I recently spoke with Alejandro Jarrin (the bassist) of Peruvian Prog Fusion band Flor de Loto about their music creation process, their influences, and a little bit about Rush. If you haven't heard of Flor de Loto you will be excused for now, because the Peruvian prog scene is pretty out of the way for most people, but you must certainly check them out posthaste! One of the best new bands of the past few years, to be sure.
Dan: Hello Alejandro, would you mind introducing yourself? Please feel free to give an introduction for any members who couldn’t make it to the interview as well.
Alejandro: I´m Alejandro Jarrín, bass player of the progressive rock band from Perú "Flor de Loto". The other members are: Alonso Herrera (guitar and vocals), Jorge Puccini (drums) and Junior Pacora (wind instruments and backing vocals)
Dan: “Flor de Loto” means something like “lotus flower” in English. The lotus is a symbol used by many cultures to represent a lot of different things, but it is generally used to represent beauty. Do you feel this symbol is used to represent the beauty of your music? I find it fitting, personally.
Alejandro: Well, hehe, to be honest, the name Flor de Loto was suggested by the father of a former drummer we have back in the year 2000. We liked the name. Nevertheless, i think the name suits perfect with the tipe of music we make because all the fusion elements we add to it. The artist for the 3 albums is Andrea Lertora. When we first released or first album "Flor de Loto" we wanted the artwork represent the songs in it, so when we contacted Andrea we show her the master of the album and said to her: just feel free to paint all the stuff our music makes you feel. We did not have to watch any preview until all the art was finished. The result, for us, was amazing... So we decided to keep working with her for the albums to come.
Dan: I think you guys made the right choice.
Alejandro: Yeah, she is an amazing artist
Dan: Let’s talk a little bit about each album, starting with the first. “Flor de Loto”, which was released in 2005, is the only one of the three that is entirely instrumental, and it’s also possibly the most experimental of all of them, even if only by a little. Why did you guys make the choices you did?
Alejandro: Alonso and i started to play together back in 1998. We just hang out at a drummer friend of mine´s house and jam for hours. Most of the songs of our first album are a result of those jam sessions. Then in the year 2001 when we recruited Jorge to play drums and Rafael Valenzuela to play wind instruments we decided that it was time to record the songs. We worked with a Peruvian producer called... Lalo Williams who helped us give form to all that jam based songs. At the middle of the recording process, Rafael decided to live the band due to music differences, so we called Johnny Perez to replace him. This was a very important change in the band because Johnny came from a folkloric music background and was very interested in fusing Peruvian folk music with rock. That is when the band... Decided to make that kind of fusion. We liked how the songs were without lyrics so that´s why we decided to make that first album completley instrumental.
Dan: While you always made sure to add a lot of Andean influences to your music, Madre Tierra, especially on tracks such as “El Charango Perdido” seems to have these more overtly presented than the other albums. You also decided to add vocals to this album, but not that many. Same question as before, why was this album made the way it was?
Alejandro: To make the second album we decided to make more "developed" songs instead of jam based songs, so each one of us started to compose songs on their own and then showing them to the rest of the band. Johnny´s folkloric backgrounds were a big influence on us for the making of the songs, that´s why "Madre Tierra" has a lot of fusion. Also, Alonso started to work with his voice and wrote the song "Desapareciendo". We liked the result so we decided to add some singed songs to the second album. Also for the production of "Madre Tierra" we worked again with Lalo Williams.
Dan: Mundos Bizarros, the third album, has more vocals than the one before, but it also has many more “metal” influences than the two previous albums. I hear distinct power metal chords and much more heavy guitar work than on the other albums. It also seems like flute was pushed a little farther back in favor of more guitar compared to the previous albums, which might have to do with the fact that you guys got a new flautist. Same question as the last two, why was this album done this way?
Alejandro: The songs of "Mundos Bizarros" were written by Alonso and I. We both have a lot of Metal influences. Alonso is fan of bands like Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, almost all 80´s hair metal bands :D. I listen a lot to Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Riverside, etc.. Also, for this thrird album we worked with 2 producers, Rodolfo Cáceres, who also listen to a lot of Metal, and Julio Caipo who is... one of the best guitar players in Perú and fan of classic Progressive Rock. That´s why this album is stronger and with less fusion that the previous 2 albums. For this album we have Juniro Pacora playing the wind instruments, who have a totally diferent stile that Johnny.
Dan: Unfortunately the extent of my Spanish is only enough for me to know how to ask to use the bathroom. That said, I would love to know what some of your lyrics are about. Would you mind telling me what a few of your lyrical songs are about?
Alejandro: Yes. The lyrics were written by Alonso. They are very introspective, talking about the inner conflicts all the people have to deal with, the "Bizzare worlds" that we all have inside us.
Dan: You guys create very eclectic music that blends ancient Andean folk with modern heavy metal and various other elements. How would you describe your music? Do you think the ProgArchives tag: “Prog Folk” is adequate? Honestly I find that tag to be very vague and in need of review, as it doesn’t make much sense to me to put bands like Jethro Tull and Flor de Loto in the same label, unless the label is “bands that make awesome music”. Do you guys consider Flor de Loto to be “prog rock”?
Alejandro: Los Jaivas for South America is like Yes or Genesis for England. There are a "Cult" band for the progressive and fusion music lovers. Of course there are a big influences in our music, but i would´t say there are our mayor influence. There is a classic rock fusion band from Peru Called El Polen that is also a Cult band down here. Sadly, their singer died today :(
Dan: I will make sure to check them out. I recently discovered a few bands from down there like Los Jaivas, Flor de Loto, and Supay, so I'm hungering for more.
Alejandro: Cool, you should hear Fragil, is the most known progressive rock band from Peru.
Dan: I'll check them both out :) What other sorts of music do you guys listen? Do guys listen to much “prog rock”? I can hear influences from bands like Rush and Jethro Tull in your music, but that might just be a coincidence (especially Rush). That said, there’s a flute section in Nubes Obscuras that sounds like it could have been played by Ian Anderson.
Alejandro: Junior has a lot of jazz and latin music background, he began playing rock music with us. Jorge and i listen to a lot of progressive music form the 70´s, in fact wen i first met Jorge it was playing Rush with some other musitian friends. Alonso is a huge Metal fan just like me. He also has a lot of Flokloric latinamerican music background because of his father that sings that king of music... I also listen to some world music like Dead can Dance and Kitaro.
Dan: Do you guys have plans for a fourth album yet?
Alejandro: Yes but maybe for 2012. We are planning to record a live album this year although, to be released 2011.
Dan: How about other projects? Do you guys have anything in the works? Solo albums, other bands?
Alejandro: Alonso plays in a Black Sabbath tribute band. Junior, who is a session musitian, plays with several Latin folk music and jazz bands.
Dan: I think we're just about done, so I must ask the question I ask everyone I interview, just for fun: do you like dogs?
Dan: Do you have a dog? :D
Alejandro: No, I use to have but i live in an apartment now so it´s kind of difiicult. Jorge has 2 dogs, Homero and ??? i forgot the other dog´s name.
Dan: A shame that you can't :( Just to conclude: is there anything you would like to add that I might have forgotten to ask?
Alejandro: Well, we have played at international progressive rock festivals like Rio Art Rock festival (Brasil), Baja Prog (mexico) and Crescendo (France). This year we are going to play at the Crescendo festival version in the French Guyane. We would love to play at some prog festivals un th US ilke the Nearfest, progday and Prog in the Park, maybe in the future.
Dan: I would love to see Flor de Loto at NearFest someday. I live sort of near where NEARFest does their show, but I've never been to one yet.
Alejandro: shame on you. I would love to have a festival like that near the city i live.
Dan: Well, I had intented to go last year, because Van Der Graaf Generator and Beardfish were playing, and they're two of my favorite bands, but I had already gotten tickets to see BF open for Dream Theater at Prog Nation, and I had tickets to see VDGG separately. So I figured I wouldn't spend the money, since I'm poor :P
Alejandro: He, he. Well, if you were at prog nation you are forgiven.
Dan: Ah, fair enough. Unfortunately Pain of Salvation and Beardfish had to drop out, but the show was excellent anyway.
Alejandro: I was in DT´s concert in Lima last March. Absolutely amazing!!!!
Dan: One of my friends is studying in Santiago, and I tried to get him to see DT as they passed through Chile, but he didn't get the chance. They're so great live. I'm thinking of seeing them again, since they're gonna be near me when they tour with Iron Maiden. Tell Alonso that I saw Iron Maiden twice on their gigantic world tour. I assume that's him wearing the Iron Maiden shirt in a lot of the band's photos. I have the same shirt :P
Alejandro: Yeah. We saw Iron Maiden in Lima last year, and we opened a Paul Dianno concert last year in Lima.
Dan: That's pretty cool. Maybe you guys will be able to open for Iron Maiden themselves soon.
Alejandro: Let´s hope so. We would like to open for Rush if they come to Peru someday.
Dan: Well, they're starting a tour soon, so let's hope they extend it down to South America!
Alejandro: Crossing my fingers.