One of the biggest bands I got to see in Lima was the shirtless, 4-piece, "dream surf" powerhouse, Mundaka. I met the leader, frontman, songwriter, jack of all trades, Rodrigo Vera Tudela at a bar in the dark and loud indie hub of Barranco. We chatted about music, politics, Lima indie and Mundaka. Here's a window into our conversation about it all, including the fate of the incredible Lima indie scene.
Mundaka formed in 2010, solidifying their current lineup in 2012 and playing their first gig as a band in 2014. At that time, they were just releasing their first LP and with a mixture of sounds from surf rock to dream pop, so they landed on the genre, dream surf. Their influences stem from reggae, punk, techno punk and more. Now then, here's Rodrigo:
Tudela is the heart of the band. He formed it. He writes all of the songs. He sings and plays guitar and composes the music as well. His earlier project, a reggae band, took a backseat once he realized most of his songs weren't reggae. Thus the need for a new band to "be free and create all these different things that came to [his] mind." And so, Mundaka, named after a beat from the Basque country that he'd read about, was born.
When I asked about his songwriting process, I got my favorite quote from the interview:
"[My lyrics are] … like a garbage can of my subconscious."
He writes music based on images, memories, or imagined elements of his life. The songs are generally mixtures of these pictures of things, often really little things. Like seeing a red light in a stranger's window when he was a child. All of these little, inconsequential, images from his childhood come together to make up the lyrics, while the sound comes from mixing different elements from different music to make the unique sound that is Mundaka.
When you get yourself to your first Mundaka show, which is bound to be soon, you will notice them…immediately. Inspired by the unique stage presence of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mundaka decided they wanted to give something more to the audience, more than just music, even if it's as simple as being shirtless. So when you hear a new sound at a show and find the band on stage in their bathing suits, odds are you've found Mundaka.
The Moment - Radiohead
As an enormous fan myself, I just had to know what it was like opening for Radiohead. Rodrigo confessed that he himself is not really a fan, but Mundaka's guitarist is. They didn't get to meet the band, but perhaps only because they were too shy to approach Thom as he walked around backstage near them. In the end, the show was 2 things: packed (roughly 6000 people when Mundaka played, their biggest show to date), and awesome (I mean, obviously). In his words:
It was awesome. All of these people were with us cheering for us. Being a supporting act is not always what I like, but it's a price you have to pay. I dream that one day our band can fill up a stadium on our own steam. For now, we had this. So we had to take advantage of it. We put on a really great show; I liked it a lot.
So how does a small band from Lima Peru end up opening for one of the biggest bands in the world? Like most anywhere else: hard-work, passion, etc, but it all boils down to one name, Maka Penny. Mundaka had been growing a strong fan base as the crowds reacted to their passion and professionalism, and they realized: perhaps they needed a manager. This is where Maka, an old friend of Rodrigo's who was studying music management in Bristol, came into the picture. Band management is not a big business in Lima, as most bands do all of the work themselves, but Mundaka has taken a different approach. They have given the reins to Maka and with this "algorithm in her mind of how to do things well," they have seen phenomenal growth in just a couple of years. She has introduced press teams, photographers, meet-and-greets, and more to shows. She knows who to contact and where to make strong connections. And it is much to her credit that they opened for Radiohead. Rodrigo confessed that it took some time to convince her, but the band, and the scene, are all grateful for her acceptance of this role for which she seems born.
So sure, Mundaka are on their way. They've got a huge fan base, a killer manager and have been on one of the coolest bills of the year. But what of the Lima scene and Peruvian indie?
From the lack of historical interest (noted in our Adictos Al Bidet interview, only 5% of Peruvians listen to rock music, with far less involved in any niche indie styles), to alleged police and government corruption that causes local authorities to shut down clubs who can't pay their outrageous fines for "noise disturbances," finding success in this scene is incredibly difficult. All of this is something Lima indie bands accept as they are aware they "were not born in the right place." What's interesting about this is that the Lima indie scene is vast, and extremely talented, with countless bands of headlining caliber playing all over the city. So what does that mean for the music? According to Rodrigo, it means the bands play with passion, for the sheer love of the music. I've seen this before in other scenes, first to come to mind is one of my favorites, Seoul indie. You can just head out any night and hit a club and see some top-shelf rock for cheap. Nevertheless, in Lima, the tide is shifting. Even as recent as 5 years ago, the Lima scene was completely different. Now, people are starting to take interest, bands are growing, the media is starting to care, and Rodrigo says people are riding the wave towards a bigger scene in the future, even if it may take many more years of hard work.
Of course it's cool, amazing even, to see Mundaka's success and talk about Thom Yorke, but the most shocking thing to me about Rodrigo is that his side job (all indie musicians have one, two or ten), is unlike most people I've met in music: he is a doctor. A full-fledged MD at 28 who works 24-hour shifts at a Navy base. Humble as ever, he talks about how he is "just in general practice," and how "it isn't that hard" since he "only" has to work 10 days a month (these are made up of crazy 24-hour shifts with 6 hours of consultations following). But still, he loves his work and relishes in the time it gives him to focus on his music.
We ended it with this: when you're checking out Mundaka's music and wondering what it's all about, just know it isn't about politics, girlfriends, or anything happy, because he just can't write about those things. Instead, it's all about passion, vision and pure energy as the doctor rocks the stage.
Keep fighting the good fight for the future of music wherever you live, just like the hardworking underground bands of Peru.
And for a little more reality, give our opinion piece, What Broke..., a read.
~Keep RoKing my friends!~