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Arboles Libres plays bilingual music, whether venues like it or not

Bilingual Beat



One of the venues on Arboles Libres' current tour has asked them to refrain from performing more than two Spanish-language songs at the show. The rest, the venue said, should be in English.

For the Miami-based band, that's a problem. Singer Juan Ignacio "Nacho" Londono writes many of his songs in Spanish because he grew up in Colombia and only moved to Florida in 2008. Others, also written by guitarist Eddie Moreno, are in English, and some combine the two languages. That's what makes up an Arboles Libres set, and that's what they're going to play on this tour. Period.

"I didn't pack up my van, I didn't plan this out for months just to do that somewhere along the road," Moreno says of the not-so-open-minded venue (which he promised us was not in the state of South Carolina). "We all feel the same about it and we're all very passionate about what we're doing and we're not going to change it."

The rock 'n' roll you'll hear on Father, Arboles Libres' first LP, is the kind of grand, slightly experimental, almost anthemic psych-rock that's so well suited for the Tin Roof, where they're playing on Dec. 22. And yes, some of the songs are in Spanish. Or in English and in Spanish. Or just in English.

Moreno has been playing under the Arboles Libres moniker for some time. When he and Londono first started collaborating, Londono brought his Spanish songs to the table, and they decided to incorporate them into what they were doing together. "The next thing we knew we were bilingual." That might be an easy choice to make in Miami, where bilingulaism is par for the course, but the same can't be said for most other places. Arboles Libres hasn't traveled too much out of South Florida, sticking to the Sunshine State and shows in Puerto Rico, New York, and at South by Southwest.

This tour is the band's first major jaunt out of their ethnically heterogeneous comfort zone, and possibly into an invertible WASP's nest. It includes a lot of Southern dates, where crowds definitely won't be as diverse as those in the band's home city. "In Miami, they can understand the lyrics — and there's also part of the crowd that doesn't understand the lyrics," Moreno says. "They enjoy the music and they have a good time."

And occasionally, there will be one person at the show who hails from a place like Honduras, like when they played in St. Augustine last week. That guy understood everything and loved it, but he might be an exception. "When you go to other venues, there might not be that one guy," Moreno says. "But it doesn't matter. We're not going to change what we do. We're going to keep doing it."

As Moreno explains, there's a lot of benefit to writing in another language. "The thing about Spanish is that it's so rich. There's so many more words, and there's so much more possibility that you can have," Moreno explains. "It comes out so much more poetic in Spanish. Even one line can do what an English stanza could do or a paragraph."

And at the very least, the crowds should be familiar with Arboles Libres' musical influences. Sure, Londono grew up on a lot of Spanish music and those roots are there, but he also listened to Black Sabbath and Metallica. Moreno lived in North Carolina at one point and brought the blues back with him to South Florida. And drummer Anthony Genovese played in high school jazz bands while getting into hardcore and heavy metal. "We mixed all that together and it just comes out," Moreno says. "It's less planning and more just doing."

Although Moreno does admit he's almost anxious to come to South Carolina, at least Arboles Libres has Charleston darling Joel T. Hamilton (and his Mechanical River project) by their side. Moreno met Hamilton while managing his recent tour with Rachel Goodrich. "Ever since I met Joel T. Hamilton, it's definitely influenced me and my character and my music," Moreno says. He brought Hamilton to Miami to meet the rest of the band this winter and start the tour, and Moreno says that dynamic has affected his own band. He predicts the Charleston show will offer some sort of collaboration between the two acts.

After all, music is a universal language. It shouldn't matter whether the actual words make sense or not.

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