Monterrey, Mexico’s Jumbo sits juxtaposed with some of their higher profile compatriots. Other Mexican rock and alternative bands such as Jaguares and La Barranca, both based in Mexico City, emanate more of their homeland’s influences than they do rock and roll cliché.
The latter utilize their art to express their heritage and cultural identity. The Spanish lyrics they sing are drenched in mysticism and often explore the tendencies of human behavior never forgetting the implications of fate and spirituality. Thick with allusions to their indigenous roots, their messages are unmistakably Mexican.
While equally definite and expressive, Jumbo and its music differ vastly in terms of musical style and overall demeanor. Their duo of guitars pile it on with thick, heavily distorted power chords and are complimented by light and precise melodies and layered vocals. Song lyrics are often humorous and biting, sometimes even romantic, but almost never related to iconoclastic cultural images or concepts. Jumbo does, however, reach a certain honesty and simplicity that can be as much a part of Mexico and its people as the pyramids of Teotihuacan its adopted Spanish tongue.
The biographies of Jumbo’s members seem to describe individuals born north of the border rather than south of it. Clemente Castillo, the group’s lead singer/guitarist, is a university graduate with a degree in international business. He attended the finest schooling along the way and even spent a year studying in Nashville, Tennessee in a prep school exchange program. His early musical training was provided by vinyl albums by the likes of The Police, The Who, AC/DC, Rush, R.E.M., and Stevie Wonder. “I began playing guitar when I was fourteen and in high school. I remember spending my evenings listening to those records trying to learn the lyrics and then attempting to sing over the music,” says Castillo.
The band’s drummer, Bugs Wako, and keyboardist/vocalist, Eddy, are in actuality the brothers Gonzalez. Bugs recalls that from a very early age, his parents played music in the house for the boys, “I remember listening to Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Fats Domino.” He also confesses that his and Eddy’s lives were forever changed by a discovery they made at their grandparent’s house. The two were playing in a bedroom occupied by their uncle, the youngest of their father’s siblings, when they found a copy of Kiss’ ”Dynasty” album.
“At that point, I was seven and Eddy was six, and we formed our first band. For quite a few years, we proceeded to pretend to play along with every Kiss record. He was Gene Simmons and I was Peter Criss.
Bassist, Charly Pornet, and guitarist, Flip Fantastic, share fairly comparable and privileged backgrounds. The band morphed into Jumbo from its predecessor, ‘Blueswagon’ with the current line-up in 1997 and recorded its debut for the BMG Latin label in 1998. For some reason the band had to wait until the end of 1999 before “Restaurant” was released in Mexico, a trend that unfortunately has plagued the band ever since. The group’s sophomore effort, a slick and beauty of a power pop delight, “D.D. y Ponle Play”, arrived much later in the U.S. than it did in Latin America causing quite a stir within the Latin music scene in this country. And now, “Teleparque”, released last month in Mexico is reportedly being shopped around to other companies for a U.S. release.
Could it be the band is experiencing a backlash for not adhering to some unwritten code of patriotism?
Probably not, just another example of a good band not quite seeing eye to eye with its label. Until “Teleparque” is released in the U.S., fans can listen to the entire disc, however lo-fi, on its website at www.jumbo.com.mx
Francisco H. Ciriza