I Am Another You
“Lyrically and sonically one of the best albums of the year” — NPR
Making Movies thought for a while that their new album I Am Another You was cursed. Finishing the 20-track record got so complicated that supernatural interference started to seem like a legitimate possibility to the American rock ’n’ roll band — and no wonder.
Produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, with guest appearances from Hurray for the Riff Raff and members of Tennis and Ozomatli, I Am Another You is the group’s second LP. It’s a bold mix of sounds: psychedelia, experimental rock, son cubano, cumbia and various rhythms descended from Yoruba music, an African tradition that slaves carried to the New World as part of religious rites that evolved into Santería. Clearly, Making Movies was messing with some powerful juju.
“We wondered if maybe we were trying to go too deep into these rhythms, like we weren’t qualified to be playing them,” says singer and guitarist Enrique Chi, who founded Making Movies with his brother Diego. Another pair of brothers, Juan-Carlos and Andres Chaurand, round out the band on percussion and drums, respectively.
Forbidden rhythms aren’t the only spiritual theme at work on I Am Another You. The album tells the story, in English and Spanish, of three young men suffering through separate life crises. Though one is from Venezuela, one is from Mexico and one is from the Midwest, the parallel challenges they face soon show them to be the same person. Their common experiences evoke the Mayan phrase “In Lak'Ech Ala K'In”, which translates as “I am another you, you are another me.”
“We didn’t expect this album to be as ambitious as it turned out to be, but we couldn’t have done it another way because the songs seemed so interconnected,” says Diego Chi, who played on, arranged music for, and at times engineered the album.
Enrique based the characters on people in his own life: a cousin who fled the violence ripping through Venezuela, a friend in Los Angeles and another in Kansas City, each grappling with what it means to belong in a place, and notions of love and family. Their stories unspool against shifting soundscapes: an Ogun rhythm on the spare, riveting “Tell Me the Truth,” an irresistible timba-mambo hybrid on “Ciudad de Oropel,” haunting atmospherics on “Revolver” and what Chi calls a “drunken cha cha” on “Brave Enough,” which features vocals from Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff and Alaina Moore of Tennis. Making Movies played a run of shows a few years ago with Hurray for the Riff Raff, while Moore is an old childhood friend of Chi’s from before they were in bands.
The centerpiece of the album is “Locura Colectiva,” a song powered by a growling electric guitar riff and a hypnotic rhythm Chi says is “like an evil Cuban son” that shifts into an ancient Yoruba altar rhythm called Obaloke by the end. The song ties together the various themes on the record and essentially flings them at the feet of God as an accusation of culpability for suffering. (No wonder the record felt cursed.)
His characters’ struggles and a long stretch on tour prompted Enrique to think about his own family’s history of migration, so much so that he narrates the album in the voice of his grandfather, Dante, a Panamanian adventurer and world traveler. “I felt like I was writing these songs from his perspective, as an old man looking at the world today,” Chi says. “The goal was to capture this ancestral spirit that was already inside of me and let that speak, and at times we weren’t sure what spirit we had summoned.”
There are 13 songs on I Am Another You, and seven interludes that help stitch together the story as the album progresses. They recorded most of the songs with Steve Berlin (who also produced the band’s 2013 album A La Deriva), figuring they could handle doing the interludes themselves at home. When Making Movies got back to Kansas City, though, something Berlin told them while recording in Tucson, Arizona, suddenly made sense. “The desert has a strange energy to it,” Berlin had said. “You can either harness it for good, or it can overwhelm you.”
Creating the interludes nearly overwhelmed them. “We didn’t anticipate how much of undertaking it would become,” Diego says. “The home recordings were uncharted territory for us, and it ended up taking almost a year. It was a mix of conceptualizing, and also not having the skill set and having to learn as we were doing it.”
Adds Enrique, “When it’s three in the morning and you’ve lost your mind editing violin feedback, you start thinking maybe the record is cursed, and the curse is that it’s possessing you.”
I Am Another You has come to possess Making Movies in another way. When the band started work on the album three years ago, they were simply making music about transcending borders, be they physical, emotional or spiritual. By the time they finished, a changing political landscape at home and abroad has cast that idea in a volatile new light, which has changed their own thinking about the political underpinnings of the album.
“The ideas that were coming into play had nothing to do with politics, they were just interesting to me,” Enrique Chi says. “But at the end of the day I realized, we are political. When you’re talking about social ideals, you’re talking about political ideals.”
If I Am Another You wasn’t intended as a political statement, the companion EP You Are Another Me definitely was. Making Movies recorded four covers tunes, an original and two interludes in Memphis in September. The timing was auspicious: the band had visited the National Civil Rights Museum there the day before the Trump administration announced it was canceling the DACA program offering legal protections to immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors.
The musicians channeled their frustration and dismay into covers of Manu Chao’s “Clandestino” and Los Tigres del Norte’s “De Paisano a Paisano” (with David Hidalgo of Los Lobos on accordion and backing vocals), songs steeped in themes of immigration. The EP also includes a version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and the original “La Marcha.” Making Movies offers a more frontal critique of the Trump regime on the last song, a cover of the Tears for Fears hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” featuring a mind-bending psychedelic take on a Mexican huapango rhythm. Enrique Chi was particularly struck by the lyric about “holding hands while the walls come tumbling down.”
“Donald Trump is metaphorically building walls, and campaigning on building literal walls, and I much prefer the idea of holding hands while walls come tumbling down,” he says. “When we play it live, I usually introduce it as a direct response to Mr. Trump’s bigoted rhetoric.”
The band’s overall political sensibility is straightforward enough that they can express it in four words: “We are all immigrants.” Even the different styles of music they play have filtered down from common roots. “That kind of lineage affirms my belief that we’re all connected in spirit,” Enrique Chi says. “We all come from tribal African people, if you go all the way back. So to me, the message of the band, and this record, is part of this whole continuum: that music itself is a vehicle for truth.”
“…an ambitious, sprawling 20-track work that spans rock, cumbia, psychedelia, American roots, son cubano, and spoken word — a dizzying but cohesive blend that gives the album a cinematic feel” — American Songwriter
“I Am Another You is one of the year’s standout albums, a protest record that doesn’t forget to party” — KUTX (Austin, TX)
“They exalt the beauty of being immigrants” — Chicago Tribune
“Kansas City-based Making Movies took the plunge, and the result is a beautiful, cumbia-tinged cover that takes the song to an emotional, intimate realm.” — Univision
“Making Movies is breaking down barriers for Latinos in the US Heartland” — Remezcla
“Cuban dance hall merged with blasts of scabby guitar straight out of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, as if reinterpreted by Santana.” — Kansas City Star
“… tough to classify into one genre, which … makes them that much more appealing.” — CNN en Español
“The band synthesizes what’s happening in … Latin music better than anyone else out there today.” — MTV