“If you read the lyrics, it can create some sense of vertigo, I think, in terms of who’s talking, from what perspective.”
By Mike Shanley
Pittsburgh Current Music Writer
Logos, the 2018 album by Chicago-band Dos Santos, tends to draws hyphenated descriptions, thanks to the band’s potent combination of Latin-based grooves with psychedelic guitars and keyboard lines. Guitarist/keyboardist Alex Chavez, who sings all the lyrics in Spanish, says the album was built on something deeper than that unique sonic blend. “Pretty much every single song on the album that has lyrics — there’s only one that doesn’t – references dialogue [or] conversation of some kind, where there is this kind of inter-relational sense of talking,” he says. “If you read the lyrics, it can create some sense of vertigo, I think, in terms of who’s talking, from what perspective.”
Given the current political landscape, Chavez says the band realizes that Logos might be considering a political statement. “It’s not lost on us that being Latinos, being folks of color in contemporary 21st-century America, but more as artists, that our artistic statements take on a certain kind of politics,” Chavez says. “And that’s not because they’re inherently political. But we’re definitely living in a politicized moment now, where the thing you put out there has a potential to contribute to a much larger conversation about what America is.”
Between the unique musical hybrid and the lyrics — which are printed in Spanish and English in Logos’ cover — Chavez says a listener might ponder the question, what makes this music possible? “As soon as you ask that question, then the answer comes at you: these complex and rich histories of migration, of people creating transnational communities between the U.S. and Latin America,” he says. “As soon as you go down that rabbit hole, all this talk about a wall… really, the absurdity of that reveals itself.”
Dos Santos came together in Chicago in 2013. The members of the quintet have varied backgrounds, ranging from punk rock, jazz and Spanish folk music. Inspired by the wide variety of Latin American musics, the band wanted to interpret those styles in a more unconventional manner. “There is some intentionality but [we are] willing to experiment and to explore: How do I take this thing and distill it in this particular way that might be unconventional [while] being okay with that? Then taking it to the edges of that logic,” he says.
“Acábame,” which opens Logos, offers a good example of their approach. Conguero Peter “Maestro” Vale and drummer Daniel Villarreal Carrillo introduce a Guagancó, an Afro-Cuban rumba, at a rapid tempo that would make dancing a challenge. Instead of joining them at that speed, the rest of band takes a different path. “We’re playing whole notes. And it makes everything sound really slow,” Chavez says. “We’re floating on top of that in a way that’s somewhat unexpected, I think.” The overall feeling has a dreamy quality, especially when combined with Chavez’s vocals.
As far as his lyrical language of choice is concerned, Chavez says listeners don’t question it. “I remember singing in Spanish almost 20 years ago and I would always be asked, ‘Why don’t you do it in English?’ Well, I don’t want to. Now I don’t get that question anymore. There’s seems to be, at least in the context of popular music, a little less of a stigma around Spanish. And with this revolution in how we listen to music and the accessibility to music, it seems as if folks are less siloed in terms of what they listen to. Potentially they are open to listening to music in a different language. It’s not, ‘Oh, I don’t understand this.’ It’s more like, ‘So what.’”