Two worlds shape a distinctive sound


Graham C Wheat, Features Editor

By Graham C Wheat

Features Editor

Making Movies is a band that carries a heavy burden. They are rooted in two different places, musically and culturally. They have one foot in the old and one foot in the new, and they carry the weight of two cultures and two styles of music.

Yet it is this grounding in two distinctly different places that armors them and helps them create the sound and personality that makes them so unique.

The band, which played in Bakersfield on April 27, blends elements of afro-Cuban rhythms and the old feel of Latin rock with a mixture of modern indie rock.

Lead singer and guitar player Enrique Chi, 26, belts out a smooth, melodic voice complemented by guitar playing reminiscent of early ’90s rock. Brother Diego Chi, 21, plays bass and lends a groovy line to every track on their sophomore album “A la Deriva,” which means “adrift.” The majority of the songs on “A la Deriva” are sung in Spanish, yet somehow that has no bearing on the listenable quality of the songs, even for someone who doesn’t speak Spanish.

Brothers Enrique and Diego Chi hail from Panama originally, and were young transplants to the band’s hometown of Kansas City, Mo. Both grew up with ties to their origin of birth and developed roots in the Midwest town. Drummer Brendan Culp, 25, went to high school with younger brother Diego and even started a band with him, although both joked that they hoped no one would ever hear that music. Percussionist and keyboard player Juan-Carlos Chaurand, 26, who grew up close to the rest of the band, rounds out the lineup.

Diego elaborated on the close-knit nature that the group shares. Speaking of the recent touring schedule, driving across America in an old van, he said, “When we are on the road, there is no big drama. We get on each other’s nerves every so often, but it’s like having your little brother in the car. At the end of the day, we put aside our differences and realize that we are working toward the same goal.” That goal is the dedication to the music that the group makes.

Enrique spoke of some of the things that he thought defined the band’s dual nature.
“When I was growing up, I had to ride the short bus to school with the other foreign kids, and I used to hate being weird. All the other kids rode the regular bus. It took me a while to realize that being weird was a good thing. “

Enrique spoke of how that feeling of alienation persisted on his trips to his home of Panama.

When I would go to Panama, I was the American kid. And when I was here, I was the Panamanian kid. It took me a long time to embrace that, and now as an adult I realize what a huge asset it is.”

It seems that asset translates into their music as their Latin-infused sound draws more and more non-Latin listeners.

We were doing a show at Summerfest in Kansas City, and I think most of the audience was American as opposed to Latino,” said Enrique.

The group also has another hurdle to overcome; they have no label and no booking agent, relying solely on themselves to spread the sounds of Making Movies.

The group agrees that it can be a double-edged sword.

The band said that recording “A la Deriva” was a wholly satisfying experience with producer Steve Berlin of Los Lobos fame at the helm. The band gave nothing but praise about the recording process, which took 12 days in Portland, Ore., saying Berlin took time from his already busy schedule to facilitate their creative process.

I was reluctant during some of the recording process. I thought I was being too weird, with my playing style or song choice,” said Enrique. “Steve told me ‘get weird’ and encouraged me so much.”

The band also spoke of the process it self, like using old microphones for recording and playing as an ensemble for the record.

The band is positive about their future and believes the mix of cultures and musical styles will be their banner.

We have one foot in Latin America, and one foot in America,” said Enrique. “It is the same with our music. We have one foot in the old, and one foot in the new.”