Seemingly a genre unto itself, the Afro Latino group Making Movies blended the sounds, languages and attitudes of the cultures that spawned the band members themselves. Formed in Kansas City, Making Movies is an American band in every way, including the immigration story at its heart. Enrique Chi (vocals and guitar) left Panama at the age of 6; he was joined in the band by his brother Diego Chi on bass, percussionist Juan Carlos Chaurand from Mexico and new member Duncan Burnett from Kansas on drums.
Her fourth album, “XOPA,” is set for release on June 17, following her 2019 album “ameri’kana.” “XOPA,” sung entirely in Spanish, features guest performances from Rubén Blades, Marc Ribot, Dolores Huerta , David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and Alaina Moore of Tennis.
This morning, the group shared the title track of “XOPA,” following previous singles “Calor,” “Sala De Los Pecadores,” and “Porcelain” (featuring Tennis).
We recently spoke with Enrique Chi about Making Movies’ deep connection to its mentors, how a Peter Gabriel song opened his ears and eyes to rock activism and the purpose behind the band’s live show, which you can see for yourself at Mercury Lounge on Thursday, June 9 and World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on July 13.
Why did you decide to record your next album entirely in Spanish?
I think I haven’t answered this question yet, so this is the first time it’s been asked. We started the process in early 2020, and we all know what happened soon after. I think while we were working on this music, to write songs in two languages, I’m actually cultivating two different artists, like different voices in a way. And I just wanted to focus on one and feel really comfortable and want to dive into a character, basically. The last album was thinking about more global and social ideas, and they’re present in this album, but growing up as a Latino, it’s more about me than our perspective on the world in our society, so I felt that I needed to go back to my mother tongue and really improve myself. Ron Swanson of “Parks and Recreation” said it’s better to do one thing whole than two things halfway, so that was kind of a perspective.
I also have to admit that living in the United States writing in Spanish has been a barrier to reaching English media and English [language] festivals. We would release a song in English, and because some of our music is in Spanish, “We’ll be playing you on our Latin special on a Saturday night.” If it’s in English, why are we around? We had an English song written by Lou Reed and Rubén Blades [“Delilah”], and we had the same experience. It was amazing – why are we in the corner of your curation? So we sort of abandoned that idea. We were going to get that answer anyway, so let’s write a full album in Spanish.
Which artists inspired you to use your platform to become an activist?
I think of all my favorite artists when I was a kid. My father is a rock and roll head. He loved talking to me about everyone from the Beatles to Peter Gabriel. I remember telling him specifically about a Peter Gabriel song and the social situation that Peter Gabriel was writing from, I think it was “Biko”. We have crossed paths with Los Lobos, and they have become allies and mentors to us, and they do so with grace. They support causes but are not an activist group. Rubén Blades put it on all his life, and we made the song together, he kind of coached me on how to do interviews and describe different ideas without being tied to a particular concept .
Tell us about some of the amazing “XOPA” guest artists.
I think that goes back to what I was saying about being lucky to have met these mentors who have helped us along the way. Everyone on the record played a part in that for us. Alaina and I grew up together. We met when we were 17 and remained friends and broke up. She was literally off the grid. A few years ago, I saw what she was doing and said, “Oh, cool.” Then his career took off and it was really fun to watch him. She and her husband have been such great examples in my life of people navigating music as a career and their relationship, and Alaina has always had this magic power, even though we haven’t spoken in a while, she can cut right to the quick of the thing i’m actually going through.
David Hidalgo and the whole Los Lobos family, when we started playing with them, behind the scenes it was like family. That kind of opening just. Everyone on the album, Dolores Huerta, inspired me to discover her story. She was a kind of leader that we admire.
That’s the message of our album, those people who lifted us up, whether they did it intentionally or because they are who they are, and the beauty of that and how much, as humans, we all need it in our lives.
What is your intention when you go on stage to play?
I think the intention is of course to present this music, which is parallel to the message. It is also another common thread of the album. Since I wrote “No te calles” with Rubén, which was a closer show for us, we were dragging this song, and it was the highlight of the show. We wanted this record beginning the. We wanted each song to be more extreme — more intimate if it’s intimate; if it’s big and loud, bigger and louder than anything we’ve ever done. The tunes seem bigger now. Now, “No te called” isn’t the closest, it lives somewhere near the middle.
This interview has been edited for length.
Photo by Felipe Rubilar