Even though Biggie made it clear that family and business don't mix, a sibling band is a formula that has been proven to work. From the Beach Boys and the Bee Gees to the Jackson 5; from Hanson to the Jonas Brothers, and, more recently, HAIM and Disclosure, there's something endearing about brothers and sister who don't hate each other (yet) and get together to make some jams.
At least that's why I experienced when I saw Sotomayor perform live two year ago in a venue in Mexico City—the first time I was exposed to their music. On that sweaty October weeknight, Raúl Sotomayor struck me as the nerdy electronic music guy, tweaking synth knobs, navigating his Push, and crafting beats. Meanwhile, sister Paulina Sotomayor, wearing a vaporous robe and blue makeup on the upper half of her face, poured honey from her vocal chords all over the audience, injecting red-blooded emotion to the mix. But there was a palpable electricity between both of them generated as they banged their drums and percussion with the same passion, one that only family can share.
The siblings don't come from a musical family per se, but, through a conversation Raúl and I had via email, he mentions his father's music fandom made a significant impact on them. "His true passion is soccer [laughs]. But my dad is a weird person, because you can see in his eyes when he's listening to a song that he's absorbing everything. He has a great ear for melody and he always notices the little details that make a song great."
Sotomayor's inception was indeed family-motivated. "It started for a simple reason: I had never done music with my sister ever before," he says. He and Paulina have a background in playing in different bands, like latin funk and hip hop influenced Beat Buffet and the short lived psychedelic folk project Jefes del Desierto, respectively; but growing up, they had never thought about working together. "Not many people knew Paulina had a great singing talent. I did, obviously, because she has been singing since she was little, so I wanted to try putting her behind the mic." This experiment resulted in Salvaje, their debut album, where they tackled the idea of global bass but with a soulful, almost jazzy edge provided by the vocals.
Fast forward to 2017. The duo dropped their second full-length, Conquistador, this past Friday, where their once again placed their Latinidad right on the forefront—a choice they have made in order to find an identity they can call their own. "We live in a world where everything is just the same –everyone has an iPhone, Netflix, Nike sneakers, an H&M sweatshirt—and that makes it even harder for us to find an identity, to find things to be passionate about and that make us feel proud to be Mexican, to be Latin American," Raúl explains. "We're obviously dissatisfied with our governments, our economic crisis, and the injustices we experience every day, but our culture and our people's flavor is ours and only ours. I want to make music which makes you feel that, music which makes you feel that the place where you live is the fucking best despite all these issues."
Out of the songs from Conquistador, single "Eléctrico" is probably the one that represents that identity-in-progress fed from their Mexican pride the best. Its cumbia beat, acoustic percussion, and electric guitar riffs work as that electricity Paulina sings about enters our bodies through our feet and shock us all the way to our hair. On its music video, directed by video production duo Iglú and premiered here on Noisey, they tapped friends (including member of local bands Liquits, Little Jesus, and Mylko) to vibe and dance together to the song in a pastel-colored fantasy which contrasts with the vibrancy of Mexico City's streets. Because friends are family too.
Conquistador is out now .
Algodón Egipcio is on Twitter .