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Making Movies makes music that matters: Built upon a heavy foundation of Afro-Latino rhythms, they have created a bilingual, psychedelic re-envisioning of the Latin American "son."
The band’s second album, A La Deriva, ("adrift" or "swept away"), produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, tells a story based on the struggles of an immigrant family that tragically falls apart in America, and the consequential impact on the following generation. Taking cues from Latin American folklore, the band's sound swings intensely, at times sounding like Compay Segundo being played by Jimi Hendrix and at other times like The Talking Heads digging deep into a dembow. When Felix Contreras at NPR described the title track ’Deriva’ he stated, "...the young band Making Movies (and its producer, Steve Berlin of Los Lobos) shows us how deeply thought-out lyrics sound next to a rhythm track that somehow both propels and floats without violating the laws of physics."
The band’s strong lyricism, persistent percussive waves, and deft ways of straddling two cultures flowed easily into becoming a bilingual recording. "Since I was six years old my life has been in both English and Spanish so I find it natural to make music the same way," explains singer/guitarist Enrique Chi.
Enrique and his brother, bassist Diego Chi, grew up in Panama, listening to classic rock from their Papá’s collection. Mama, on the other hand loved to dance to the traditional sounds of salsa, merengue and cumbia, and the entire family agreed on the inspiration of Panamanian musician Ruben Blades. "A huge influence," says Chi. Even as a child, he understood the Blades epic, "Pedro Navaja," to be a dark song you still could dance to, and turned a paradox into a personal credo: "Music should have a deeper meaning, More than just a feel-good time; it needs to make you think a bit."
The brothers formed the band in Kansas City in 2009, with percussionist Juan-Carlos Chaurand and drummer Brendan Culp. Upon releasing an EP, Aguardiente, in 2012, the band's sound was described by The K.C. Star’s Ink Magazine as "Cuban dance hall merged with blasts of scabby guitar straight out of Sonic Youth's Day dream Nation, as if reinterpreted by Santana."
When they landed a gig opening for Los Lobos, producer Steve Berlin recognized the band as fellow travelers. Berlin says of the band, "I was struck by the effortless way they moved between musical styles, all the while managing to make each their own. It was instantaneous that I knew I wanted to work with them."
Berlin moved the band into KBC Records,in Portland, OR." Working 12-hours a day, "It was pretty much done in eleven days," says Chi, who watched his songs shape-shift in the studio. "Steve encouraged longer jams, pushing us to capture our live vibe on record, and to keep first takes, not over-think things. ‘Muerte,’ for example, had a completely different groove when it started," he explains, "and the jam section on that song was improvised live."The beachy, breezy cumbia rhythm of "Lo Que Quiero" accompanies a lyric about domestic violence and addictive cycles. He traces the inspiration back to Ruben Blades, "he would sneak dark elements into stories that ultimately seek to empathize and illuminate."
Though A La Deriva is a concept album, drawn from imagination, as told through four characters, Chi admits, "All of the characters are really... me."
"Kids of immigrants, especially the undocumented, grow up today with a lot of challenges, worried about their parents, worried about how the family will pay the rent, fully aware of their place in life and their limited options. When you limit a kid that distinctly, all kinds of terrible things can happen." A child can easily be cast A La Deriva.
The members of Making Movies are socially active both inside and outside of the band. In 2012, they established M.U.S.I.C.A. a summer music camp in Kansas City for low income students from immigrant families. Partnering with local non-profit, the Mattie Rhodes Center, in July of 2013 the band completed a successful second year of the music camp.