One of the most challenging feats that a band can accomplish is gaining huge success and popularity while remaining unsigned by any record label. I was fortunate enough to spend an evening with Jenny and the Mexicats — a popular indie band based in Mexico — while on their 10-year anniversary tour, playing their first gig in New Jersey. Jenny and the Mexicats not only has an extremely loyal international fan base, but one of the most unique sounds and songwriting styles of any band that I have previously had the pleasure of working with.
After their show at Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, the music continued backstage long after the show had been over. While interviewing trumpet player and vocals singer Jenny Ball, Icho who plays bass, Pantera Mexicat who’s on guitar and David Gonzalez Bernardos who plays percussion, we were serenaded with laughter and a dirty blues progression from the piano next to us as others partied on.
This group was founded in Madrid by the bassist Icho and the guitarist Mexicat. The two had met Ball when she was 18 and wanted her to move to Madrid so they could play together. It took two years, but in 2008 she finally moved from England to Madrid and they had started the band under the name Pachucos and the Princess.
“We were very young and wanted to do something,” Ball said.
They immediately trusted each other as musicians when they had first played together.
Each member liked the sounds and writing styles that they had to offer, but more importantly they liked each other. While watching them perform, it was very clear that they have an amazing relationship both on and off of the stage. As a band, they blend with each other effortlessly and communicate as if they were telepathically linked. As individual musicians, each member is a precision-driven monster with soul.
Their cultural mixture shows in their writing as well. On the surface their lyrics go back and forth between Spanish and English, which creates an experience that is sonically very pleasing to any new listeners. However, below the surface you can hear everything from jazz, rock, flamenco, punk and other styles of music they grew up on. Icho and Mexicat were actually in a flamenco band together prior to meeting Ball.
Ball loves reggae and jazz. You can hear her musical influences underlining her own trumpet tone.
“Some bands look for sounds. We’ve never done that,” Ball said. “We kind of stumbled on our sound, took care of it and made it grow.”
As a result of their differing musical and cultural influences, each member brings something new to the table.
Mexicat noted that nothing really determines which language they may write a song in.
“We’ll try in Spanish then English, but we go with whatever the song is asking for,” Mexicat said.
Their multicultural influences allows them to be very free when they are writing, which is needed when a band is on the road for so long. For the entire 12 years that they have known each other, they have been on tour for the last 10.
Consequently this is where they need to get most of their writing done. Having a free range of language incorporated with their musicality allows their writing to be fresh and new, especially while they are seeing new places and having different experiences together. Each song on all three of their records stands alone for this reason. There is no doubt that this is what led to their current sound and independent success.
When asked about what inspires them, Ball very simply summed it up with “life.”
This may seem cliche, but their lyrics strongly show how truly inspired they are by everything around them. Their songs are filled with extreme happiness, sadness and experiences that may be universal in some cases. All of which are written in a way that sounds brand new to listeners.
The band has a hard time defining their own sound. They threw around some band names and genres in an attempt to explain, but none of the members could narrow it down.
“It’s just… The Mexicats,” Icho said.
Jenny and the Mexicats has been touring since their birth, and there is no end in the foreseeable future. This is a band that loves to write, be on the road and perform. Since they met each other they have lived in Spain, England and their current home in Mexico City. They never have too much time at home due to their restless touring schedule though, which is sad because Ball is always missing her dogs.
While traveling can be strenuous, their ridiculous schedule promises that they get to perform on any given week. Current fans will be pleased to know that they will be writing and recording a new record while on their current tour.
As for their next 10 years, Ball predicts that they will be “old and tired, but happy.” I predict that they won’t even be close to finished no matter how old they get.