Who are The Echocentrics?
A lot can happen in five years. For producer Adrian Quesada, the last five years included a Grammy win with his ex-band Grupo Fantasma, forming a new band with members of City and Color and My Morning Jacket under the name Spanish Gold – releasing a critically acclaimed album which then led to an appearance on the David Letterman show. This is just the tip of the iceberg when you start to list the catalog of records the producer has worked on. Quesada’s body of work ranges from having worked on albums for Natalia Clavier, Daniel Johnston, The Sword and David Garza or the extensive touring he did with long time band Brownout: the Ozzy Osbourne approved Black Sabbath reworking as Brown Sabbath, backing GZA (Wu-Tang Clan), or the countless sessions and collaborations as a guitar player. Quesada has kept quite busy since releasing the first Echocentrics album, Shadows in 2011.
The Echocentrics is what Quesada considers to be his solo project. He explains, “I write songs and record them on every free day I have, I have 4-5 albums worth…and send them to some of my favorite singers.” Echo Hotel features a few of the same artists from the first Echocentrics album including Natalia Clavier (Thievery Corporation) and Tita Lima (daughter of Os Mutantes’ bassist Lihminia) as well as Alex Maas (Black Angels), Austin songbird Jazz Mills, James Petralli of White Denim and singer-songwriter Bill Callahan (Smog).
Echo Hotel, released May 20, 2016, is a direct reflection of the everyday influences Quesada finds in his life in South Texas. With songs in Portuguese, Spanish and English, Quesada explains, “Everyone in my hometown is bilingual, people have complete conversations with one person speaking Spanish and the other English, so to me language barriers don’t really exist.” The album takes listeners on a sonic journey. It’s psychedelic, cinematic, at times soulful, dusty, while never losing the unique productions that make it uniquely Quesada’s.
AMF EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
WITH ADRIAN QUESADA
How did The Echocentrics form back in 2011? What makes this group different than other bands you’ve been a part of or performed with (Grupo Fantasma, Brownout, Spanish Gold, etc.)?
The Echocentrics came about because I had a collection of songs I was writing and recording that didn’t fit the mold for either Grupo Fantasma or Brownout (the two bands I was in at the time) and I was looking for someone to sing on them. A few people recommended Natalia Clavier and Tita Lima. I was looking for female vocals in particular. The music is very different from anything else I do in that it is a little more cinematic and psychedelic.
On your sophomore album, Echo Hotel, you feature a few of the same guest artists from your debut album, Sunshadow, such as Natalia Clavier (Thievery Corporation), Tita Lima, and Alex Maas ( Black Angels). Has the collaboration process with these artists change from one album to the next?
The collaboration process with Natalia and Tita didn’t really change as neither lives in Austin so they write independently from me and often times just email their vocals from another studio. On this album, working with Alex and Bill Callahan we were able to work together in person and it created a different dynamic.
Echo Hotel features songs in Spanish, Portuguese, and English. How do you decide on a language when writing a song?
I grew up on the border so I speak both Spanish and English fluently and it is very common for people to converse in two languages effortlessly down there so language barriers are something I really enjoy breaking down in music as well as they shouldn’t hold anybody back from enjoying something even if they don’t speak the language. So when Tita wrote something in Portuguese I was all for it as it’s a beautiful language, a very musical one.
The album embodies a psychedelic aura, playing off of soulful roots/blues at times, giving it a dusty edge. Where do you draw these influences from?
I never really set out to make things psychedelic, they just come out that way, so I can’t really pinpoint the psychedelic influence very accurately. I will say that when I started writing these songs I was into a lot of soul music that had a psychedelic influence itself, from late 60s/early 70s Temptations to a lot of Norman Whitfield productions, to Serge Gainsbourg, and more.
Are there any spots in Austin that you go to get your creative juices flowing?
Austin is a great place to escape into nature, from the green belt and jogging around the lake to various spots outside the city like McKinney Falls, etc. that I like to go to. Anywhere where it’s quieter than the city inspires me.
What inspires the music and songs you write?
After the first album came out and we played some live shows, I was really inspired by the live band itself – John Speice on drums, Gerardo Larios on keys, Eddie Torres on bass, and John Branch on guitar. Their playing and sound really brought it all to life. Besides that – Life experiences, my family, and great music! I am finding more and more that there is great contemporary music that comes out that lights a fire under me and makes me knock out songs quickly. I am constantly trying to be better at what I do and that is a drive that never ends. I always feel like I can do better than the last release I put you.
You were one of 20 young artists in the world to be nominated for the 2010 Rolex Mentor and Artist Protege Initiative with Brian Eno. What did it mean to you to be nominated?
Needless to say, it was a huge honor for me at the time. Funny enough, the email was sitting in my spam folder for quite awhile before I found it! I remember getting spam about Rolexes so I filtered that word out and it sent it straight to spam. To have been selected from a pool of folks around the world was completely flattering, the playing field was massive.
In 2010, your band Grupo Fantasma won its first Grammy. What has winning a Grammy done for your career? What was the experience like and what does the award mean to you?
I wouldn’t say the Grammy we won completely changed anything but it is a prestigious thing that is forever something I’m proud of, considering we recorded an album in a rented house on a minuscule budget and beat out a few major label releases along with some other hipper, more “buzzworthy” bands. I did not go to the Grammys that year, I watched it from a truck stop on the way home from a tour. NEVER STOP WORKING! I’m totally going next time though, haha.
You’ve recently started your own recording studio, Level One Sound, here in Austin where you’ve produced artists such as Croy and the Boys, The Sword, and Jazz Mills. Is there an artist you’re currently working with that you’re really excited about?
I really feel like I have good chemistry with a hip hop group called Third Root, their first album which well in 2016 was put together over the course of a year on a tiny budget as well. We are working on the next one now and I really think besides the fact that they are just a dope hip hop group, their message is extremely poignant in today’s social and political climate.
How did you get involved with AMF?
I’ve been a fan of what they do as a resource and advocate for Austin-based musicians for some time and have collaborated on a few things here and there with AMF. I try to be a part of the community as much as my schedule allows.
What does it mean to be named AMF Artist of the Month?
It’s a huge honor! Considering that we’re not technically a “local” band and not extremely visible or active, it means a lot that the music goes that far.
Is there any piece of advice or lesson you’ve learned that still guides you today?
A friend said this upon his turning 40 – if there’s anything you want to do, do it now. I still joke with him about how that changed my life.
So what’s next for you and The Echocentrics? Any big plans or goals for 2017?
I’m trying to find some time to start planning the new record, which is looking like early this summer. I really want to record as much of it as live as possible with the band vs. me piecing it together on my own as I have in the past! We’ll see what happens from there.