I arrive at Night and Day cafe just as Mexican rockers Rey Pila are finishing their sound check. I watch the last few songs and then sit down for a chat with lead singer and founder of the band Diego Solorzano and guitarist Miguel Hernandez. Rey Pila have experienced impressive success in the two years since developing from Solorzano’s solo project into the four piece it is today. The band moved to New York in 2012 to work with Chris Coady (Beach House, Smith Westerns) to produce the debut album for Rey Pila’s current formation, swiftly signed with Julian Casablanca’s label ‘Cult Records’ and have spent the better part of the past few months touring with Albert Hammond Jr. I am curious as to whether or not this rush of fame will have made divas of the boys.
We sit down to talk and Soloranzo and Hernandez greet me politely and offer me a drink, quickly dispelling my reservations about diva behaviour. We talk about how the band are finding their first tour of Europe, they say they have loved their recent shows in Glasgow and the North because of the dynamic audience. Solorzano identifies strongly with the friendly Northern stereotype, comparing it to the laid back national character of native South America.
On the subject of the band’s native country, we discuss the choice to make a new album entirely in English. Rey Pila’s first album had a mixture of English and Spanish songs and I ask if Mexican fans consider this swap unpatriotic. Solorzano says he has experienced negativity and some “seriously bad reactions” but insists the decision is not commercially motivated. Having tried his music in Spanish, he says the music simply sounds better in English. He has a point, the synth, guitar pop that characterises ‘No Longer Fun’ and ‘Alexander’ is rooted in England’s 80s pop scene. The catchy, playful lyrics are filled with stock phrases and references that are probably lost in Spanish. Influences are “Roxy Music, David Bowie, The Ramones, all 80s music is good”, Solorzano pauses and laughs, “well maybe not all 80s music”. They say they love pop but try not to take too much influence from current artists to try and make their own music distinct.
Hernandez is wearing a brilliantly eye catching coat, a floor length fur lined affair, apparently a hand me down from his uncle. We discuss the link between music and style. With Bowie and Roxy Music as influences they must see fashion and showmanship as an imperative part of music, but has this relationship gone too far, is music today too much of a circus? They agree that this is an issue, talking about the wave of similar sounding, identical looking indie bands, who all “look like paid up members of the Topman club”. Both agree that the secret to their success has been differentiating themselves from other bands by taking influence from older artists rather than their peers.
Rey Pila are travelling back to Mexico soon, skipping the Italian leg of the tour to play a big home show. So how different does it feel to play to a mass of devoted fans in Mexico, compared to a small crowd, some of whom haven’t even heard of Rey Pila? The challenge of getting the audience involved is actually an incentive, rather than off putting. “When people start getting into it in the middle of a set, I think that’s really cool”, says Solorzano. This attitude is the antithesis of the sulky rockstar caricature and displays a genuine passion for performing and entertaining. Touring with Hammond has been “really fun, the cool thing about him, despite his fame, is that he’s just a dude.” The same could be said of this unassuming pair.
The recent success of the band has impressive future implications, I ask the boys if they see themselves as having made it and is this where they pictured themselves as teenagers? They question what ‘it’ is, “we didn’t finish high-school, but you’re not supposed to say that”, they both laugh. “I always saw myself making music and playing every night to people who love music, that’s really cool”, says Solorzano, so I suppose we’ve found our ‘it’.
I see the band at the end of the show standing at the bar where they appear to have been watching Hammond’s show and mingling with the crowd. I tell them that I really enjoyed their show and that Diego has a wonderful voice, they’re modest and say its great to play for a responsive audience and they’ve had a great night. Polite and modest behaviour from a band with old school rock stage presence and undisputable talent. Rey Pila are definitely one to watch.