Mexico’s Award-Winning Critical Darlings Zoé Rock Out at Club Rio
Published: November 13, 2013
Psychedelic, space-rock en español band Zoé was perfectly happy being a well-established, semi-underground act in Mexico. León Larregui’s moody vocals, the band’s solid musicianship and songwriting, and hermetic lyrics were enough to enjoy a long run since 2001, though the critical respect was bigger than the sales. The members of Zoé lived in their own bubble, under the shadow of big acts like Maná and Café Tacuba, but holding their own. From the beginning, their work with Phil Vinall (who mixed some tracks on Elastica’s 1995 debut and who has worked with Radiohead and Placebo, among others), helped the band evolve smartly, earning Zoé a devout following.
“Yeah, I agree,” Larregui told the Current on the phone from his home in Mexico City. “We were sort of like in a league of our own.”
Slowly and steadily they got by, and little by little started getting the awards. First came a Latin Grammy nomination in 2007 for Memo Rex y el Corazón de la Vía Láctea (“Memo Rex and the Heart of the Milky Way,” a Ziggy Stardust-like project), their third album. Then, a MTV Latino win in 2009 (Best Rock Group) and another Latin Grammy nomination for Reptilectric, their fourth full-length. Things were looking good, but nothing spectacular. After releasing a live album in 2008, they were working on a follow-up when an unexpected call came in: MTV Latino wanted them to record an episode of MTV Unplugged. Not only that: they needed to stop whatever they were doing and start working on it.
Weird. Electricity and spacey vibes are Zoé’s calling card. But they liked the idea and went for it.
“It was a real challenge,” Larregui said. “We were working on our new album, but had to stop everything. We call it ‘a fortunate interruption.’ We thought it was a great idea, but we didn’t want to do the usual campfire versions—we wanted to do something interesting.”
Música de Fondo: MTV Unplugged (2011) became the biggest album of their career, winning two Latin Grammy awards and selling more than 400,000 copies worldwide to date. After touring for almost two years, the band took a break and Larregui had time to record a solo album he’d been thinking about for a while. At first he wanted to do an EP, but Adanowsky (the musician Adan Jodorowsky, son of famed Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky) convinced him to do a full-length instead. Wise move—the album reached the top of the charts in Mexico and got two more Latin Grammy nominations (Best Alternative Music Album and Best Alternative Song for “Brillas”). The winner will be announced November 21 at a ceremony in Las Vegas.