They say that songs emerge from the head or the heart. But sometimes an instrument is all the inspiration a musician needs. So says songwriter Matthew Beighley from Echo Park's sultry rock outfit, Wait. Think. Fast. about “Jornaleras,” the evocative boundary-breaking track from their debut LP Luces Del Sur.
While he and his wife Jacqueline Santillan–Wait. Think. Fast.'s Argentine-born, smokey-voiced singer– watched a performance by South American virtuoso Gustavo Santaolalla, Beighley fell in love with a sound.
“[Santaolalla played] this haunting little song he performed on charango from the Motorcycle Diaries soundtrack called, “De Usuahia a la Quiaca.” The charango just killed me. I had just been down in Argentina and loved the kind of ghostly, teardrop sound of this instrument, so I went home that week and taught myself how to play it.The song came fast; I had it in an hour.”
For Santillan, inspiration comes from stories. On an cold day in Brooklyn, she was inspired by the domestic day laborers, “Jornaleras” gathered on a street corner looking for work. “I followed him out there and heard their stories. Their situation is difficult, stressful and can be dangerous. The lyrics are just snapshots of how I saw them: hard working, resourceful, and resolute.”
Wait. Think. Fast. is South American flavor for indie rock palates, their sound stirs together the cultural overlap of Echo Park, creating a new taste, both familiar and distinct. They bring their songs and stories to the Echo for their album release party September 7th.
After the jump, husband and wife duo Matthew Beighley and Jacqueline Santillan exclusively give LA Weekly the story behind “Jornaleras” and reveal how sometimes a song can write itself.
Matthew Beighley: While I was writing and demoing song ideas for our new record, Jacqueline and I went to see Gustavo Santaolalla perform at the El Rey with Bajofondo. It was a beautiful show– but the highlight for me was this haunting little song he performed on charango from the Motorcycle Diaries soundtrack called, “De Usuahia a la Quiaca.” The charango just killed me– I had just been down in Argentina and loved the kind of ghostly, teardrop sound of this instrument, so I went home that week and taught myself how to play it (I'd borrowed one from a friend).
The beauty of teaching yourself an instrument is that you often learn incorrectly. I ended up using a pick and playing very arpeggiated and quick patterns because it just felt natural, even though it's traditionally strummed with the hand. My unshakable Byrds/R.E.M. influence I guess. I just remember sitting down and not even knowing what notes the strings were, and just feeling my way around until I was making some semblance of a chord. The song came fast; I had it in an hour. I wish they would all come to me like that.”
Jacqueline Santillan: Our activist friend Marco Amador was interviewing female day laborers in NY for a documentary. Usually you see men day laborers or “jornaleros” as they are called in Spanish, waiting for construction work at Home Depot and such places, but there's an area in Brooklyn where women wait around for domestic jobs during the day – not just Latinas but also Polish immigrants. I followed him out there and heard their stories. Their situation is difficult, stressful and can be dangerous. The lyrics are just snapshots of how I saw them – hard working, resourceful, and resolute. Do they feel womanly? Do they get bored? I had to wonder what it was like in their home countries because waiting for work on a street in Brooklyn in the dead of winter, where at the end of the day you may or may not get paid, just seemed so brutal. Marco plays the jarana on the song.”