Band of the Day

2011.09.18

Hello Seahorse

Synthesized experimental rock...en español
I leave the empty house to get away from the pain. Leaving behind all the secrets, this time I walk away.
lyrics from Casa Vacia

Hello Seahorse! is an operatic synthpop band from Mexico City, Mexico. The group was formed in 2005 after singer Denise "Lo Blondo" Gutierrez (lead vocals) answered a "singer wanted" classified ad from Myspace written by Fernando "Oro de Neta" Burgos (keyboards, bass), Gabriel "Bonnz!" de Leon (drums) and Jose "Joe" Borunda (guitar, bass). Hello Seahorse! are noted for their operatic vocals (sung in Spanish) and atmospheric compositions. In 2009, they won a Latin Grammy for their album Bestia (Beast) and were deemed band of the year by MTV Mexico. With concerts in the United States as well as the Spanish speaking world, Hello Seahorse! has played with well known acts such as the Killers, Beastie Boys and Jarvis Cocker (Pulp). Released by Freaks and Geeks Records in 2006, ...and the Jellyfish Parade was Hello Seahorse's first LP. In 2009, the group signed to Nacional Records and departed from the upbeat indie pop stylings of their debut album, opting for a darker, more atmospheric style. The result was the highly acclaimed album Bestia (Beast). Adding house and Latin influences to their sound, while still retaining epic compositions, Lejos. No Tan Lejos (Far. Not So Far) was released in 2010.

There's an old Mexican legend called “La Llorona (The Weeping Woman),” about a beautiful woman who goes insane and drowns her children. As punishment, she's forced to wander the earth for all eternity, crying out forlornly for her offspring. Hearing Denise “Lo Blondo” Gutierrez's vocals on Hello Seahorse!'s latest album Lejos. No Tan Lejos, you might think she's been possessed by the spirit of La Llorona. Her spectral wailings—demonstrating her operatic background—can be heard as penetrating “ooohs” and “aaaahhs” that cut through songs like "Me Has Olvidado" and "Ginebra Dulce." Haunting and desolate, the album is a new direction for the Mexico City-based group—whose previous albums like ...and the Jellyfish Parade (2006) and Bestia (2009), leaned more towards the quirky and whimsical indie pop category. Instead, Lejos is darker, with themes of detachment from both the material world and emotional connections with people. In "Casa Vacia," Guitierrez sings “Yo dejo casa vacia/para alejarme de el dolor/dejando atras todos los secretos/esta vez me alejo yo” (which translates as “I leave the empty house/to get away from the pain/leaving behind all the secrets/this time I walk away”). But even if you can't understand the lyrics, sung entirely in their native Spanish tongue, the music itself has the ability to communicate this message. Alongside Guitierrez's haunting vocals, Fernando “Oro de Neta” Burgos (keys and bass), Gabriel “Bonnz!” De Leon (drums), and newest member Jose “Joe” Borunda (guitar and bass) create a desolate and atmospheric sonic landscape. These aren't the type of light and playful songs that get stuck in your head after just one listen. Instead, they manifest a mood that's both surreal and introspective. But the album doesn't stick solely to a dark and moody trajectory. "7 Dias" is straight-up synth pop, with a prominent synth riff right at the top of the track that would make ABBA proud. And "Fieras", a song stripped down to just vocals and an acoustic guitar, shows a gentler side, demonstrating the power of the band's ability to evoke moods without relying on dense and complex production. Although Hello Seahorse! have taken a more experimental approach with Lejos, all of the elements that made them stand out in the first place—gorgeous vocals combined with atmospheric soundscapes—are still there. So it's only fitting to find out that Lejos. No Tan Lejos translates as: “Far. Not that far.”