Fernanda Ulibarri will perform Sept. 7 at Los Globos. (Courtesy of Fernanda Ulibarri )
Like most Mexican teens of her generation, Fernanda Ulibarri grew up idolizing the Argentine rock group Soda Stereo and its emotive frontman Gustavo Cerati.
Soda Stereo was one of the key bands during the heady days of creative liberation in the mid-1980s that followed the end of Argentina's military dictatorship. The trio also was one of the first South American groups to fully assimilate the shimmering guitar chords and reggae-fied beats of the post-punk era, and are sometimes regarded as Latin America's answer to the Police, with Cerati projecting the charisma of a Spanish-language Sting.
Soda Stereo disbanded in the late 1990s and reunited briefly a decade later; Cerati suffered a tragic fate when he had a stroke in May 2010 while performing in Venezuela. He remains in a coma.
On Friday, Ulibarri, who relocated from New York to Echo Park in 2008, will take the stage with her band at Los Globos in Silver Lake, where she'll perform songs from her just-released album "Atoma." It's a good bet she'll unleash her new cover of one of Soda Stereo's biggest hits, “Canción Animal.”
Pop & Hiss spoke with the Mexico City native, Berklee College of Music graduate and collaborator with Julieta Venegas by phone last week. Here's an edited transcript of the conversation.
Why did you decide to do this cover of "Canción Animal," and did it seem risky to you, considering Gustavo Cerati's condition?
Well, when I heard about what happened to him I was at home and I had a guitar hooked up on an amp. I instantly started playing this song. It wasn't something I planned, it just came up. It's my favorite song from Soda Stereo. I decided it would be perfect to include it [on her new record] just to keep Gustavo's music alive. Not a lot of people know Soda Stereo, I've found here in the States, like the new generation.
Did Soda Stereo influence you a lot growing up in Mexico?
Yes, I was a superfan. My sister's older than me, so when I was a little girl she was a teenager listening to Soda Stereo. And I went to see the last Soda Stereo concert that they did in Mexico. They recorded a live album from those concerts, I think, and I was there.
What did you study at Berklee College?
I studied classical composition and music synthesis, which is sort of like sound design and electronic composition but in a more avant-garde way. But I don't do any of those things anymore.
Do you still find them useful?
I think so. Berklee was a really tough place to come up, just because the competition within the school, I don't even have words to describe it. Musicians from all over the world come there to try to be the best, so you've got to really work hard to feel like you are doing OK. It's very overwhelming because there's so much to learn and so much to listen to. I think it gave me a lot of tools, both in the music world and in everyday life.
Were you planning to be a classical musician?
When I went to Berklee I was really young. Like I finished high school and I went to Berklee. So those majors were the ones that I felt the most comfortable with. Nowadays I'm a composer, I write songs now. So I think in a way I'm doing the same thing, it's just that I'm doing more my own thing.
And then after you left Berklee you moved to New York and started writing songs for cartoons and commercials.
Yeah, I moved to New York. That's like the move you do after Berklee. Everybody moves to New York. And once I was there I spent most of my time in the recording studio, first helping out, and then I started writing some songs for [the children's TV series] "Go, Diego, Go!" And then I started producing jingles. And then I started producing some bands with Eugene Toale, who is my husband now. And then we had a band called Uli and the Gringos and we were playing at nights in the Latin alternative scene. It was electro-pop, it was like really a New York band.
How would you compare the New York alt-Latin scene to L.A.'s?
It's not that good, actually. It's not happening there. There are so many things happening in New York that the Latin alternative is just one more. So it was hard. We had a little following and we had our friends, so the shows were fun. But when I did my move to L.A. it was a whole different thing. I was just so happy being part of a scene.
So you've become quite involved in the Echo Park indie music scene?
I'm trying to mix up the scenes a little bit more. My music's from the Latin alternative scene, but I hang out with the indie kids from Echo Park everyday. So we try to mix it up. We go to the Echo and the Echoplex a lot. Now that Los Globos is there, it's great there. That's a good example that it's mixing up scenes. Because I find L.A. very segregated. It's not like New York where everybody's mixed together. Los Globos is doing a good job in bringing everybody together. That's cool.
How has your songwriting changed with this new album, knowing you'll be performing these songs yourself?
With my previous band I always wrote so people would have fun, and this time it was more I guess to know myself. So in a way it was a little more selfish. Because I never took the time to sit down and see what I had on my mind. So I really enjoyed that process.
Songs like "El Sol Esta Solito" on your new album reflect that sort of poetic introspectiveness of the album as a whole.
That's kind of my most poetic song. It's the reflection of feeling lonely when someone you love leaves you. It's a song of solitude.
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