Math rock is a genre that has developed rapidly in the last decade. Its lack of conventionality has kept it in the underground since it was first conceived back in the 90’s, compared to other mainstream genres. The characteristics of math rock have also been determinants of its lack of digestibility: odd meters, constant rhythm changes; songs that seem not to have a start or an ending; almost entirely instrumental in form; the plethora of effects that have been added and experimented with through the years; and, of course, the affinity it has with other unconventional music genres like noise, post rock, punk or hardcore.
This situation is no different in Latin America, but perhaps more evident. Countries in this side of the world are rich in musical culture, with strong roots in the regional rhythms and ancient tradition. Perhaps ironically, Latin America consumes more music from other countries than their own.
Making math rock in Latin America is not a stroll through the park. It’s hard, but not impossible, and this is a real thing for the boys in Argentinian label anomalía ediciones, who have put faith in the width and flexibility? of the music business and found their spot in it.
anomalía ediciones is the result of a love for music. It started with a group of lads who met while playing music and, little by little, realized they had the same ideas and goals. I chatted with Juan Godfrid and Diego Fraga, founders and active members of the label, and who also play in some of the bands they manage. The ultimate goal for them is to highlight the math rock that is made in this part of the globe for everyone to notice it, not forgetting the true indie essence that makes math rock what it is.
Fecking Bahamas: So, tell us about the origins and baby steps of anomalía. Who are the main actors of it all?
Juan Godfrid: You could say anomalía doesn’t have a specific birth date, but it is the result of a series of events which set the course of what we called colectivo anómalo (anomalous collective): it was a group of artists who were brought together by a musical affinity circa 2015, and started having some gigs, given the fact that the indie scene in Argentina was not offering much of non-conventional genres such as math rock. That’s how ‘ciclo anomalía’ was born, featuring bands like archipiélagos, Hungría, Diente de Oro, Kjjjjjjjjj, Malviaje among others. Even though we didn’t aim big by that time, that’s how our identity started to put together.
Diego Fraga: The ‘ciclo’ began to grow and settled as a new offer within the alt scene in Buenos Aires. That’s how we came up with the idea of having the first math rock festival in South America: Anomalía Fest, which surprisingly exceeded the attendance expectations. At the same time, more bands were being added to our artists catalogue, and eventually anomalía ediciones was created in the early 2017. Having a formal record label was key to become professional: by then, we were already a group of people who offered their resources and ideas for the benefit of the collective, which allowed us to improve what we were doing and focus our ideas, and to be aware of the role that anomalía played in Latin American math rock.
Since then, we’ve had three festivals alongside the ‘ciclo’, which had to be moved to a larger venue. We’ve also had several releases, edited physical format, scheduled local and international tours for our bands (Europe, Mexico, Chile), negotiated to have one of our bands at ArcTanGent, had a few bands from abroad coming to our country, and much more.
JG: We currently aid and keep company to all of the bands of our catalogue, we manage the art, image, public relations, gigs… all the management.
FB: We do what we do for the love of music (especially for this amazing genre). What motivated you –besides love- to start with the label?
DF: We became a formal label for the same reason all the bands in common came together. The independent scene in Argentina was focused on indie/post rock/noise/shoegaze bands, and there was no room for experimental or less conventional projects. We decided to actually create a space for them.
JG: All of the bands in anomalía could play in other different scenes (Hungría in experimental, Puerto Austral in indie or archipiélagos in emo), but they weren’t part of those specific scenes per se, and that is because they had another ‘language’. That ‘language’ is the common denominator we all had to get together and create our own space. It was also a means to belong, and, at the same time, strengthen and manage our resources.
FB: How does the band selection process work? I would like to know what determines you saying yes or no to a band to manage them.
DF: We have a specialized area dedicated to listen and analyze new projects. There are no determined characteristics to ensure your band being managed by anomalía and that can be noticed in our catalogue: all the bands are distinctive and different. But, at the same time, all of them have, in in their own way, the ‘anomalous’ brand. It’s also important to say that we also aim for specific musical and visual esthetics of a project.
JG: All of us label members vote and have a voice, but we also play a different role, and within those roles there is one which is the most important: curatorship. There are several factors that have to be taken into account to consider a project (or not), but, beyond the music, it is very important that we agree on the way a band works and that them and us have the same goals.
FB: Which bands make up the anomalía catalogue?
JG: The current active projects we have are: Puerto Austral, Kyori, TOTS, archipiélagos, forestar, YON, Nadie Nunca Nada, Hungría, Kjjjjjjjjj, Los Días, Arias, Hélices, Flaayr and Colonia de Vacaciones y Arrecifes.
DF: We’ve managed and produced 23 bands and had 44 releases to the date. The active bands are the ones Juan mentioned, but we have some upcoming releases and new bands to manage.
FB: How does anomalía goes on given the situation in Argentina these days? I don’t mean to get political here, but I know you guys work really hard to remain in the music business.
JG: The current economic situation in our country is not very promising and we have noticed a slight sales drop: people don’t attend the gigs as much as they used to, because the economic priorities are elsewhere. Nevertheless, our statistics show growth compared to the previous years. This means that, while the attendance for any music show in Argentina is dropping, it is actually growing for anomalía, which makes us think that maybe if our economy was better, we would have a better spot in the industry.
DF: Consider this: if being an independent artist in a developing country is already hard, try to picture yourself making math rock in South America. I get the feeling that anomalía is something else: we had to move from a 120 attendee venue to a larger one, for 350, and we still sell out.
JG: I think that all the people that support anomalía consume criteria and the curatorship we do. So, whichever band you give them, it is the conceptual stamp of the label what they like.
FB: So, what’s the future you want for anomalía?
DF: Short term, to improve what we’ve been doing for a while and to set the foundations of being a big math rock or non-conventional music reference. We are working on several local tours, and some international tours as well. We are also looking forward to release more music of some of the bands, and analyzing how to optimize all the opportunities we get.
JG: This year, Puerto Austral made it to ATG and that is a really big hit for latin American math rock; archipiélagos toured Mexico, TOTS devastated Chile, and Malviaje killed it too. We managed of all the (catalogue) bands and some others from Japan and Chile. Regarding the catalogue, we had some high quality additions, and we learnt a lot about how to manage our own resources. We even aimed very high and launched the first global math rock documentary. Considering all this, it seems to me that anomalía has the standards of any other label in the world. The only thing that makes us different from the rest is that we are doing it with our own stamp.
FB: Tell us about Growing Aside. There is a heavy expectation for the upcoming documentary among us math rock lovers.
JG: Growing Aside is the first math rock documentary in the world, and we are very proud to have it as a product of anomalía, a distant Argentinian label. The idea is to show the world what math rock is, who makes it and how, why does it exist and where its place in the music business is worldwide. We have already had some interviews with a bunch of people involved in the past and present of math rock, but we still have a lot of interviews to get done. Obviously, we couldn’t have accomplished that on our own, so we got a lot of support, advice and love from media (like Fecking Bahamas), some other labels and people who were interested in this project and wanted to add resources to it. We have a lot of valuable footage and we are completely focused on presenting it the best way we can.
DF: It has been a while since Leo (Bazán) started coming to our shows to film all the evidence for anomalía, and we all know how passionate he is about it. I remember that, when we came up with the idea to make the documentary, the first thing we thought about was to present the math rock scene in Argentina, but after a while, the production became so big it reached a global level. I personally feel very proud of all the work that is being done and of the fact that anomalía has become the engine of something really important.
“It’s a way to escape a conventional job and dedicate more time to do what we love”, says Juan to close this small talk. That is precisely what being ‘anomalous’ means: to be a circle in a pile of squares, to draw attention to yourself for who you are and what you love, to distinguish from all the others for your own value.
Just deviate from what’s expected.
You can listen to the whole catalogue of anomalía ediciones on their Bandcamp, and support all the work that is being done down there. And of course, if you want to explore more math rock from Latin America, our World of Math interactive map is the place to go.