The Baboons keep it positive for South Florida and everywhere else
Mano Pila admits that with a name like The Baboons, certain things are expected from the band he founded over two decades ago.
“When we go out to play, we don’t want to go out and bum people out or do navel-gazing music,” said the drummer and vocalist. “That’s not what The Baboons are about.”
What they are about is having a good time, exposing their listeners to a musical stew of wide-ranging influences, and leaving smiles on faces. That makes the Miami band’s music even more important as South Florida recovers from the tragic June shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub that killed 49 people and injured dozens more.
“Our purpose in playing music is to spread joy and make people feel good and forget about their sorrows and just come and dance and have a good time,” said lead vocalist Majica. “We hope that people will walk away from the show feeling great and revived and just feeling good about being alive and good about being in a community that shares with one another.”
Like many communities touched by tragedy, those in Florida have come together to mourn those lost as well as honor those lives, and what better place to do that than with a band that has always celebrated diversity.
“I think that there’s definitely an implicit message in the music and in the songs and in the stories about inclusion, about people from different backgrounds and different cultures interacting on a day-to-day level, of living with each other, and sharing and learning from each other,” Pila said. “And that’s our day-to-day reality. When you’re in a room of ten people in Miami, there are ten people from ten different places working together, sharing their food, their stories, their music, and to me, that’s the reality of Miami and of our life. Is there an implicit social or political message in there? I suppose that there is. But that’s not really our intention. Our intention is to document our reality and celebrate the ways in which are different and the same.”
That reality for Pila and Majica is reflected in their latest album, Spanglish, one which is the follow-up to 2000’s Global Gumbo. Yes, 2000. But this was no Chinese Democracy situation.
“We had a little side project, called children,” laughed Majica, who has two kids with her husband Pila, who agrees that “There was a baby boom in the band.”
You can’t get more real than that, but why was 2016 the right time to get this third album done?
“We accumulated so many songs from being inspired by having our children that it got to the point where now we had two albums’ worth of songs to record,” Majica said. “So we said we better get the third album out so we can start working on the fourth one.”
“A lot of songs came about in that time that we hadn’t recorded, even some songs that we had not quite gotten to on the first two albums that went back to that era,” Pila added. “But a lot of it came about in the last few years, and we wound up with a lot of material, a lot of songs that we really liked, and new ones that you have to make room for. We wanted to capture these songs and capture some of the relationship with our musician friends around town that we hang out with and get those people on the recording.”
Spanglish, which the band describes as a “love letter to Miami,” is just that, but you don’t have to live in South Beach to enjoy it. Cutting across cultural and musical barriers, the album not only brings the hooks, but an energy that captures the experience of seeing the band live. That’s not an easy feat to pull off, but they did.
“We wanted it to sound as live as possible, so we recorded the rhythm section live, and then we layered on the rest of the stuff, so we could capture everything as live as possible,” Majica said. “I did a scratch vocal in the room with them so we could connect with one another when we were doing the takes, and the key thing was not overproducing it. At a certain point we had to decide — it’s not going to be perfect, but it’s going to be done. But it’s the songs that are the secret weapon, and I think they’ve very special and speak to our culture and our community and the oneness that we all need right now.”
They also speak to a pair of children who get to see and hear what mom and dad do for a living.
“I wanted our kids to see us do it,” Pila said. “I wanted them to know that you can be parents and have your band and do your art and capture something that’s hopefully authentic and beautiful, and put it out into the world.”