Music groups today are faced with not only creating an image and albums that are infused with their own unique personalities, but with memorable and creative lyrics and instrumentals as well. The underground pop/rap/indie group, The Chicharones, is one such duo that uses humor and harmony to create something new.
The Chicharones is preparing for its first major appearance at The Warped Tour this year, starting on June 16 at the Utah State Fairpark in Salt Lake City. The tour coincides with the release of its new album, “Swine Flew,” which will be released on June 19. Using five-part harmonies and speed raps during their set at The Warped Tour, The Chicharones, which is comprised of veteran performers Josh Martinez and Sleep, is raising the bar on what live performance can be.
Martinez and Sleep generously took the time to discuss over the phone why they decided to play in this year’s Warped Tour. They also spoke about their influences, including the Beach Boys and the Beatles, and what fans can expect to hear on “Swine Flew.”
Q: You’ll be touring nationwide this summer as part of the 2012 Warped Tour. Why did you decide to play in the tour?
Josh Martinez (JM): I think it’s just been a great coincidence that we ended up booking this tour when we’re trying to release the album. The album comes out June 19, so we wanted to be able to tour as much as possible when it came out. Warped Tour is 43 dates, and is as excellent of an opportunity as we can get for this.
Sleep (S): Yeah, we got a toast from our friend Fritz from the Bring It Back stage back to the hip-hop stage on the Warped Tour. We started reconnecting-we’ve known each other for a little over 10 years now. He thought it would be a good fit for The Chicharones to come on the Warped Tour and headline the hip-hop stage.
His main reasoning for it was that he wanted to help people who help people. He said he’s been watching us for the past 10 years, and likes how we’re community-based, and like to help the people around us. He wanted to help us and return the favor. So we had the opportunity, and it was great that we could drop the record at the same time. It really works well that way.
Q: You’ll be touring alongside such groups as The Used, Anti-Flag, Rise Against, Champagne Champagne and Machine Gun Kelly on the Warped Tour. Are there any particular artists that you’re most looking forward to touring and playing with?
S: Anti-Flag is definitely one of them.
JM: Yeah, there are a lot of interesting groups on there, definitely outside of our genre. Some are bigger, and some are smaller. I think we look forward more than anything to seeing how the other acts perform live, and act as people. That always makes a big difference for me. As far as artists go, I like to see them perform live, and how they interact with other people and fans, just to see what kind of people they are-if they’re nice people, or if they’re spoiled kids, or whatever.
S: Champagne Champagne is from Seattle, and we’re interested in checking them out. We’ve heard a lot about them, and got to hear some of their music. We got to see them perform live, so I’m looking forward to seeing them. I know Josh is, too.
Q: Are you both fans of the Warped Tour-have you seen it live before?
S: Yeah, we’ve played it before as well, in 2003, 2004 and 2005, in five to ten day increments, not the whole thing. Neither of us went as kids, it never really came to either of our areas.
JM: But we’ve got to see Billy Idol perform live, that was incredible. We’re fans of music in general, so any platform where there are awesome musicians, you will find us there, for sure.
Q: Besides the Warped Tour this year, you also played at the fifth Annual SXSW Boat Party in March. What is it about the festival that you enjoy playing there so much?
JM: Well, it’s where Sleep and I first met and got the idea to form the group. We’ve been playing South by South West since 2001, so we’ve been going there a lot. More than anything, it’s a huge opportunity to network with people. We’ve built a community with people all over the States and Canada, and for that matter, the world.
S: It’s about getting together with friends.
Q: Like you mentioned, you formed The Chicharones at the South by Southwest Festival in 2001. Why did you both decide to form a music group, and start touring, together?
S: That happened shortly after South by Southwest. What happened was that Josh and I realized that we get along really well as friends, and we didn’t live to far apart from each other. So he came down from Canada to visit me in Portland.
We recorded our first song together, which was opposite affair. It ended up on the Internet, just to see what people would think about it. It really kind of made a buzz for us.
Then we did the Bring On The Summer Spring tour, and it was our first tour together. We went as solo artists, but at the end of every night, we performed a couple of songs that we had written together. People really responded well to it, and we enjoyed performing it. We enjoy making music together, and just keep doing it.
I don’t think it was a conscious decision. I remember sitting in the van on that tour, and we thought The Chicharones was a funny name for our group. We were trying to think of a Mariachi band name. I grew up in New Mexico, so I’m familiar with funny titles of Mariachi bands, like The Royal Flush. I think that’s where we named ourselves, on that tour, and we continue to make music together.
Q: The Chicharones has sold over a 100,000 albums, and you have been called one of the best live shows in underground hip hop. Why do you think fans have come to embrace your music so much?
JM: Well, I think more than anything, it’s just that we kind of think outside of the box, as far as what you can and can’t do with hip-hop. I think our fans appreciate that. They love that we love hip-hop just as much as we have when we were growing up. But we also have other influences that define our sound.
Between the creative processes involved, and taking all of our influences from doo-wop to surf rock to early to mid to late rap, and everything in between, we try to give our fans an experience they don’t get elsewhere. I think everything from the songwriting to the live shows, The Chicharones is built to be interesting.
S: We also love having a good time. We love having and sharing a good time with people, and give 100 percent of ourselves, and hopefully get some of that energy back. We just really want everyone to have a good time, because that’s what it’s all about.
Q: As you mentioned, your upcoming album, “Swine Flew,” is set to be released on June 19. How would you describe the sound of the album?
S: This one does a little trick on you, I think. If you listen to the record in its entirety, it will definitely take a left turn on you towards the middle of the record. What we wanted to do is make a record that’s fun and has multi layers to it. You can listen to it over and over, and get something new out of it, and eventually pick out little things that were hidden in there. It starts out very high tempo.
Like Josh said before, we pull from a lot of genres. I’ve been told that some songs sound like Beatles songs, and some songs sound like doo-wop songs and surf rock songs, all incorporated in, and infused with, hip-hop and rap music. So it has a really broad sound. It’s very complex, compared to anything we’ve done before. It’s our most mature record, I would say.
We stayed away from samples on this. We used live musicians, and really composed this differently than we have in the past. It took a long time to make it.
We used to be geographically hindered-Josh was in Canada, and I lived in Portland. About five years ago, Josh moved to Portland, and now we’re closer to each other. We’re able to work more closely on music. Our process has gotten more intense, and we’ve learned more about each other as people. I think it’s all kind of reflected in this record.
Q: Where did you get the inspiration for “Swine Flew?” Are there any particular artists that you look up to that inspired the album?
S: Me, personally, I got this inspiration from life. There are a lot of artists that we look up to. One of them is The Beatles; my father is a huge Beatles fan. So that was drilled into my head at a young age that they’re the best rock band of all time. I personally like The Rolling Stones, as well. Josh, do you want to name some of your favorite artists, I know you’ve got a bunch of them.
JM: I guess I have more. Sleep’s got children, so they take up a lot more of his time. I, without children, have endless amounts of time to listen to music. (laughs) I listen to a lot of current music, like newer rock-Kings of Leon, Black Keys, Vampire Weekend, Artic Monkey and Gotye. I like indie rock with a big sound.
My influences go back to harmony groups, from reggae all the way back to doo-wop. I like The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Our musical influences span a little bit of everything, I think. We just appreciate good music. That’s what we try to model our album on, good music.
S: Yeah, good songs that are going to get a crowd going. We really look at it song-by-song, and write the best song that we can, every time that we get together.
Q: Spin has called The Chicharones “The Best Bar Band in America.” What’s the feeling like, knowing that your music is being embraced by the music industry?
S: It’s really, really exciting. We both come from small places. I come from the four corners of New Mexico. I grew up in Farmington and Albuquerque, and Josh grew up in Nova Scotia. Every day, I’m blown away, and I just think about my beginnings. We’ve done a lot more than we ever thought we could or would. So it’s really exciting, and it makes me want to continue and work hard.
Q: Why should people who aren’t familiar with your music buy “Swine Flew,” and see you at the Warped Tour?
S: I think it’s refreshing. If you’re a fan of hip-hop music (you’ll like our music). The foundations of hip-hop were that you used to strive to be the best emcees and to make the best songs and music you could. We’re really true to that foundation. I think with this new record, we push ourselves to make something that is that next level, that is that step up.
I think people are really looking for something like this record-something that has substance to it and is positive and enjoyable to listen to. You don’t feel that you spent your money and got a record that only had a couple good songs on it. We didn’t put filler on this album; we tried to make every song its own masterpiece. I think it will be really refreshing for people to hear an album with this many dynamics to it, and bringing a lot of fun to it.
Every song has a different mood to it. As we said earlier, life inspired this record, and the ups and downs up that road. We’ve worked on this record for a couple of years. There are some fun songs, some serious songs and some deep songs. It has a little something for everyone. It has a lot of fun for everybody.