Since 2014, one band has been bearing the torch for South American math rock: tortuganónima. The four Chilean boys fuse a range of distinct genres to their sound, such as free jazz, post hardcore, emo and math rock. They have a very fruitful career with a long list of accomplishments, including several tours around South America, US, Europe and Japan, and opening for toe in their most recent visit to the country.
After releasing their self-titled LP, which was very well received by math rock and post rock enthusiasts, they now reach for new conceptual heights in their follow-up Imago, mastered by toe guitarist Takaaki Mino. In it, they gather all the mysticism of human nature, and the art of the album is an evidence of this. Experimentation is another important feature of Imago. The quartet of Gérard Bertin, Gabriel Molina, Felipe Valdovinos and Octavio Cañulef strive to incorporate elements from electronic music to hip hop; as well as collaborations with other Chilean avant-garde artists like Koala Contreras, Valeria Hernández and Sebastián Agurto.
The whole album tells a story once you stare at the masks on the cover, making you eager to listen to it, and once you do, you can tell both elements work symbiotically to feed your senses. I talked to the fellas in tortuganónima so they could tell us a tad about them and how they feel with their newborn baby.
Fecking Bahamas: Yo, guys, how did you come up with the name ‘tortuganónima’? tortuganónima: We named a band during a brainstorm to come up with a name for the band one day before playing for the first time. We thought it would be cool to merge the words ‘tortuga’ (turtle) and ‘anónima’ (anonymous) into one: hence, ‘tortuganónima’. So, there is no further story about this (laugh). It’s also kinda funny to see Americans or other English-speaking people trying to pronounce our band name. We like to think that the meaning of a band or song’s name is not that important for an instrumental genre.
FB: What are bands that influenced tortuganónima’s sound? tortuganónima: We all listen to different genres and bands, from hip hop to black metal. We could say our influences bands in and out of math rock, like Radiohead, Downy, toe, The Mars Volta, Hella, even Meshuggah, Dream Theater and Soundgarden; and more recently Palm. They are making a fresh rock sound and we like it.
FB: You have toured the world successfully now, do you have any cool or weird stories while on tour? tortuganónima: A lot of different weird and funny stuff has happened to us. In Japan, on the train to Osaka, Felipe wanted to take a leak so badly that we, and other guys that were with us, tried to keep him out of sight so he could ‘release himself’ into a bottle, but the train was so crowded that he just could not (laughs).
In Belgium, during Dunk Fest, we convinced the DJ at a party to play a Chilean cumbia, and it was funny to see people wondering where the hell that music was coming from, but dancing at the same time. It was also nice to see that there were other Chilean people there and made us feel like home. That same feeling we had at Perú, they welcomed us so warmly that even a guy from the audience came toward us to say he started a band listening to us. It was just beautiful.
FB: On the other hand, what has been overwhelming for you as a band? tortuganónima: You need to be very strong and patient to be in a band. Maybe one of the most overwhelming aspects is the lack of economic stability. We are a group of musicians that have to go out and look for a job to survive and finance our project. As South Americans in a developing country, we find that even harder.
FB: Let’s talk about ‘Imago’. What was the inspiration for this album? tortuganónima: We didn’t want to keep having the same style, what you would call math rock. We wanted to go beyond, break the boundaries, but maintain balance and be dynamic at the same time by experimenting with other musical genres, without losing our true essence. The album was passed through a whole bunch of significant changes, but the outcome was everything we expected. It was key to have the producers we had.
We also wanted to present something fresh and come up with something we are able to play live. Imago is our most conceptual album so far, the compositions are more technical and we took a risk with other genres. It has been totally worth it.
FB: ‘Cortes de Papel’ is my personal fav. The album artwork is superb. Who is the mastermind behind this?
tortuganónima: Thanks! The man responsible of creating the masks on the cover is the Chilean plastic artist Vicente Prieto. We approached him to be part of the artwork and we were more than satisfied with the result. The characters of each one of the masks represent a human emotion: sadness, madness, contemplation and wrath. This is something that has meant a lot through our journey as a band. Our drummer Octavio was in charge of photography.
FB: Finally, would you like to say something to the readers of Fecking Bahamas? tortuganónima: We hope this album to have the effect in you all as we planned it while making it. We would like people around the world to start becoming interested in the music that is made in this part of the continent, so that they can turn and look at Latin American musicians and say ‘wow!’
‘Imago’ is out now on all streaming digital platforms. You can purchase the album right here.