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Free Week: Como Las Movies - cumbia grooves with an indie rock twist

Deborah Sengupta

Editor’s note: This article was originally published January 3, 2014

Although the band favors expansive cumbia-steeped instrumentals with an overt cinematic scope, the music didn’t give Como Las Movies its name.

Years ago, when Nelson Valente, the band’s keyboardist, guitarist and primary songwriter was graduating from the University of Texas, he threw a massive West Campus bash. Multiple kegs were tapped. Nearly 400 people showed up. A friend who came up from Valente’s sleepy South Texas hometown was taken aback.

“By 11 o’clock he comes up to me and says, ‘Man, this party dude. It’s como las movies, it’s like the movies, right?’” Valente said recently.

“I’ll never forget that moment when my friend looked around the party wide-eyed like, ‘Wow, this happens in Austin.’”

The desire to explore cumbia drove Valente, who used to play around town in the Spanish-language indie pop outfit Maneja Beto, to found Como Las Movies roughly a year ago. As the band settled into a solid six-piece lineup, subtle elements of jazz and funk crept in. When vocalist Tomas Garcia-Olano, who also plays in the Eastern Sea, came aboard, some songs took an indie rock turn, but the Latin groove remains the music’s driving force.

The band just finished mastering a couple singles recorded at Adrian Quesada’s Level One Studios set for release early in 2014, and they’re looking at regional touring opportunities. As far as their live shows, they come with one primary objective.

“We do a lot of dancing onstage. Hopefully there will be dancing on the floor, too,” Valente says.

Como Las Movies plays an Austin Vida showcase at Stubb’s BBQ inside on Saturday with Pinata Protest, the Young Maths and Migrant Kids. The band also plays Empire Control Room & Garage on Friday, Jan. 11, with La Vida Buena, La Fenetika and DJ Orion. Free.