Sometimes one must travel far to find one’s self. For their fourth full-length LP, electronic folk duo Lulacruza, traveled from their native South America to Orcas Island in the Pacific Northwest. Invited by music tastemaker and SubPop Records founder Bruce Pavitt, to record at a custom-built, state-of-the-art studio on the island, Lulacruza – Alejandra Ortiz and Luis Maurette – were so inspired by the nature and wildlife around them, they would ultimately name their new album after the pristine surroundings.
The eight tracks on ‘Orcas’ are Lulacruza’s most intimate body of work to date. They are also their most acoustic. While Lulacruza use electronics to add depth, space and to blur the lines between reality and fiction, South American indigenous instruments like the 4-string cuatro, 10-string charango and bombo, a huge Argentinian bass drum, also gauge the dynamics on ‘Orcas.’ On tracks such as “Comandante,” Ortiz bends her vocals like a soft blowing Colombian wind. This dichotomy is also prevalent in their name. Lulacruza is a combination of Ortiz’s pen name “Lula” and the Spanish word “cruza,” which translates to “combine,” as they combine ancestral music with modern technology.
While in Costa Rica playing Envision Festival, they took time out to allow us into their hearts and minds.
What do you love about South America, the culture and music?
We love its diversity! South America is very rich in culture and biodiversity. Nature feels very alive as well as the music traditions, as there is a continuous dialogue between the indigenous, African and European ancestries, creating a colorful tapestry.
We also love the wild creativity of both its artists and “regular” people. In South America we are used to living within economic, political and even infrastructural systems that don’t entirely work. Thus, people don’t depend as much on the government, banks, etc, and we have to come up with creative solutions. When the system doesn’t work, people get together to make things happen, making for very dynamic, passionate and innovative creations.
What do you think about the corruption that’s going on in Argentina?
We find it really difficult to trust the media as well as the political system, not only in Argentina, but in the world in general. We don’t personally look up to the government for solutions. In general we find there are many more powerful ways to create a better world. Simply by getting together and creating a sort of oasis, free of contamination, both in the mind and at home, we can begin creating a different reality. Living communally, singing, dancing, getting back to observing the cycles of nature, exchanging skills, composting, reusing old stuff. These things may seem small but are the most powerful and where our attention is really focused on.
How did you end up at Berklee College of Music?
Ale had been studying music all her life, and when she finally decided to make a career out of singing, her parents encouraged her to get into the best music school possible. As you know, Berklee has a very good -and well funded- reputation. She applied and got a very good scholarship. Luis was interested not only in performing, but in recording and producing music, and Berklee seemed the best option to learn all those skills. During our time there, we didn’t resonate as much with the music industry aspect that is taught there, but were very nourished by the possibility of playing music with people from many nationalities. It is one of the colleges with a higher rate of international students in the US. Studying abroad helped us recognized what was unique about our own musicality and sound culture.
You have performed in over 50 cities. What country stood out as being special, and which performance do you remember as being the most transformative?
Its hard to pick one place or one country as being special. When we perform we are always interacting, listening and dialoguing with the space we play at, and every place has its magic! That said, there are a few shows that pop out. There was one show, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, where we played on top of a life-size pirate ship that was created as an art installation called “The Due Return” by an art collective called Meow Wolf. They created an immersive environment that took us all out into outerspace. Everybody was dancing so hard at the concert, that the producers thought we might destroy the ship. We had to ask the audience to bring their crazy dancing down a notch. Another highlight was performing on the beach in Tulum, Mexico as part of the Riviera Maya Film Festival. We were there presenting our 2011 documentary film “Esperando el Tsunami”. Performing under the stars, next to the ocean is as memorable as it is powerful. A third performance that will always be remembered, and which can be seen here in this video:
It was a small performance we played for a group of Wayuu indigenous people in the Guajira desert in Colombia. The moment was so precious and sublime that it seemed as if nothing moved, not even the wind.
Nature inspires you, how do you balance that with living in a very urban place like Buenos Aires, a city of 3 million people?
There are ways to be happy and healthy in a city. In our daily lives we move about on bicycle, and can avoid most of the traffic and congestion. We feel that the key to living well in a city are: making your home an oasis, commuting as little as possible, having a dynamic network of friends and family to share with, participating in the local culture, and finally, being involved in a project or mission in which you are truly passionate. Nature is present even in the most urban areas. We both have small gardens at our homes, and Ale even has a pond with fish, and lights fires under the stars on her yard.
How often do you gig or play the festival circuit? How do you balance family life and friends with touring?
The frequency of our tours changes, and the balance is always shifting. There were seasons when we really felt like traveling, and we would be traveling for 8 months of the year. At other points, we would be more focused on teaching or doing inner work and would only tour for 4-6 months of the year. In those years, we got to built strong bonds and friendships with people in other countries who became family to us. At the same time, we also learned to enjoy the best things of each place and each season, grateful to be part of a global family.
In the past couple of years (since Ale’s daughter was born) we have been rooting down, focusing a bit more on life at home, as well as taking our time to release precious older material; and we are doing 4 to 6 week tours. We are currently traveling with Ale’s daughter, and in many ways she also sets the pace for our touring seasons.
Your music is about healing and shifting the current paradigm, how do you live your life on a day to day basis in harmony with the planet?
We do our best to stay present and healthy in our bodies, cultivating a good relationship with the elemental world, paying attention to our waste, to what we consume, keeping a simple lifestyle, and honoring the spirit of reciprocity. We also engage actively with people who inspire us, reaching out to them, becoming available, exchanging ideas and experiences. We believe community is key to living in harmony with the planet, and the core of community is investing energy in building better ways to communicate. So we make space for healthy communication as much as possible, as well.
Take the journey and pick up a copy of Lulacruza’s new album ‘Orcas’ on iTunes or Bandcamp.