In Conversation: Filulas Juz
Hailing from Querétaro, Mexico, Filulas Juz are a band that fuse together an eclectic range of genres to create a truly unique sound, one that both is highly technical and grooves well. We speak with the three core members of the group, Luis Marin (bassist), Adriano Morales (drummer) and Armando Cuevas (guitarist) about their most recent album 3773, as well as the band’s musical direction.
This interview was conducted in Spanish and translated to English.
CB: Tell us about the origins of the band.
LM: The band’s origins are from around 2012, when we started to do our first rehearsals and to share with each other musically. We felt really consolidated as a band when we got it into its current formation, with Adriano on the drums, Armando on the guitar and me on bass. After we recorded our first album Astralopithecus in 2015, we felt the band had taken its true shape and had formed its vision for the future. We have always been trying to experiment with different genres, textures and ways of making music in order to express ourselves and to form our own voice.
CB: Where did the name 'Filulas Juz' come from?
LM: Well, when we were looking for a name we felt that we didn’t want one that had a meaning in Spanish, English, German or any of those languages. Not even in an indigenous Mexican one to be stylish. We weren’t looking for anything like that. But there is a book by the Argentinian author Julio Cortázar called Rayuella, which has a chapter written in a language that the writer invented himself, known as Glíglico. The chapter is really an erotic scene, and we took out the word “filulas” from the phrase “filulas de cariaconcia” that gets used in it. And “juz” was a merging together of the words jugo [Spanish for juice] and jazz, so the name was born from a bit of a play on words.
CB: How would you describe your sound? Is there one genre label that covers it?
AC: [thinks] Well you see, the question of genre has been something we have had to battle with a lot. We’re not a purist band so to speak, not in terms of the style ‘jazz’. I think we are collectors of different genres, which maybe can be things like... I don’t know, rock, hip-hop, jazz (in terms of improvisation), progressive rock, alternative rock, electronic music. I think there are lots of different colours in our music, you know? So, I suppose in terms of a genre, well maybe it could be alternative instrumental music so to speak.
AC: Even those from the eras of Miles Davis or Sonny Rollins didn’t consider themselves to be playing jazz. So, if you go to the roots of jazz you go to Louis Armstrong... and well, if you go to the roots of that you come to other forms of expression in New Orleans... I don’t know, what do you guys think?
AM: Yeah, I agree. I think the best way to describe ourselves is alternative instrumental music.
CB: What can you tell me about the creative process around your most recent album 3773? Do you compose collectively or is there one principal writer?
AM: Creatively speaking, the process doesn’t fall onto just one person. In fact, that’s one of the main characteristics of this group: there isn’t one person who is directing us, and we try to do everything that has to do with the music as a group. The process is very natural because we always come together to practice and rehearse. We usually start with one idea – it can be any idea, it’s often very small and not very developed - and then we find how to evolve it between all of us. We then decide if it is something worth continuing with, and afterwards we start to create the parts. That’s really how we do it, no-one comes to the band with something that’s already written and finished. That’s exactly how it happened with 3773, we were fortunate in that period to have a great creative streak, so we actually managed to compose the 10 long pieces in a really short space of time. I remember we managed to get the ideas practically ready in about 2-3 months, we just had to give them a bit more shape afterwards.
CB: Although you wrote the musical ideas quickly, it took about 2 years to get the album together. Why did it take so long?
AC: It was the studio work that took us the most time because we went in with some loose ideas that we wanted to somehow incorporate into the album. We wanted to work with those ideas digitally in order to play with what other sounds we could have in our music, more so than in our previous album, Astralopithecus. With that album we recorded live what we had been playing up to that point, whereas with this one we recorded each piece separately and everyone recorded their parts separately, and we incorporated more ideas whilst in the studio. We also spent this time learning about how to mix the sound properly, and we wanted to see how far our sound could go without placing any time limit on it. That’s why it took us so long.
CB: What are your thoughts on 3773 as complete work, rather than a collection of singles?
LM: Maybe because of the times in which we are writing, people are more accustomed to just having one track in front of them. Like, you catch my attention with just one single and that’s the only song I’m going to listen to. But to tune ourselves in and sit down because you are going to listen to an album all the way through is something special, you know?
CB: What musicians have had the greatest influence on you?
AM: Wow, good question... I want to go last so I can think about that.
AC: As a guitarist, Hendrix has been someone very important to me since I first started to play. Even now I am still watching the incredible things that that guy was doing. So, it would be Hendrix in terms of his instrumental approach and I think Miles Davis too for his discourse and improvisation. Luis Marin: One band that really had an impact on me as an adolescent, when I started to play a lot of music, was the group Tortoise. They are a band from Chicago who got categorised as post-rock, but who really thought outside the box and did stuff that was avant-garde, minimalist, you know? I’m always learning and taking in more music, but I would definitely say this band has been important to me.
AM: For me, it changes every week, I find it really hard to narrow it down... But I would say a big influence in terms of playing as a band would be any of the ensembles by Steve Coleman, that’s what has influenced me the most. It’s mainly because the first time I heard it I didn’t understand anything, it was too much for me. That’s what influenced me because I was like 'why can’t I understand any of this harmony?' And in terms of drummers, I have recently been really influenced by Christian Lillinger from Germany and Marcus Gilmore from the US.
CB: What are your future aims and ambitions for the band?
LM: I think an important part of the band’s future is to play in other countries, to see how live music works in other cultures. That’s the next step we want to take. And also, to gain a greater international presence.
AM: I agree with that, but I also think it would be good to look for a way to make our music engage with the music of Mexico. At least for me, that’s something that is important for our project to do.
AC: For me, it is to be projecting visuals with the music and combine these very, very important disciplines together. That is something important for us which we can explore in a live setting.