Two weeks have passed since I left Austin and said goodbye to SXSW. And even though I contracted the flu on the last weekend of the festival (shit was cray) and the memory of it all feels like a weird fading dream, I can vividly recall that Thursday of the Torreblanca y Amigas showcase because It was that magical. Being in the same room with the most powerful female players in Latin music (Andrea Balency, Ximena Sarinana, Natalia Lafourcade AND Javiera Mena) was amazing in itself, but seeing them perform left me in awe.
Following the showcase, Mena and I chatted about her time in Austin, music videos, and pochos. I don't know how, but I also managed to interview her. I would like to thank Mena and her manager for being the nicest and most approachable people in the world. I should also point out that this interview was conducted in Spanish and then later translated into inglés. Translating is hard work, and I'm starting to think it's not really my thing (just ask my Latin professor). But many thanks also to my fellow CF writers Andrew Casillas and Pierre Lestruhaut, my girlfriend Daniela, and my mom for their help when I was stuck.
Giovanni Guillén: Welcome to Austin. How are you enjoying the festival?
Javiera Mena: There are so many people here! Obviously this is my first time in the U.S. and first time participating in a festival of this scale. But it's certainly exciting and it feels great to be here.
GG: You're here promoting Mena, which came out about two years ago, correct?
JM: Year and a half, more or less. This is sort of the last wave of energy left in Mena (laughs).
GG: So, are you already thinking about the future?
JM: Definitely. What I want most right now is to return to Santiago, close myself off in the Cordillera, and just work on my new record.
GG: Any idea which direction you might take for this album?
JM: Not yet, I think when the ideas in my head are realized I'll know. Of course, if I have the lyrics and if I have the music the songs will decide that direction. I do think this next album could go a more psychedelic route.
GG: Psychedelic? Well on that note, do you see yourself once again working with electronic music exclusively or what other styles are you open to?
JM: Electronic music is something I'm drawn to because of the of punch it delivers, you know? Through drum machines, etc. I love that. But I'm very open to anything—even something stripped down to just guitar and voice, we'll see. Another reason why I'm excited about returning to Santiago.
GG: I know that you have very diverse music taste—everything from Juan Gabriel to My Bloody Valentine—what are some recent discoveries, bands you’re listening to now that might influence this upcoming record?
JM: Hmm, new things I like...obviously everything I listen to influences me in some way. When I discovered Grimes, for example, I became obsessed. I mean, just the fact that someone younger than me could move my world so much, I loved it.
GG: Wasn't she born in like '89?
JM: '88! But I love that things like that happen. And also, my friends that make music, people like Diego Morales who are always showing me things that inspire me. They don't have to be these huge biblical figures like Michael Jackson...
GG: Or the Beatles?
JM: Exactly. They can be these chiquilines that come out of nowhere. Lately Grimes has definitely moved me.
GG: I read an interview where you stated in a few years you feel as though you will have to emigrate from Chile.
JM: That's right.
GG: Could you explain that a bit more?
JM: Even though Chile is a beautiful country and the people are amazing, it's a place that geographically is just too far. I mean, so many hours just to come to a place like this. It's not like a country like Germany, which is far from here but is still close to everything else in Europe. Chile is a place with so much to offer, but in a way it's still difficult to make a career in music work. Especially in the business side. As much I would like to stay, I know that I'll have to emigrate because when I come to Austin, for example, it feels like there's a real industry here. And there is an industry in Chile, but it still has a long way to go.
GG: It's a little weird to hear that because, as someone who lives in the U.S., it feels like everything in music right now is happening in Chile or Argentina or in Brazil.
JM: There are a things happening- It's just hard to take things as far as I would like. Argentina is amazing, by the way.
GG: Well you've already toured there, and you just played in Mexico at Festival Nrmal and there's a mini-tour, correct?
JM: Yes, the plan is to go back to Mexico and play Vive Latino, that's something we've been wanting to do right.* What else do I have? Well, a few things planned that I can't talk about yet.
GG: No?! Well, I have to ask—are there any plans to tour the U.S. soon?
JM: No, no. Nothing's been set. I'm returning to do some promotion, but in fact I promised the Consul I wouldn't work because I don't have a work visa.
GG: Last question: did you see Club Fonograma's review of Mena?
JM: Of course! It came out as album of the year!
GG: It received a 100, do you feel Mena was a perfect record?
JM: Yes! (Laughs) No, I mean it's hard to say that about oneself. One keeps these things inside to be humble, but I do like Mena. I see Mena and Esquemas Juveniles, my two albums, and lately I've been feeling more attached to Esquemas. (With Mena) I wanted to make a record out of cohesive pop songs, and I think I achieved that. Of course it must happen in your work, deciding what is perfect must be difficult. It's especially difficult for me to call it perfect. I don't see it as a perfect record because to me, a perfect record is Michael Jackson's Thriller or Aphex Twin's Richard D. James. I see my album as a baby next to those gems.
GG: Well if that's a goal for you, there's still time to make a perfect record.
JM: Yes, but then again, it's like what is perfect? The issue is just far too relative.
*Javiera actually said the word "chingón" which in my head I thought was the coolest thing.