Grupo Fantasma is back with their fifth studio album, Problemas, produced by Steve Berlin (Los Lobos, Los Super Seven) and set for release on October 30, 2015 on Blue Corn Music. This is the bandǯs first studio album since their GRAMMY award-winning 2010 release El Existential.
Although Austinǯs music scene changes constantly and rapidly, one band that endures and continues to evolve is Grupo Fantasma. This year marks the 15th anniversary of their first show at the Empanada Parlor in Austin, Texas.
Grupo Fantasma formed in 2000 and is comprised of musicians with Latin, American and Texan roots. Praised as one of the most important independent acts in the Latin genre, they are widely known for their energetic live shows, which NPR describes as "seamless...whenever and wherever they're on stage." The 9-piece orchestra has received praise from The Wall Street Journal, Billboard, Huffington Post, and USA Today called the band "Latin-funk masters." The band has also seen a wide array of film and TV placements including AMC's Breaking Bad, the John Sayles' film Casa de los Babys, Showtime's hit series Weeds, ABC's Ugly Betty, NBC's Law & Order and many others. They have served as the backing band on several occasions for the legendary Prince (ALMA Awards on ABC, Golden Globes, CBS Super Bowl Bash), Fania All–Stars pianist Larry Harlow, Sheila–E, GZA of Wu–Tang Clan, Daniel Johnston, Aaron Freeman of Ween, and indie rock standouts Spoon.
For their upcoming album, Problemas, Grupo Fantasma decided to break from their DIY tradition of self produced albums. As bassist Greg Gonzalez puts it, DzWe thought a new process would help us find a unique voice and create a story. It would've been easier and cheaper to record everything ourselves and reuse the same techniques - which successfully garnered us a GRAMMY and two nominations for successive albums (Sonidos Gold and El Existential) - but the desire was to push ourselves in new directions.dz After coming up with a list of people they admired, the band approached Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), someone they knew would be a well-seasoned and sympathetic producer. As a horn and keyboard player with wide-ranging musical taste and as a fan of Grupo Fantasma, he was eager to work with them. Berlin states, "I see Grupo Fantasma as a bar-setter, not just for Latin music but in popular culture. Their effortless ability to shift from being one of the finest Latin bands around to one of the baddest funk bands alive and back is a rare and beautiful thing. Very few bands can do that, if any. The record we set out to make was our effort to codify that idea, and I think, with all due modesty, we succeeded. These guys are the absolute best at what they do... which is why I put them on almost every record I do no matter what the genre (Deer Tick, Crystal Bowersox, etc) I am honored to have been a part of it."
Berlin's intent was to streamline the music as much as possible and strip out the superfluous elements so the band's songwriting and unique approach would stand out. According to Gonzalez, "Berlin wanted us to continue making music that was uniquely our own by giving voice to our experiences and influences. Our goal has always been to avoid making merely Latin, Texas, or 'World Music' albums that could easily be pigeonholed or written off as calculated attempts at crossover."
This goal has been achieved, many times over. Grupo Fantasma walks a fine line that transcends easy classification, blending international flavors from both far and wide. The sound is contemporary and edgy while also drawing on Latin roots music at its core. Problemas manages to sound both familiar (integrating elements of heavy metal, indie rock, funk, hip-hop, jazz) and foreign (African, Eastern European, gypsy, South American, Cuban, Tex-Mex), warranting repeated plays that slowly reveal nuances and deeper levels the more you hear it.
Jose Galeano (timbales, vocals)
Kino Esparza (vocals, hand percussion, trumpet)
Beto Martinez (guitar)
Greg Gonzalez (bass, vocals)
John Speice (drums)
Matthew "Sweet Lou" Holmes (congas)
Gilbert Elorreaga (trumpet, vocals)
Josh Levy (baritone saxophone)
Mark "Speedy" Gonzales (trombone, vocals)
RESPONSIBLE AGENT: SCOTT WEISS