The band from Zaragoza will perform on Friday at the design and music meetings organized by the Vive Latino festival and Caja Rural. In an interview with Go Aragón, its leader, Álex Ortega, talks about the importance of image in music, the progress of their latest work, Espejismos, and the future of the band.
Álex Ortega, the leader of the Zaragozan band Calavera, will be this Friday at the headquarters of Caja Rural in the Aragonese capital at the design and music conference organized by the bank with the Vive Latino festival. The band, with two albums already under their belt, Exposición (2017) and Espejismos (2021) practices a careful and luminous pop that has earned them several distinctions, such as Best EP and Best Cover of the 2020 Aragonese Music Awards. Her latest album was also chosen by Heraldo de Aragón as best album of 2021 and the portal Nuevas Frecuencias included it among the best of the year.
In an interview with Go Aragón, the musician addresses the link between both facets and reviews the trajectory of his band since they released their last album. In addition, Ortega previews the release of a possible LP next year: “If we see something this year, it will be some advance single of what will come in 2024,” he says.
-You perform at the music and design days organized by Vive Latino, how important is this link between sound and image for Calavera?
-I think it’s quite important. Actually, it’s one more way to expand what you want to tell, not only to stay in the music, but also to help with images, with the design of the cover, with photos that you can publish… it’s a plus that completes the information on the album.
-Does fashion also play a role in that sense?
-I guess it does. I love image, fashion, and maybe that’s why I also give importance to it. But well, I understand that the important thing is the music. But it’s true that, in these times, image is more important than ever.
-Calavera already has two LP’s and their covers are very characteristic. How did you get to them?
-Through Instagram. It’s like a showcase to see things and, in this case, illustrators or illustrators. On the first LP, in Exposición, we worked with Mercedes Bellido, who is also from Zaragoza. She did a commissioned illustration that I think worked very well. Víctor Montalbán, who is also from Zaragoza, did the layout and design. And with Espejismos, it was a tattoo artist from Valencia. I really like the world of traditional tattooing and, during the pandemic period, since they had no possibility of working, many of them did illustrations. And what I saw of this guy really blew me away. We ordered the cover and Anto Moreno, who is organizing this conference, finished the layout.
-Do you keep in your memories any cover that marked you when you started to approach the world of music?
I don’t remember any in particular, but it’s true that what my father had on the turntable were almost all photos, even close-ups of the artist’s face, rather than illustrations as I’m doing now. I don’t know what I’ll do on the next record, but it would be very strange to put a photo of me in close-up. Thinking back, Money for Nothing by Dire Straits comes to mind, that mythical cover with the band’s head in neon, Bad by Michael Jackson, Descanso Dominical by Mecano, some of Phil Collins… it’s the music my father listened to, which, deep down, has also influenced me musically.
-By the way, skulls are very present in the Vive Latino’s image?
-I’d like to think that it’s because of the whole Mexican culture, which has nothing to do with us. But well, it never hurts.
-This year you will be playing at the festival, what does it mean to be on that stage?
-It’s great because it’s a big festival and, apart from the fact that we will have the opportunity to see very important people, I hope it will give us some visibility. Although, obviously, it’s not the same as it would have been in a festival outside Zaragoza, here we already have our audience. But we are super happy to play on such a big stage and that people can see us again in those conditions; since the concert in which we opened for Alizzz, at the Jardín de Invierno, we haven’t played in an open venue with such a big stage.
-Some of the Spanish bands that play here, then go to the festival in Mexico, how do you contemplate that possibility?
-I wish. We would love to. It’s cool to play at Vive Latino (in Zaragoza), but what’s really cool is to be seen at a festival abroad and, logically, in Mexico it would be incredible. Also, I think the kind of music we do has a lot of reach in Latin America, which is better valued there than in Spain. Historically, there has always been a lot of interesting music with those influences over there.
-Going back to Europe, since the release of the last LP, Espejismos, you have been playing in different parts of Spain, how have those concerts been?
In 2021, 2022 and 2023, the years that the album has been released, we have tried to move around Spain, with a lot of success so far, but it is true that the album is coming to an end and we have to start thinking about new songs. But, so far, we are very happy with the reception. The last concert we did outside of Zaragoza was in Valencia and we opened for Rufus T. Firefly, with a sold out show. It was great to be able to play in front of so many people and make ourselves known to other people. The concerts are usually organic, sincere; there is nothing beyond the four of us playing. The reception is very warm and we are very happy.
-With Espejismos you have had several successes. Nuevas Frecuencias placed it among the best albums of the year and Heraldo de Aragón chose it as the best of 2021, how do these recognitions feel?
Great, when something you put so much effort and dedication into is recognized by specialized critics, it is a success. The good thing is that it is also recognized by the public, but I have always cared a lot about what the critics think and, up to now, I have never had any complaints; I have enjoyed their favor.
-The album includes Ámbar, the collaboration with Eva Amaral, how did it come about?
-It came out very spontaneously and naturally. When I already had this song, I don’t know why there was something that reminded me of Eva and Juan -Aguirre-‘s songs, of the classic Spanish pop songs from their albums. And once I had the album, I said ‘it would be cool to have someone’s collaboration’. Lately, it’s another way to reach more people, in this case, with someone bigger than me. And the occasion was perfect for Eva to sing. I proposed it to her and from the beginning she thought it was great. We moved forward as we could, because it was recorded in pandemic and, unfortunately, we did not coincide in the studio recording together, but the truth is that I am very happy, and so are they, with how the song turned out.
-Calaveras, Amaral, a good part of La Costa Brava, Tachenko, Bigott, venues like La Lata de Bombillas… what does Zaragoza have for pop?
I don’t know, it’s a topic I always talk about with people from outside when we talk about music. Because, besides, it’s not only pop; if you look at rock, there are Héroes del Silencio, in rap, Violadores del Verso, Radio Futura, El Niño Gusano in indie… they are the greatest of their genre. But I really don’t know what it has, other than the wind… but it’s true that it coincides.
But, now, in these times, so globalized, it’s not like in the 80’s, when maybe you felt a little more enclosed in the city. Now you are used to moving between different cities in Spain or talking to people from other places, and I don’t think this album would have been very different if it had been in another city, in Seville, Madrid or Barcelona.
-Speaking of El Niño Gusano, a few years ago you did a version for Zaragoza Feliz Feliz of ‘El hombre bombilla’, what place does this band and Sergio Algora occupy in Calavera’s imaginary?
This was something that caught me late, because I arrived in Zaragoza when I was 16 or 17 years old and let’s say that I had not lived the previous stage of pop in places like El Fantasma de los Ojos Azules. It came to me through my band mates and I was blown away by the surrealism of Sergio’s lyrics, the songs, the arrangements of the other Sergio (Vinadé)… It’s a band that seems to me super special and unique. I started to look into it thanks to these collaborations, to which we will always say yes, as long as they come from La Lata de Bombillas or Zaragoza Feliz Feliz. We can’t say no to anything they propose and it was a lot of fun to do it.
-At the end of the year you said that 2023 would bring new songs, is it the warning of a possible new album?
-It should. At least an advance song we have to release in 2023. The bulk of the album is done, the lyrics are missing, but the songs are already composed. And I do want it to come out in 2024. If we see something this year, it will be a single in advance of what will come in 2024.
And where is this new full-length going to go?
-I think it’s going to be a continuation of Espejismos, I think it should be like that, in that they are more pop songs, more rounded, more luminous. But we are not going to lose sight of the fact that they have that interesting touch that Calavera’s songs have always had. It’s going to be a little more similar to the previous album, but it’s also going to have new things. I find it very homogeneous; what I liked about Espejismos is that it was very rounded and I think this other one is going to be like that too. And I also want it to be more organic, I don’t want there to be a lot of electronics, less ‘synths’, to go back to the acoustic guitar…