Volcán is a big act. Watching them set up before a show imparts a sense of just how monstrous a task it is. But from their cumbersome hulk derives the greatest strength of their music: a sound like old vine Tinto del Toro, vast and deep, and rich with complexity. Last week, they released their first EP, Ritmo, Cultura x Amor, and the release event packed Hi-Tones to a point that laughed at the word, “capacity.”
Though the four tracks are relatively brief compared to their stage performances that last a seeming yet pleasant eternity, they represent the diversity of sound that Volcán is capable. “If everyone played Jaime’s way, our music would sound much more unified,” says Jacob Rodriguez. Jamie Mejia writes all the music, a seemingly impossible fact. “But everyone takes what he writes and plays it their own way. They blend their own roots into his idea of a song. And that’s Volcán.”
Jacob’s roots are in the metal scene. It’s hard to tell now, but I’ve seen his guitarmanship transform exponentially over the few short months since we met. He wasn’t less skilled to begin with – just different. I hypothesize that’s the effect Vulcan has upon its own. A few of the members have shared a similar sentiment with me.
Rich met members of Volcán at Palo Alto College about six months ago, right around the time recording began on the EP. They told Rich about the music their group was making and asked if he’d take part. “I was like, ‘you want me to play the güiro for you?’ I play guitar and piano, but the güiro?” But he did, and he does. And he looks good doing it too. The purity of the maypole-spirit that possesses Rich is half the reason I smile at a Volcán performance; the other half is all the music’s fault.
When I picked up my copy of Ritmo, Cultura x Amor, the album art struck me as soundly as the music ever did. The cover depicts a luminous pineapple erupting from a skull, imagery that infers an immediate reference to the name Volcán. The art is Marlene Mejia’s, sister to Jaime. Two years ago, Jaime was telling her of his plans to create a sound both “Latin rock and tropical,” and those ideas were transmitted into the band’s icon. The pineapple, she explained, was the tropical, with the skull being a universal symbol of rock.
Marlene’s work goes beyond album art. Her portfolio varies in mediums and is tinted by nostalgia. You can view more of her work in the gallery below.
The act preceding Volcán was a six-piece ensemble called El Tallerito de Son. Their music, Son Jarocho, originates in Tamaulipas and Veracruz, and is synonymous with fandango of southern Mexico. They use instruments acoustic in nature, including the jarana, requinto, leona, pandero, güiro, and quijada. They also employ the tarima, a stomping-box upon which a dances taps out a zapateado, creating an infectious beat.
Keli Cabunoc, one of the founding members, says that most of the members are students from the community and started as fans before joining. Their relationship with Volcán started about a year ago, and they’ve often played together to boost each other’s visibility. The group teaches free Son classes to the public every Tuesday at San Anto Cultural Arts, 2120 El Paso, 78207.