While music is a universal language, it can be difficult for bands to break through language and cultural barriers. However, Zoé has been breaking through both: The band from Mexico will be performing at Coachella on Sunday, April 13 and April 20.
The band began in Mexico City in 1994, and—like many new bands—it went through various lineup changes and identity crises at first, before finding a degree of consistency. The current lineup includes León Larregui (vocals), Sergio Acosta (guitar), Jesus Baez (keyboards), Angel Mosqueda (bass guitar) and Rodrigo Guardiola (drums).
During a recent phone interview, Sergio Acosta talked about Mexico’s small but powerful alternative-music scene.
“Mexico’s music scene is closer to traditional music,” he said. “The alternative-music scene in Mexico is there, but there is music from all around the world, and we have a lot of influences.”
Those influences include a variety of indie-rock and psychedelic-rock bands—but each album the band has put out since the self-titled debut in 2000 has had a different sound.
“The recording sessions for us are the joyful part of the process,” he said. “Experimentation has been a big cornerstone for us. It’s always been important for us to generate our own original sound. On our second album, we used a drill and typewriters, and any old piece of junk that we could find that could generate sound.”
Zoé has had a long working relationship with producer Phil Vinall, who has also worked with Pulp, Placebo and Elastica, just to name a few bands.
“Phil has worked with us since the mix of the first album in 2000,” he said. “When we started working with him, it was through e-mail and the tracking of our first album. Luckily for us, he was moved by the music, and we got to go to London to make our first album; since that day, he’s been our producer. He’s a very important part of the sound, and we have great communication with him.”
Zoé also has a friend in Nick McCarthy, of the Scottish band Franz Ferdinand. McCarthy was introduced to Acosta by a visual artist in Mexico.
“We met outside of the music environment,” he said. “We just became friends. Later on, Nick came for a holiday to Mexico City, and we were working on a show at the Palacio de los Deportes (Palace of Sports). We were just like, ‘Hey, why don’t you play a song with us?’ He came to the rehearsal room; we sung together; and we had a great show.”
McCarthy has also collaborated with Zoé in the recording studio.
“We have this great friendship. We always see each other when we’re in the same place, and we spent a holiday together a couple of months ago,” Acosta said.
Acosta claimed the band doesn’t think about the language and cultural barriers it faces. The band has recorded some songs in English and has managed to have success in a number of American markets; the band has also developed a degree of popularity in Europe. Acosta said it all comes down to the power of the music.
“We have some songs in English,” he said. “… We sang them in English because they sounded better. It can be frustrating having a language barrier, but we also believe that music is music. We used to listen to music that was mostly sung in English. I also love French music—and I speak very little French. We just think that people get into the music for the emotions that it creates. For about nine years, we’ve also toured the U.S., and each time we play, we see more American people who maybe speak Spanish, but maybe they also like the music. I think there are people who might not understand (all of the music), but they still like the band.”
Acosta said he and his fellow band members credit their camaraderie and friendship as the most essential element of their success.
“Zoé was founded in really good friendship, and we believed we had a good project,” he said. “For us, it’s just very natural for us to get together and make music. Nowadays, after so many years together, we still feel very creative together, and we have a lot in common. We just like to make music together, and we believe that’s what keeps us going.
“We’re very lucky to be a band who can do these kind of tours and play festivals like Coachella. We’re very happy, and we’re very proud of what we have.”