From The Women Who Raised Them: Brooklyn's Native Sun
Hailing from Colombia, Mexico, California, and Florida, Brooklyn band Native Sun imbues their roots into their music. In a time of tense political culture, the group is challenging and exploring the question of what it means to make rock music in New York in 2018. With brash vocals and back bending guitar solos, reminiscent of when the genre first began, they sing of bringing the government down and starting a revolution. To get to the core of who they are and how they became the individuals they are today, we had the four member's mothers interview them about childhood and music.
Cartagena, Colombia | Vocals & Guitar
Mami: Alguna vez cantas algo en Español? (Do you ever sing in Spanish?)
Danny: The older I’ve gotten the more often I do at home, but just simple things I pick up or classics I try to learn. Once in a while try to make up stuff on the spot. I’ve been on a Sandro de América kick lately, it’s a bit ridiculous... yet so good like anything pleasurable.
Mami: En que momento te empezó la pasión por la música? Eras un apasionado beisbolista y de repente, después del torneo en el Hall of Fame de béisbol en Cooperstown cuando tenías 13 años lo dejaste todo y te dedicaste 100% a la música? (In which moment did your passion for music begin? You were a passionate baseball player and all of a sudden, after the Hall of Fame tournament in Cooperstown when you were 13 years old you left it all to dedicate 100% to music?)
Danny: That’s a very interesting question. It’s something that feels hazy a little bit sometimes, yet it’s so vivid, my sensation or reaction to that turning point. I guess I got to a point where I enjoyed the actual doing of athletics but not the commitment. I became more intrigued in what could happen when you pushed the mind instead of the body and music bred that interest. It opened doors for me to delve into other things like film, literature, and politics.
It makes perfect sense to me though. I think growing up in the culture we did, there was always music around as a natural component to some sort of joy or hopefulness -- be it Salsa, Vallenato, or Cumbia in the street in Cartagena or dad’s mix tapes that ranged from Fruko, to Elton John or Roy Orbison. There was eclecticism and I’m proud I got to experience that. To bring it down more to specifics, I can remember when I used to help dad vacuum offices early in the mornings for one of his jobs a couple of years after we had moved to the US from Colombia. Wake up at 4 am, do it for a couple of hours, earn a few bucks, buy a new CD, when they used to be affordable. The first week I did that I remember buying that Beatles “1” compilation or whatever randomly at Walmart and it made something click when we put it on in the drive back home. I kept going back every week to work so I could get their whole discography and then other artists and so on. The obsessive part of me took control, you know? It allowed us to hangout and discover a shit ton of new records. By this time I was just really obsessed with listening to music for a couple of years and geeking out about it. That’s until I picked up the guitar, then things really started.
Mami: Donde te ves dentro de 5 años? (Where do you see yourself in 5 years?)
Danny: At ease, being able to play and make music that resonates, assuring others of themselves and to love each other.
Hollywood, FL | Guitar
Momma: I know who I think your earliest guitar influence was, let’s see if we have the same person.
Jake: Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day, without a doubt. What is your earliest musical memory of me?
Momma: Without a doubt you singing Selling The Drama by Live in your car seat at around 2 years old and being slightly mortified due to one specific lyric but unable to contain my smile because you just loved that song.
Jake: Did you ever wish you could play an instrument when you were younger, or even now? Did you ever try learning one?
Momma: No, actually. I wasn’t really musically inclined. You definitely get that one thousand percent from your father.
Jake: Did you ever hate taking me and my brother to metal and punk concerts when we were younger?
Momma: Never! I did get a little nervous at times, especially when you guys were younger. I didn’t understand moshing at first. Honestly, I still don’t quite get the point of it but that’s for another conversation.
Jake: What’s the worst one we dragged you to?
Momma: Culture Room. Trivium. I may have the band wrong but it was the one where I thought everyone was fighting and Dad took you to Culture Room without me after that. I thought a huge fight broke out and that you were going to get trampled. It was terrifying.
Jake: Was there ever a most frustrating part of having a kid in the house that played an instrument?
Momma: Well, at times the noise could get to me after awhile. You guys had a full on band going every day after school and all summer long so it was more than a kid and his guitar. There were lots of amps and there was that hard core phase where it got really loud. But I did love it at the same time. I learned early on the key was to go far enough away in the house to where I could really enjoy the music without the volume getting in the way.
Monterrey, Mexico | Bass
Amà: Qué es lo que sientes cuando tocas música? (What is it that you feel when you play music?)
Mauricio: Libre y vivo. (Free and alive.)
Amà: Qué pasa por tu mente cuando ves toda esa gente que aplaude y les grita después de un toquin? (What goes through your head when people cheer and applaud after you’ve played?)
Mauricio: Me siento completo y un poco confundido. A veces no me la creo que me está pasando. (I feel complete yet confused. Sometimes I can’t really tell what is happening.)
Amà: Que estarías dispuesto hacer para lograr tu sueño? (What would you be willing to do for your dream?)
Mauricio: Dejarlo todo por ello. (Leave it all behind.)
Amà: Cómo te gustaría que la gente te recordara? (How would you like people to remember you?)
Mauricio: Como una persona honesta y serena, que siempre busco su camino y siempre fue por donde quiso. (Like an honest and serene person who always looked for his path and went where he wanted.)
Amà: Te gustaría si en algún momento tuvieras hijos que ellos siguieran esto que tú haces? (Would you like your kids, if you had them, to do the same?)
Mauricio: Si es que tengo hijos, ellos podrán hacer lo que quieran desde un principio. (If I have kids they can do whatever they want from the start.)
Amà: Porque la música y no el fútbol? (Why music and not fútbol?)
Mauricio: En realidad no recuerdo haberme dado cuenta cuando hice el cambio total. Creo que la gente que está metida en la música es mucho más interesante. (I don’t really remember when the change happened. I think people in music are much more interesting.)
Amà: Desde qué edad empezaste a soñar con hacer algo grande en la música? (When did you start dreaming about doing something with music?)
Mauricio: Desde los 13? Los Ramones definitivamente fueron parte de esa decisión. (Since I was 13? The Ramones were definitely part of that decision.)
Amà: Qué piensas de vivir a tantos kilómetros de distancia de tu familia? (What do you think of living a distance so far away from your family?)
Mauricio: Siento que es algo necesario por el momento. Me encantaría estar más cerca, también. En realidad extraño todo lo que tiene que ver con mi familia. (I feel it’s something that is necessary right now. I would love to live closer but it’s not realistic, I miss a lot of things about my family.)
Watsonville, CA | Drums
Ma: Se que tenemos muy poco tiempo para platicar, por ende, desconozco cuando empezó tu gusto por la música. Cuando eres aun un niño jugabas con los videojuegos y no tocabas la batería. ¿Cuándo empezaste a tocar la batería de marera tan seria? Dicho sea de paso, me encanta la idea de verte tocar en vivo algún día. (I know that we have very little time to talk [these days], so I have never really gotten to hear how your interest in music started. When you were a kid, you played a lot of video games and never played the drums. When did you learn to play in such a serious manner? I’m in love with the idea of getting to see you play live someday.)
Alexis: It’s funny you mention that because video games are actually how I learned how to play the drums. I always loved rock music, and when Guitar Hero and Rock Band became popular games, I had dad buy me every different version that would come out. I always had friends over playing every night, if you remember. You probably do because it was always loud as shit.
I was pretty good at the guitar in that game, but I always found the drums way more fun even though it was considerably harder at first. Obviously playing video game guitar is nothing like playing real guitar, but then the first time I sat at a drum kit after getting pretty good at drums on Rock Band, I realized it was almost the same thing, except you hit drums and cymbals instead of rubber control pads. We never had a drum set at the house and neither did any of my friends, so I never got to play real drums, so I stuck to the video game version.
When I moved into that first apartment in Brooklyn with Danny, our friend Adrian Yu asked us to store a drum kit for him there because we had so much extra space. It was always just sitting there, so from time to time I would hop on it and play it, but it always had to be quietly since we had neighbors and high ceilings that would reverberate the sound like crazy. Danny would jam on his guitar and I would play along and we would just mess around. That’s kind of the birth of Native Sun in my mind, because we technically wrote an early version of Palindrome in that apartment.
After we moved out of there, I was drumless again, so I stopped playing altogether until a couple years later when Danny asked me if I wanted to be in a band with him and Jake. He had quit his old band and had a few songs written and took a gamble on me being able to learn how to play. It’s been a little over a year since then and I still kind of suck, but so far it’s worked.
Ma: Tu sabes que a mi me encanta la música, sin embargo, mi gusto es otro. Nosotros tu familia ¿hemos influido de alguna manera en tu interés por la música? ¿Y si hemos influido por qué? Nuestros gustos son muy distintos. (You know that I love music, but our tastes are very different. Has your family influenced in one way or another your interest for playing music? If so, how?)
Alexis: Definitely! Just hearing music all the time was a big influence, whether it was in the car, when you were cleaning the house, at family parties or wherever it was that music was blasting. I never listened to any of that stuff on my own, but if I ever hear it walking down the street here or in passing somewhere I definitely get a little nostalgic. La Sonora Dinamita and Santanera especially.
I also knew dad kind of played guitar when he was younger and I always thought that was cool. I remember hearing him play a few times when I was a kid, but after a certain point that never happened again. A few months ago, I told him I bought an acoustic and was gonna learn and I know he brought the old guitar an has been playing again, so I guess I’ve had some musical influence on him as well!
Ma: En el video de Palindrome hay varias escenas que me gustaría que me describieras. Un individuo viste una playera YOUNG-LATIN-PROUD ¿Cuál es el significado? (In the Palindrome video there are a lot of scenes I would like for you to describe to me. One guy is wearing a shirt that says Young Latin Proud, what does that mean?)
Alexis: I think for me, Danny and Mo, being young Latinos has become an important part of our identity as we’ve grown older. We can’t hide our Latin-ness behind our haircuts or outfit choices or who we choose to associate with, and we aren’t ashamed of it now, even though we may have been growing up.
I know playing rock n' roll is a predominantly straight white guy thing, and even within our own family, it might seem strange to see a bunch of brown kids exploring these sounds, but we don’t really care about that. We are who we are and we’re proud of it, and if anyone thinks it’s something we shouldn’t be openly proud of they’re idiots.