In the second of our features on bands at Festival Estéreo Picnic 2022, we talked to bassist from Margarita Siempre Viva, Daniel Velásquez.
Margarita Siempre Viva, playing at Festival Estéreo Picnic 2022, are an odd band. They sound uncannily like The Smiths, yet hail from Medellín, as far removed in tone from Manchester as Morrissey is from Toto La Momposina. How did a band best known for melancholy reflection come out of a city best known for reggaeton? Pop Los Días Apacibles in your earphones and tell me where you’d think this band comes from.
Bogotá or Medellín? Medellín or Bogotá? It’s the eternal discussion in Colombia, even as the Costeños, Caleños et al shrug their shoulders. Different things fit better in either city – Medellín has the gyms, Bogotá the theatres, Medellín produces renowned reggaetoneros, Bogotá rockeros. Curious then, that a band like Margarita Siempre Viva should come from the western cordillera rather than the East.
Bassist Daniel Velásquez doesn’t deny it. Indeed, he says many people assume they’re a Bogotá band, “That’s a thing. That’s something people always tell us, and we are like ‘no, we’re from Medellín, it’s a different scene.’ It’s a much smaller [indie] scene, but it exists. Here in Medellín there is also a scene of bands that are really good friends.”
The Bogotá band scene is tightly knit, everyone seems to know one another and even from across the valley, Margarita Viva Siempre have made friends. “From the beginning of the band, we had made connections with the Telepáticos, with los Fumadores, with Babelgam and it’s for that reason that people think we’re from Bogotá,” says Daniel.
In the city of eternal spring, it’s hard to imagine dark, melancholy music, although Daniel points out, “It’s grey, rainy and cold today, although I imagine Bogotá must be colder.” For sure, in the cold austerity of Lentas Nubes de Fuego, the opening notes evoke drizzle and work towards driving rain, which we may well have in Festival Estéreo Picnic 2022.
Weather is one thing, but the band also addresses life issues that affect Colombians all over the country. Daniel sees coldness in the heat of Medellín. “The people are really warm, but the classic question they always ask is ‘hey man, where are you from,’ meaning what neighbourhood, what gang. That is really heavy and that’s something we try to translate in the music”
That’s one reason the group has a following in Medellín. But the market for this cold, chilly music is much bigger in la nevera. “In Bogotá it’s a crazy thing. The first show we played in Bogotá was sold out. That was us leaving our city for the first time, it was mind-blowing. I have a very good memory of Bogotá.”
Daniel’s also aware that his Medellín is likely different from the city that many foreigners see. “Medellín for foreign people, it’s a happy place, you can party all the time. But for those of us who live here, we know all the situations, all the faces of the city. For us, it’s kind of a sad place. The government is always fucking us, you know?”
Talking music with Margarita Siempre Viva
I tell him that Margarita really remind me of The Smiths. Listen to the fragile beauty of Fractal, for example, and you can instantly picture gladioli-era Mozza whirling about. Daniel’s open about it, “You know, I think the bass in The Smiths is really underrated. Krist Novoselic as well, absolutely. Those basslines in Nirvana are incredible. Love it!”
Daniel’s a real musician, a producer as well as an artist, so he has a lot of love outside genre lines as well. He namechecks bands like Joy Division and The Smiths but also classic rock like Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, and a yet more surprising name. “I’m really eclectic in my tastes, I think you have to learn from other types of music, it’s a very enriching experience to listen to everything. A lot of people are throwing hate at J.Balvin, but he performs well in the shows I’ve seen on Youtube, he kills it.”
Saturday is the key day for different sounds at Festival Estéreo Picnic 2022, and he’s certainly not going to miss out. “We’re going for the three days, and I’m looking forward to watching some friends and some new bands. For example, I’m really looking forward to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. And Binomio del Oro – I love vallenato! Los Gaiteros too, I’ve never seen them perform live and I think they’re great musicians.”
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Of course, as an honorary Bogotano band, they’ve been to Festival Estéreo Picnic before. “We also played in 2019, and I really enjoyed Interpol, Arctics, man that show was amazing. The visuals, the performance, everything. I take those performances as influences for my own shows, as an example for what I’m going to do.”
With that as a benchmark, watch out for big things on Sunday at 5.45 pm on the Banco de Bogotá stage. If you can’t make it to Festival Estéreo Picnic 2022, keep an eye out for them on bills – in Bogotá or Medellín!