Mariachi Ghost in action. (Jennifer Lisa)
While Fringe Fest enthusiasts will be basking this week in the comedies, dramas, and all the weird and whacky shows that make it such a spectacle, one must not forget the music.
And we're telling you, one of the shows not to miss will be happening tonight, July 19 at 9 p.m. at the Cube.
You'll see a full band replete with dancers and a brass section, dressed in black, with skull painted faces, singing in Spanish. You'll see the ebb and flow of life and death played out musically on stage. You'll be seeing Mariachi Ghost, easily one of the most intriguing and original live acts to come out of Winnipeg in quite some time.
SCENE caught up with Mariachi Ghost, who are fronted by Renaissance man Jorge Requena and his multi-instrumentalist brother Cesar, to find out what makes them tick.
If you got caught in an elevator and have 6 floors to convince someone to listen to your music... how would you describe it?
The Mariachi Ghost is a blend of influences, a habitat of musical styles that form a symbiotic musical ecosystem. It is a soundtrack to a Spaghetti Western film made for the 21st century. The Mariachi Ghost is part folk, part prog-rock, some jazz, some funk, all infused by Mexican Son Jarocho. We also incorporate a visual aspect to our live performances, with face-paint, dancing, and video projections. It's a treat to all of your senses.
Where does your inspiration come from for writing songs and playing?
Jorge: My grandfather, who I spend my summers with, had a guitar and a terribly raspy voice. He would play Corridos (old Mexican songs). Most of them were rather unpleasant to hear, but I found a few of them mysterious and beautiful.
He would play at night and tell me stories about legends, hauntings and "el Charro Negro," a character that would later inspire "The Mariachi Ghost." At first, I envisioned the Mariachi Ghost as a graphic novel. But this eventually turned into a musical project when I started writing songs to go with the images. It all rolls back to the complicated spirituality of old Mexico.
There are a lot of elements going into your live shows, how have you developed these?
Jorge: I am a filmmaker and theatre bug, so my ideas usually come in that shape. But the Mariachi Ghost had a visual element even before a musical one. At a show I try to recreate the experience of the story of the Mariachi Ghost. Though the show is an abstraction, in that the story is not told in chronological order, we try to express the the same feelings as those produced by a natural story arc. Alexandra Garrido (our dancer) carries the huge responsibility of materializing those feelings into dance, using the music as her canvas.
What was the most unusual gig you ever had?
We had one show where we played for five or six paying audience members. One of them was getting a little rowdy, and tried to take the mic away from me during a song. When the show was over, he asked us for a ride home. Needless to say, it was a strange night.
Some of our favourite gigs have been the Winnipeg Jazz Festival show a few weeks ago at Times Change(d) and our show at The Park Theatre we did back in March supporting Indicator Indicator, where we made the stage area to look like a moonscape and projected images of old 1920s science fiction films behind us while we played.
What is in the foreseeable future for Mariachi Ghost -- can we be expecting a full LP?
Our future is unclear but hopeful. We are gathering resources to record a full album and looking at management and record label options (give us a call, record execs!). We are also releasing a couple of live tracks in the coming months and are starting a crowd sourcing campaign for our album. Like all other rock nerds we want to play Reading, Benicassim, Lollapalooza, SXSW and Coachella, but we are doing something we love and that is most important for us. We already won the lottery, having found each other and being able to play in front of people.
There is a lot of mystery surrounding your band - what's the story there?
Jorge: As a story teller, I believe strongly in the power of the question as opposed to the answer. I think sending messages that might seem vague actually delivers the stronger message. It is part of the experience. I think it is better if you come to our show not knowing what to expect. Magicians have been banking on that for centuries.
This interview has been edited for brevity.