How His Grandfather's Death and Mexico City Inspired AJ Dávila's New Sound
There comes a time when most every old punk decides to grow up, at least to some degree. Though AJ Dávila, the heavy-drinking, all-night-partying, cigarette-huffing former member of Puerto Rican garage-rock sensation Davila 666, hasn't settled into a cubicle or swapped any of his favorite beers for cans of V8 and protein shakes, he is, as he tells it, looking forward to the future and working on his music in ways he hadn't before.
"I named it The Future for a few reasons," says Dávila of his upcoming third LP, El Futuro, speaking by phone from Mexico City, where he's lived for over two years now. "I write about my experience. Most of our experiences are heartbroken shit or fucked-up shit, you know, so I said to myself, 'You always have to look toward the future.'"
Dávila's new outlook on life and music beyond the "heartbroken" and "fucked-up shit" didn't arrive easily. He was touring the United States when he received a phone call from his mother. His grandfather, to whom Dávila was very close, had died. Dávila's mother urged him to not end his tour to attend the funeral.
"My mother told me, 'Don't come to the funeral,'" he recalls. "'He wouldn't want you to be here ... to see him in a coffin. So don't come, just go to the tours.'"
And so he did. He played a festival in Texas where Julieta Venegas featured as the headlining act and ended his tour in Mexico City at the Festival Marvin. Afterward, Dávila decided to stay put in Mexico City rather than return home to Puerto Rico.
"I just couldn't go home to the house where my grandfather was all the time," he explained. "He's not there, so I said, 'Fuck it, I'll stay in Mexico.'"
Although the decision to stay was made out of heartbreak, that decision has yielded the exact opposite. Dávila immediately fell in love with Mexico City, and his time there inspired the tunes on El Futuro, which reveal a new depth to a musician whose previous work regularly drew comparisons to the music of The Ramones and Iggy & The Stooges.
"For me, this is my best album," he says excitedly. "It has everything. It's the next level of my art. I'm trying to look for that bright future. You have to always look toward the future. It's been real fun."
Dávila had originally planned to record the album with the help of fellow Puerto Rican musician Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Bosnian Rainbows, At the Drive-In) but those plans fell through thanks to ORL's bajillion personal projects. Dávila later met with Sergio Acosta, guitarist with Latin Grammy–winning Mexican rock group Zoé, to help him produce and record the album for Acosta's label, Discos Panoram.
Working with Acosta was an eye-opening experience for Dávila, who always had a quick, lo-fi approach to recording. He recorded all of Davila 666's albums and his two solo records in his home with the fewest number of takes possible. It was part of his music's charm, but Dávila was ready to move beyond that.
"Sergio has a vision," says Dávila of his time working with Zoé's guitarist. "I love it because he listens to the same music that I listen to and he respects my sound, but he took it in a bigger way. He expanded that sound and the possibilities of it. When I was recording in my house, I did like two takes and that was perfect. But Sergio made me do like 20 takes!
"I always record for like two months maximum. [El Futuro] took like a year and a half. It was a different experience but a beautiful experience. It's a whole different process but that's the next step. I just didn't want to do the lo-fi thing. I had done that for 12 years so I wanted a new excitement in my life. This album covers that. I'm super proud of the album."
AJ Dávila plays the Bootleg Theater with Crocodiles on Thursday, Feb. 16. Tickets and more info.
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