Gray Parisian streets, rich Argentine folklore and Mexico City's beautiful chaos all channel into one defined sound created by Andrea Balency, one of Mexico's most promising vocalists and composers. Her French-Mexican roots as well as her years spent in Argentina influence the music she's presenting this week at South by Southwest.
Balency joins a recent wave of successful Mexican female indie artists including Carla Morrison and Ceci Bastida. "I think (Mexico's independent music scene) has never been better, because lots of artists are starting to play and say what they're thinking, no matter what," Balency said. "And they're all killing it! I'm really happy to be a part of this, and I feel proud of the hard work we have done to get where we are."
After she spent a couple of years as a solo artist, she exploded into Mexico's indie music scene with the beginning of the Andrea Balency Trio in 2009. The trio, which included musicians Jerson Vasquez and Miguel Sandoval, earned the Best New Artist recognition last year at Mexico's Indie-O Music Awards.
The trio disbanded late last year to make way for Balency's new solo career, which has already turned heads beyond Mexico. Balency brings a more electronic touch to her new album, out later this year. Balency also played a two-year stint with the increasingly popular indie rock band Torreblanca (also a SXSW showcasing artist).
We had a chance to catch up with Balency before her upcoming shows and talk about her new record and why she thinks she'll bring an unusual touch to the SXSW lineup.
Austin American-Statesman: How's the recording of your first solo album in New York going?
Andrea Balency: I had so much fun recording my album in New York, not only because of the opportunity of recording in such an amazing and inspiring city, but also thanks to my producer, Jose Luis Pardo (aka Cheo from Los Amigos Invisibles). He did such a great job producing this album.
One of the things that most amazed me was that we had so many things in common and we got along so well regardless of how different our projects are. We somehow managed to find the perfect balance between my girly, sweet side and my dark, crazy, heavy side. So we recorded a beautiful, beautiful album.
Why did you feel this was the right moment for you to launch a solo career again after playing as a trio?
Well, I've always felt things should come to an end as naturally as possible, and I think that's what happened with the trio. It had to end because these last two years the three of us evolved in three different directions so quickly. We decided the best thing was to let it go for a while and follow our respective paths.
You've lived in very diverse cities and countries; how do they influence your musical style?
Living in diverse cities has definitely influenced my musical style in so many ways. When traveling, one of the things I like to do the most is discover new cultures as deeply as I can by learning new languages, listening to new music and making new friends. And all of that makes me evolve as a person and shows through my music.
How did your transition from classical music training to popular music happen?
After I finished high school, I moved to Argentina on my own. While I was there, I met many inspiring musicians and artists who showed me the music they were listening to. I was really impressed by their world, the way they supported each other, their laid-back vibe and their simplicity. Everything they did was heart-felt and intuitive, and it just fascinated me. I wanted to be a part of it, so as I started listening to more and more popular music I started composing and ended up being a singer! I am so grateful to all of my friends in Buenos Aires, because I've never been so passionate about anything in my life.
What role does Mexico City play in your music?
Your surroundings when creating music are always one of the biggest influences because in the end, your music — when it's honest — is always you. Mexico City has definitely been important to my music, specially the two EPs I recorded with Andrea Balency Trio. It's quite a crazy city: It never stops, there's always noise, cars honking, people walking, traffic, movement, dirt ... it's a real mess!
But at the same time it's full of beautiful traditions, colors and smiles. I think it's a nice blend of elements to be inspired. When listening to my music you might find it pretty melancholic and nostalgic, but there's light in there, lots of things happening at the same time and lots of small details that turn the songs into a big, musical mess. Nonetheless, I think it makes sense. To me, at least!
Contact Nancy Flores at 912-2559.
More SXSW acts from Mexico
Mexico's strong SXSW musical presence, from indie pop to folk fusions, highlights the diversity of a sound that transcends languages and borders. Here are a few SXSW showcasing artists who bring to life the rich soundscapes of Mexico.
About: Soak up the soul as Downs weaves the sounds of a mixed cultural identity that combines a Oaxaca and Minnesota upbringing. Best known for her powerful voice on the "Frida" soundtrack, Downs fuses Mexican folk music with jazz and blues and most recently flirts with more contemporary styles.
Could fit on a bill with: Los Lobos, Chavela Vargas, Lucinda Williams
Playing: 9:30 p.m. today at St. David's Church
About: Cirerol manages to give Mexican folk music some edge with his mad guitar skills and distinctive voice. The Mexicali native with a punk rock background has been redefining folk music for a new generation.
Could fit on a bill with: Nortec Collective, Los Tigres del Norte, Rodrigo y Gabriela
Playing: 11 p.m. today at Flamingo Cantina and midnight Saturday at Bar 96
About: The sounds of the Western and Eastern worlds are beautifully fused together by this Guadalajara-based collective. Bringing everything from rock to experimental to trip hop to the stage has earned Radaid accolades including a five-star Rolling Stones review for their album "L'intent."
Could fit on a bill with: Morcheeba, Panjambi MC, Chambao
Playing: 9 p.m. today at Buca Lounge
From: Mexico City
About: In a DJ world dominated by men, Mexicali native Caro Limón breaks barriers with her high energy beats, synthesizer and keyboard. Limón studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music.
Could fit on a bill with: Mexican Institute of Sound, Rita Indiana, Niña Dioz
Playing: 8 p.m. today at Speakeasy Kabaret
3 Dudes and a Mullet
From: Mexico City
About: This up-and-coming quartet's sound has evolved over the years, but they've found their sweet spot producing folk/country music with pop influences. Their English-language tunes sometimes pay homage to movie personalities or have dark humor overtones like the song "Half Ton Son."
Could fit on a bill with: The Decemberists, Bon Iver, Beirut
Playing: 8 p.m. Saturday at Beale Street Tavern
Sonido San Francisco
About: Sure to get you on the dance floor with their infectious beats, Sonido San Franciso is a party explosion with their entertaining blend of cumbia and urban electronic music.
Could fit on a bill with: Bomba Estereo, Charanga Cakewalk, Bombasta
Playing: 1 a.m. Saturday at Bar 96
From: Mexico City
About: Known as one of the best bass players in Mexico, Alonso Arreola brings a high level of musicianship to all the musical styles he plays, from rock to experimental and jazz.
Could fit on a bill with: Esperanza Spalding, David Fiuczynski
Playing: 9 p.m. Saturday at Bar 96
From: Mexico City
About: Lead singer Juan Manuel Torreblanca has quickly earned a reputation as one of Mexican pop music's creative minds. His indie pop/rock/alternative project Torreblanca has caught the attention of Café Tacvba's Quique Rangel, who produced their first LP, "Bella Epoca."
Could fit on a bill with: Natalia Lafourcade, Andrea Balency, Julieta Venegas
Playing: Multiple shows, including 3 p.m. today at the Convention Center and 3 p.m. Saturday at Auditorium Shores (that one's free and open to the public)
About: Bam Bam's psychedelic pop/rock vocals give their music a futuristic, sci-fi feel that has caught the attention of Arts & Crafts Records-Mexico. Their indie rock band is often described as one of the most promising of the genre.
Could fit on a bill with: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Flaming Lips, Soda Stereo
Playing: 10:30 p.m. Friday at 512