Five Questions for Rodrigo y Gabriela

By Kamren Curiel

If you haven't heard of Mexican acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela by now, you're sleeping. I got the chance to see them perform live at the Hollywood Bowl last year, and was blown away by their mastery of the guitar and strumming speeds that leave you wondering how they still have fingers.Made up of lead guitarist Rodrigo Sánchez and rhythm guitarist Gabriela Quintero, Rod y Gab met while playing in a thrash metal band in Mexico City. They eventually moved to Dublin, Ireland in 1999, where they performed in pubs, nurtured their sound, and was invited by Damien Rice to play at Oxegen, Europe's equivalent to Coachella. They're currently on tour promoting their latest album, Area 52 (ATO Records), which was released earlier this year and recorded in Cuba with a 13-piece Cuban orchestra known collectively as C.U.B.A. I caught up with Sánchez, 38, who splits his time between Dublin and Ixtapa, Mexico, to talk about their magical music.

You consistently sell out shows and recently played on Jay Leno. Why do you think people are vibe so much off your music? It's a different option for them to get away from regular bands. Nowadays, especially in indie rock, it's the same band playing the same rhythms with different faces. People get tired of it. 

Your sound is definitely eclectic and has been described as everything from jazzy heavy metal to flamenco. How do you define it? I started making music at 11. My dad played guitar, not professionally, but all the time. It was very helpful to have an instrument at home--from the guitar to the piano, and I grew up listening to jazz, tango... My young Mexican middle-class generation was trying to become heavy metal rock stars. That's why we play a mix of everything.

You and Gabriela went to Europe as backpackers, thinking you'd make a living playing background music. How did you end up in Dublin?  A friend told us it was a good place to go. She used to live there. We didn't really know where to start. The idea was to travel around Europe, but we stayed in Dublin.

You're part of the Sound Strike, a coalition of artists boycotting Arizona in the wake of the passage of SB 1070, and were introduced by Zack de la Rocha at a benefit concert in Colorado. Is politics a theme in your music? Art expression is important in our society. We have to reconnect with our own self because we're in a society that tells you you shouldn't look inside you, but outside. I think we have to find a balance because otherwise you become a human without being connected with both parts. It's very important for our generation to be awake, be yourself, and be conscious.

I read that you and Gabriela live a vegan lifestyle and are very passionate about animal rights. What else are you passionate about? I play soccer. Every time I'm back home, I have my team, I play tournaments. I lived in Barcelona for so many years, so I like [team] Barcelona. For my Mexican teams, I like Pumas.