Tuesday 8 September 2015

"No Half Measures": Quarter Street [Interview]

Written by Imran Mirza

Building on the success of last year’s awesome album by Emma Donovan & The PutBacks, ‘Dawn’, HopeStreet Recordings offer an incredible demonstration of their strength and versatility as an independent label moving on from the funk and soul of the aforementioned ‘Dawn’ to the gritty retro-styled salsa sounds of Quarter Street.

In much the same way that Daptone Records and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings were famed for elements of their authenticity stemming from their use of analog recording equipment, Quarter Street strive to capture a similar essence as they attempt to spearhead the revival of hard-out analog era Latin music.

Salsa, famed for having life breathed into it in 1970s New York through Nuyorican bands (New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent), was always able to boast an eclectic and diverse mix of musical styles incorporating Afro-Cuban percussion, Spanish cancion and at times mixes of Latin jazz, rock and funk as laid down by Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri, Hector Lavoe and Fania Records.  Quarter Street’s ten-piece orchestra comprises Luis Poblete, Sergio Botero and Leo Salvo (vocals, percussion), Cristian Saavedra and Sebastian Orellana (percussion), Andrew James (piano), Cesar Saavedra (bass) and an all-trombone horn section featuring Ben Gillespie, Jimmy Bowman and Lazro Numa.

Collectively, the band take excellent leaps in carrying forward the traditions and stylings laid out by the genre’s initial stars and forefathers.  The self-titled debut album, charged by the lead single, Fantasia, is available to purchase now and The Blue-in-Green Blog was lucky enough to secure time with vocalist Luis Poblete to discuss the album and all things salsa...

BLUE-IN-GREEN: Can you tell us how you all met and came together to form the band?
LUIS POBLETE: Me and Cris (Saavedra) decided to put the band together in 2011 with the idea of playing strictly the old school New York salsa.  We had spent years playing hip-hop in our other project LABJACD and were just real keen to get back into the roots.  We then started putting all the guys together and were lucky enough that everyone we wanted to work with was keen too.

Who were some of your biggest musical influences that went on to shape Quarter Street's sound?
We wanted to pay homage to the greats, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, Larry Harlow, Adalberto Alvarez… pretty much all the stuff that came from the FANIA, TICO that whole New York sound from the 1970s.

How did you come to the attention of HopeStreet Recordings?
We all come from the same scene, we had the idea of recording an old school album, you know, recorded in the same way they would of recorded back in the day.  Tristan is a good mate of ours and I knew he had been researching old recording techniques so who else would we go to.

Can you talk a little about what went into making the album?
We went around town looking for a nice big room that would suit how we wanted to record.  We ended up finding Echidna Studio and Greg had everything we wanted, a grand piano, nice old mics… just a great room out in country Victoria.  We stayed there for four days, got up early and recorded all day.  Just recorded live to get the true sound of the band.

You've been credited for reviving 'analog era Latin music': what attracted you to sounds from this era?
I think it’s just the rawness of it all.  It’s not polished, it’s got streets all over it, and I think there’s something in the old vinyl sound, you know that thing about putting on a record.  It just had to be put on wax.  It’s the sound I love.

What made you decide on 'Fantasia' as the lead single, and how did the video for the song come together?
We decided on ‘Fantasia’ just because we felt it showed our sound best.  The video was shot at Robles Studio, and we just wanted to capture the vibe of the band.  Cesar at Blank Tape directed it and we just tried to show what we do.

How does the music from the album translate to the live stage?
We recorded live in a big room, some of the songs were only recorded once.  We didn't have any edits.  We just recorded the backup vocals after everything is live and in one take.  We wanted to get a true indication of our sound.  That’s how we play, that’s the Quarter Street sound.

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