Alex Anwandter on How Global Right-Wing Backlash Informed Cutting New LP, ‘Latinoamericana’

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On Alex Anwandter’s critically adored 2016 album, Amiga, the Chilean singer-songwriter performed the position of a troubled patriot, confronting problems with sexuality and gender within the context of Chile’s social and political previous and current. That identical 12 months, he additionally launched his first movie, Nunca Vas a Estar Solo (You’ll Never Be Alone) a drama impressed by the case of Daniel Zamudio, a younger Chilean man murdered for being homosexual. “We have an amazing consciousness in Chile,” Anwandter tells Rolling Stone over the cellphone. “We’re very intense, very politically conscious and really artistic and poetic, however this depth additionally comes from being remoted. It’s very laborious… when this degree of loneliness prevails.”

Now dwelling in Los Angeles, Anwandter has broadened his stormy gaze in direction of all of the Americas on a brand new album titled Latinoamericana. Out now by way of Nacional Records, the brand new LP is shadowed by international politics’ latest shift to the appropriate and by the Trump administration particularly. Yet Anwandter is devising new, extra intimate methods to delve into issues of sexual and racial discrimination, to not point out the Americas’ legacy of colonialism. “It’s good when politics can really feel as private as a breakup tune. It’s a technique to attach, to create empathy,” he explains.

Latinoamericana isn’t the dancefloor confessional we’re used to listening to from Anwandter; it’s mature and impressive, a cycle of clean synth-pop laced with references to the late Seventies and early Eighties. It’s danceable as ever, however bleak in temper and weary in tone. Take “No Te Puedes Escapar” — subtle art-pop drowned in anxiousness like a wigged-out Roxy Music monitor, or a misplaced minimize from Chile’s Pinochet-era new wave heroes Los Prisioneros. It is cohesive sufficient to soundtrack a really trendy movie set in a dystopian future; however Anwandter’s eyes are fixated on the current, with the occasional look backward.

Although the subject material may be heavy, Anwandter’s brooding pop is fortified by subtle preparations with strings and conventional folks devices — such because the cuica, a Brazilian friction drum, or the Andean charango, a small stringed instrument within the lute household. And there could also be some science fiction within the combine in spite of everything: Anwandter describes the album as a retro-futuristic imaginative and prescient of Latin American music — music that by no means was, however ought to have been. Rolling Stone explored Latinoamericana and different knotty ideas with the musical auteur.

How have your experiences since shifting to the U.S. influenced your new album?
Maybe within the sense that I don’t isolate some phenomena that I see in Latin America. It’s what I understand as a conservative backlash [to progress]. There appeared to have been some form of consensus that the world was going ahead towards one thing extra tolerant and progressive. I feel we’re in an period the place that’s undoubtedly being pushed again and questioned, more and more extra explicitly as nicely. And being right here within the U.S., which is, I’d say, one of many stronger targeted factors of that backlash, has made me suppose seed was planted, or has all the time been there, and it’s been rising exponentially recently. The album has a temper of being shocked by that, not defeated, however completely shocked and shocked.

Were you your self shocked by these occasions?
I feel, with Trump particularly, the entire nation and the entire world was shocked. He was a joke for a very long time after which immediately, in the future, he was the president and the president of the United States has energy that exceeds the borders of the nation. We in Chile, naturally, know very a lot about that.

For anybody who may not be up on their latest historical past, what do you imply by that?
I imply the coup d’etat in 1973 — when [then-president] Salvador Allende was deposed by a brand new navy dictatorship that lasted 13 years, which was sponsored immediately by the CIA. Nixon and Kissinger just about engineered that. They discovered some prepared conservative in Chile, [who was] the proprietor of an important newspaper in Chile to this present day. They [ousted] Allende and put in Pinochet.

Chile these days is without doubt one of the most neoliberal international locations on the planet and that’s as a result of now we have an financial system that was imposed by power by the U.S. and we nonetheless have a structure [written during] the dictatorship. It’s one thing that occurred 45 years in the past, nevertheless it’s nonetheless very a lot current.

What is it like, coming from a rustic with a latest historical past of totalitarianism and watching this backlash happen?
It’s very scary. I don’t know when you’ve learn concerning the scenario in Brazil. There’s a candidate [Jair Bolsonaro], he’s main within the polls for the presidential election. This candidate is like an exponential Trump. He’s homophobic, sexist. He jokes about raping ladies within the senate. He’s ex-military and unapologetically in favor of the navy dictatorship in Brazil. It’s the sort of factor that expands from nation to nation. If a rustic just like the U.S. elects trump, a rustic like Brazil elects this man and that has lots of impact on individuals’s lives.

Is the shock you talked about a part of what impressed the one “Locura”?
Definitely. Locura means insanity, and the insanity I’m speaking about is the truth that if you get somebody like Trump on the rostrum and he will get to say what’s true or what’s the legislation and also you suppose in another way, immediately you’re the individual whose actuality is being questioned and that’s a really unusual place to be in. Being an artist in a time like that may be very unusual. There’s one thing that’s alleged to be celebratory about music and performing, doing concert events, and it’s bizarre doing that in such a time.

The single “Locura” is sung from the viewpoint of a girl. Why did you select to do this?
I like discovering new methods to carry some points into my music. My final album was very specific about its politics and about my very own ideology. I needed to maintain speaking about these points with out making some form of guidelines of social points. One of the methods I discovered to dis-align myself with heterosexual males was [by] not singing as a person. I need to contest what being a person is and invite confrontation by betraying them and singing as a girl.

You’ve spoken candidly about being homosexual and addressed homophobia immediately in your music. There are different artists in Chile, from Javiera Mena to Me Llamo Sebastian, who’re overtly homosexual — which makes it tempting to think about there’s a scene of rebel queer pop in Chile. Is that far off base?
It’s nearly unattainable for individuals to make a dwelling off music in Chile; there’s no business for it. So I feel the notion that there’s a queer scene one thing is, I wouldn’t say false or misguided, nevertheless it’s very difficult, within the sense that these scenes collapse in a short time due to the dearth of an infrastructure for [them] to develop. We have an amazing consciousness in Chile. We’re very intense, very politically conscious and really artistic and poetic however this depth additionally comes from [feeling] remoted. So, it’s very laborious to explain it as a “scene” when this degree of loneliness prevails. There are few artists which were in a position to help themselves and tour different international locations and it’s very laborious.

I assumed your earlier album Amiga was very a lot about Chile, however with Latinoamericana, you’ve got widened your focus.
I agree utterly that Latinoamericana has a broader view. The music itself has broadened its influences. One of the brand new parts that I integrated is Brazilian music, as a result of my dad’s from Brazil and I largely grew up listening to MPB, which is música widespread brasileira. I’m speaking about Milton Nascimento and Chico Buarque. They have been very linked to conventional Brazilian music, however they have been attempting make music that appeared ahead and proposed new aesthetics, however that was on the identical time very linked to social points.

Was that musical strategy an inspiration for you on this album?
Definitely. People from from different cultures have a tendency to scale back international locations like mine or continents like mine to their native folks music. This album disrupts that by not decreasing itself to folkloric parts. It’s a retro-futuristic train for me musically, one way or the other choosing up music that might have been made within the Seventies however wasn’t — as a result of there was no tradition allowed — appreciating conventional parts in music, but in addition proposing forward-looking stuff.

Chilean tradition was very repressed throughout the dictatorship — however isn’t there additionally a tradition of resistance by music in Chile?
There’s undoubtedly a convention of resistance, largely earlier than the dictatorship. [Political folk singer] Victor Jara was killed just a few days after the coup d’etat in September 1973, and lots of that motion died. Then [it would be] 10 or extra years till a brand new resistance emerged. I’d say round 1984, 1985, when Los Prisioneros began making music once more, [they] couldn’t be utterly open about their politics. They have been censored they usually suffered economically. What may be very stunning about [Chilean protest music] is that it goes earlier than Victor Jara, again to Violeta Parra who began [writing songs] within the Forties. It’s a really huge nicely to drink from. What the dictatorship and [resulting] censorship created was a disconnect between artists and the individuals, who both weren’t conscious, or weren’t enthusiastic about that nicely. What I’m attempting to do with Latinoamericana is to begin ingesting from that nicely once more and see what comes out.