezuelan spaceship for a U.S. tour. “We have an understanding of DJ culture and also being a band, and we want to mix that more,” Jose Luis says, which will no doubt please fans in their progressive dance camp. But will the little girls be happy? “Well,” the guitarist says, “Half the band are in serious relationships. But the other half are absolutely crazy. They can’t wait to tour. And this time, maybe it won’t be so much about masturbation!”
released January 1, 1999
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