La Armada – Anti-Colonial
by Dave Schwartz
From the Dominican Republic via Chicago,
hardcore thrash punk band La Armada’s latest release,
“Anti-Colonial Vol. 1” is a strong follow up to 2014’s “Crisis.”
The band took a long time – 4 years of touring and reflecting upon
the next musical statement they wanted to make.
Since landing on the American shores in
2008, La Armada – consisting of Javier Fernandez (vocals), Alberto
Marte (bass), Luis Martinez (drums), Jonathan Salazar (guitar) and
Paul Rivera (guitar) – have worked hard to develop their sound and
a significant following. Blending “Afro-Caribbean” rhythms
with hardcore/thrash/punk has yielded a different and memorable
La Armada had just returned from touring
in Mexico when I caught up with Paul Rivera and Alberto Marte…
DB: Well let’s get this interview
started. Let’s talk a little about your new record –
“Anti-Colonial Vol. 1.” I want to hear all about it, how it
all came together.
AM: It was a process of writing,
long nights at the studio and working together mainly with the
drummer, exploring beats and different ways to join punk rock with
Afro-Caribbean beats. This was also like the first record
that we all came together and thought about it as a whole –
the way it was going to flow, the lyrics and the sound of the
record over all.
PR: Yeah, it took a lot of trial and
error in the sense of getting the tones and everything.
Everything that we’ve done previous to this was just stepping
stones into trying to figure out what we did during this process.
DB: That’s cool and it’s great that
your music has been an evolution. It’s certainly evident in
the music itself after listening to the new record. How does
writing come about? Who does the writing? Were there
themes that you wanted to hit upon?
AM: Usually drums and bass will
create rhythm patterns and start tying them together to create the
skeleton of a song and once that’s in place the guitars will come
in and take that rhythm either try to match it to make it sound
aggressive or try to add melody and take the song in a different
direction. Once all of that is sorted out then we start to
think about how to best fit the vocals on top of the music.
And then we’ll edit music to better place the vocals as we need
DB: That makes good sense. So
I’m guessing that you did a lot of this on ProTools. Did you
self-produce or did you work with somebody?
PR: We do a lot of it just recording
in our practice room. We record incessantly. We use
GarageBand. We demo or were demoing 3 or 4 nights a week at
our peak. And as far as producing, we did the early
production of this record but we did bring along a person named
Ariel Sanchez as producer. He is a friend and collaborator
from back home, the Dominican Republic. He recorded our very
first album in 2001 with hardly any resources and hardly knowing
what we’re doing. But since then he’s blossomed into an
amazing musician and producer. He does a lot of work down in
Latin America. And for this record we wanted somebody who
understood where we are coming from and where we want to go.
So he understood exactly the influences we wanted to pull from –
Dominican music but also he is a very savvy musician so he knows a
lot of metal and he knows a lot of punk. He knows how to get
the best out of us.
AM: And when something sucked he
told us right away! (Laughs)
DB: Well it’s cool to have someone
to work with that really understands your music and is
straightforward and see that same final vision that you do.
It’s been a long cycle since your last record, “Crisis,”
that came out in 2014. Why the long wait?
PR: We were touring a lot and we
didn’t want to make the same record again either. On
“Crisis” we toured extensively. We did close to 100 shows a
year or more. And then after we got back from touring, maybe
three years after “Crisis” we really sat down and decided it was
time to write and that was also a learning process. So in
between touring where we kind of had the opportunity to test out
different things that actually made it onto the record and being
home for a year to strictly write, it took us a long time.
We allowed ourselves that time to become a better band.
AM: Yeah, I got to say that on
“Crisis” we did a few lines of Afro-Caribbean beats on some songs
but it was kind of inconspicuously. Some people told us that
they really didn’t hear them. And this time we took our time
in the studio trying to explore that sound and find ways to make
DB: That very cool to have that
opportunity. Now I think I’m hearing you say that you had an
opportunity to play some of these songs live before actually
getting them onto the record. That live experience often
evolves a song, allows it to mature. How did playing the
songs live reflect upon the songs that made it onto this record?
AM: It’s funny that you ask that
because when we’re on tour, one of the things we like to do is
watch the crowd’s reaction to the new songs and see how we’re
moving them. I like to say that it’s never been done before
and it’s fun to watch a crowd try to figure out a new song.
PR: And maybe to answer your
question a bit more specifically, yes. Taking the songs that
ended up on this record on tour prior to recording them definitely
helped us shape them. Maybe we realized that we should add
another chorus to this here or realize that something just doesn’t
work. Or even the sequence of songs on the record because
people were reacting really well in that order. I think
having the opportunity to take our songs on the road before
recording them is definitely valuable.
DB: So your first single and video
off this record is “Fire,” talk a little about doing the video and
explain how you selected the song.
PR: Yeah, so to be honest, the way
we selected the song is that we sent the record to close friends
and to people that we trust, admire and respect a lot. And
we just unbiasedly asked what they thought of the record and what
was their favorite 2 or 3 songs. “Fire” was the song that
maybe 80% of the people said was the first song we should put out.
We felt strongly about the song as well. So at that point we
said fuck it, we love the theme of the song and it’s definitely a
quick introduction to what we’re all about. We also thought
the song came out faithfully so we said fuck it, let’s go with it.
AM: It is a strong song and it is a
message that we all feel we have to say, to put out there.
Everybody knows that we have a right-wing government right now.
Minorities are being persecuted. We have Nazi’s on the
cabinet and it was very important to make the video as it came
out. It was a great experience. We recorded it at a
church in Indiana with our production team. We did
everything in one day and we were very satisfied with the final
PR: Yeah, we wanted a video that
would make a visual statement of what the song is trying to say
but maybe not in such a literal way. And I think that team,
Adam Santiago and Derek Shreves, did a great job of the statement
and putting it together in an artistic and a direct way.
DB: I understand that the band just
returned from Mexico – you were down there on tour.
PR: Yeah, we just did a two week
tour with a band called Propagandhi and that ended with a show in
Mexico City. After that we did four shows of our own in
Mexico. This was our third trip there.
DB: It’s always great to be able to
do some international touring and spread the word, have some fun.
What else do you have going on the rest of the year as far as
PR: We’re going to be doing some
regional stuff in April and in May we’re heading to the West
Coast. And then in June we’re hitting up Canada. We’ll
be playing more shows with Propagandhi as well as on our own.
I want to thank Paul Rivera and Alberto
Marte for sharing a moment with DaBelly and talking about their
new record “Anti-Colonial Vol 1.” Check them out on tour and
be sure to follow their social media pages.