Making Movies are poised for a worldwide audience. With music that combines the anthemic rock elements of U2, psychedelic folk with socially conscious bilingual lyrics and a strong undercurrent of traditional Latin rhythms, the band's second album, I Am Another You, has garnered international acclaim, and not only because it was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos fame. We are extremely fortunate to share an exclusive interview with main songwriter and singer Enrique Chi about the new album, working with Berlin, and his Art as Mentorship project.
Talk about I Am Another You in terms of the songwriting process. Were the songs and arrangements all set before heading into the studio?
I think they were about three quarters of the way there. The way that Steve Berlin and Making Movies like to work is a weird balance of being prepared and letting magic happen in the moment. For example, we left Cuidad De Oropel completely unwritten intentionally so that we could write it in the studio. It keeps things exciting that way. Most of the other songs had been demoed and hashed out pretty well at the point we walked into the studio. We also knew we wanted to make it a thematic work with pieces that stitched up the songs together but the interludes were created after the album was mostly finished. They were recorded here in Kansas City at our home studio and various other studios in the area months after completing the songs.
Your last two albums were produced by Los Lobos’s Steve Berlin. What have you learned from him about your own music and creative process?
Steve has taught us to chase the magic in music. The moments where you are most vulnerable or you are being your truest self are the moments to keep and everything else is irrelevant. For us it pushed us to be weirder, to juxtapose stranger things atop each other. He is a true genius, his influence upon us cannot be overstated.
He sat in with us at our show in Austin during our "Immigrants Are Beautiful" tour. Anytime he watches us play he has a list of notes on what can be improved and invariably they are kind of existential ideas like 'noise is your negative space, as a painter use more negative space.' It's such an honor to learn from one of the greats.
Tell us about Art as Mentorship. How long have you been working on this? What do you have planned for 2018?
I have been dreaming this up for about a year and a few months back was able to incorporate as a non-profit through the Folk Alliance Umbrella. The project, Art As Mentorship is the logical next step after our six years of experience creating and running a youth music camp at the Mattie Rhodes Center. Families would often ask us, "well, what's next?" after their child was inspired to learn an instrument from the camp. This is something we can plug those inspired kids into.
I'm currently working on getting funding so that I can launch in 2018. The resources needed to run a year long program and a one-week camp are vastly different and there's a bit of a learning curve to all of it. Funders, if you are listening, contact me.
The program will focus on young songwriters, giving them not only opportunities to grow as creators but also giving them entrepreneurial skills that they can carry with them. We have amazing partners already on board including 90.9 The Bridge, the ad agency Barkley and Steve Berlin is excited to record the the students once I get the program up and running. I just need to put a few more pieces in place (hint hint funding) to make it happen.
What inspires you about music and creative culture in Kansas City?
I look up to people like Howard Hanna, chef for the Rieger, and Scott Jolley, a videographer. Both have figured out how to create a sustainable business from their passion, while constantly collaborating with their peers. These chefs often take over each others restaurants and work together to build the scene. They have an all "boats rise" philosophy that I'm trying to bring into the musical community. If someone starts finding success, that is actually the moment the city needs to rally behind an artist.
We've also had such amazing experiences working with people like Scott Jolley, Chris Commons, Anthony Ladesich and Brian Slater to name a few from the film community. That scene functions like a collective and they all look out for each other, work on projects together with a self-less attitude like - if its great, I want to be involved. I hope to see that rise in the music scene which is why we always create these collaborative shows. All boats do rise.
Enrique's and Diego's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
Diego Chi - Junot's writings represent what it means to be multi-cultural in America, and in that he has created a truly unique voice. I recommend starting with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I read it last year and its incredible.
Gabriel García Márquez
Enrique Chi - He is hands down my favorite author, he captures the unique beauty and voodoo like magic found in the fever-like heat of life in the Caribbean. Start with Love In a Time of Cholera, and if you can, read it in Spanish, his prose is magical.
Diego Chi - As a writer for Marvel, Gabby Rivera gets to show us all the different aspects of being an American Latino through the eyes of the first American Latina super hero ever, America. She is truly pushing boundaries.
Enrique Chi - I was able to bond with my mother through The House on Mango Street. My mom really resonated with her stories and found that her tales of Chicago urban life are more similar to growing up in Panamá than she ever imagined. I had a chance to meed Sandra and she was a total sweet heart.
Carlos Francisco Chang Marín
Enrique Chi - My grandmother gifted me a book of his short stories and I fell in love with it. He captures the country life in Panamá beautifully and makes me feel closer to home regardless of where I may be.