the guys from Una Fábrica
By Saba Mohtasham
Photos by Frédéric Boutellier
Luciano Banchero and Leandro Pereiro are arguing over how many people could fit into the upstairs venue of the La Boca bar Plasma. Banchero argues 200 until he realizes that Pereiro is referring to the number of people they could get for one of their shows.
“I wasn’t talking about us”, Banchero says. “We could get maybe 100.”
Now they agree. One week earlier they kicked off the three-weekend celebration of the third anniversary of their indie label Mamushka Dogs Records and got a turn out of about a 100, just under what they would need to turn a profit after paying the venue.
“We were almost even”, Pereiro comments.
The comment doesn’t carry an ounce of discontent, and they both agree that’s not why they put on the shows.
“You end up doing it just for the sake of doing it, because it’s fun”, Banchero says, Mamushka Dogs seems to be running on this very maxim.
Started in August of 2007, the label evolved from an mp3 blog they created in 2005 in order to recommend albums they liked between friends. When readers started recommending their own bands, the boys realized the potential of the site.
“It wasn’t planned”, Pereiro said. “Opportunity set the ground rules for us … and it evolved pretty naturally.”
What it evolved into is two guys with day jobs devoting their spare time to promoting underground music, by offering free downloads on their site and putting on shows for a running total of 22 bands, few of which they found through what Pereiro refers to as a cannibal ritual. Mamushka Dogs gets about 150 emails per year from bands who want to be represented by the label, and every two or three months the guys get together to listen to their Myspace pages.
“Most of the bands are complete disasters”, Banchero says bluntly, “Best case scenario, we get one band we really like and we’ll contact them.”
So the majority of their catalog comes from them approaching bands they come across on their own or through previously signed groups. They do all this while Pereiro, 28, works as a freelance club promoter and Banchero, 24, as a content developer for MTV América Latina. It’s a labor of love for two guys who aren’t exactly musically gifted in the traditional sense.
“We’re both kind of spazzes”, Pereiro said. “I can scratch [a guitar] a little, but I don’t really know how to play. And Luciano, no, Luciano’s even more useless than me, but that’s part of the thing, because we always said the thing with this is we don’t really know how to play but we love music and we understand it in some other way that has nothing to do with the way you play it.”
Part of that understanding is simply getting things done — a responsibility Pereiro says isn’t always easy for the bands themselves.
“Bands are busy being creative and producing music … and are really stoned all the time … If they had to put together this concert, they would fail most of the time because they would forget the drums or I don’t know, whatever”, he said. “We’re the guys who make things happen for the band … If we can’t do the musician role, our role is to do some other stuff the musicians can’t do.”
And with that role come the obstacles; the biggest one, according to Pereiro, pretty much everything.
“The core issue is that the music industry is changing and we’re also working with the outcasts from the previous industry”, he says. “I’m not too happy about the local scene right now. I mean, it could be good because there are a lot of really good bands, but … nothing is in our favor.”
This includes having less than a handful of venues that support experimental bands, limiting the growth of their audience. Since Mamushka Dogs Records releases all of the music for free in a digital form, getting people to come to the shows is where the potential for growth in profit and band exposure lie. But they’re not worried about selling CDs, since they believe the music culture in general is moving away from that format.
“On the one hand, you have Radiohead that was already a popular band that could make [free downloads] work right from the start”, Pereiro said. “And on the other hand you have us. We’re in a country where the stuff we like is never going to be mainstream. No, it’s never going to be mainstream.”
“And we don’t care”, Banchero adds, “We care more about if there’s people out there trying to meet a band like The Baseball Furies or any of our bands, our mission is to get them to listen to it.”
Not to mention, they just don’t like CDs.
“We think the CD has some charm and it’s kind of cute and it’s nice to have a booklet and all that and try not to get it scratched”, Pereiro said. “But it’s not the way things are going.”
And their bands seem to agree. Even though Gonzalo Louro, bassist for Una Fábrica, which released its first album, El Ventanal, through Mamushka Dogs in 2009, prefers the physical format, he knows he’s outnumbered in today’s industry.
“[Free downloads] greatly accelerates the process of the band from its formation to the possibility of beginning to spread their music, and for some time now already, the internet became the primary means of disseminating information”, Louro says. “Personally I prefer the physical format, especially on discs that were recorded to be released on vinyl, mostly because if they were created with that technology in mind then vinyl will produce the best audio. Anyway, as musicians of this era we are obliged to adapt to new forms, it’s that or extinction.”
Javi Cereceda, frontman of Javi Punga, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Limiting access to information is a form of authoritarianism”, he says, adding that CDs can also take away from what the music represents. “People approach everything with the idea that it has to have an economic value, and that’s not how the system works … it works with values, with sustainable resources, affection, respect. Not everything is production and consumption.”
Diego Rodolfo Ibarra, who came out for the second anniversary show, sees the free downloads as a benefit to the artists. “That everything is free, I think it’s really cool, especially for the bands that don’t really get out there, maybe it’s a really good band that doesn’t have support. And, well, now they have the chance to get out there and grow."
Ibarra is accompanied by a friend, Fabiana Lucia Filarent, who agrees although still sees a place for CDs. “If there’s a band that I like, I’ll download the songs, and if I like it, I’ll buy the album,” she says. “I think it’s cool because I’m not really in support of commercial music, I think it’s great that this is anti-consumerist.”
While she won’t be able to buy the CDs for the Mamushka artists that don’t produce disks, she can support them by going to the shows, which she did even though she admittedly didn’t know who Mamushka was or that she was attending one of their shows.
Even if not everyone who shows up knows what they are showing up to, Mamushka Dogs is proud of their fanbase, which Pereiro estimates to consist of about 5000 people.
“It’s not really that big, but it’s a cool fanbase, quite loyal”, he said. “And I think it’s an accomplishment, the fact that if we say a new band is cool, there is a fair amount of people willing to believe it and willing to give it a chance.”
And in the next few months that growing fan base can expect to hear two new bands that Mamushka Dogs are repping. The plan is to release four new albums by the end of the year, two from the new bands and two more from bands already on the label.
Una Fábrica, who opened the second show, just wrapped up editing their first album and are already planning to complete their next project hopefully this summer, whatever it may be.
“It’s definitely something related to future albums, B sides or just music that doesn’t square with the traditional format of the band, but surely Mamushka will know how to appreciate it.”
For Cereceda, who released a triple album entitled “El Árbol de la Vida” on the site, he likes to keep expectations low and take in the future one day at a time.
“We only live one life, we have to enjoy it”, he philosophizes casually, “I hope to be able to keep playing the next two months. If the band makes it to next year, I’m going to be the happiest guy in the world.”
As for Pereiro and Banchero, the future of the label past the end of this year is pretty simple. “We have some kind of expectation to do something great,” Pereiro says. “We really feel the need for there to be a label like ours. And we really like to be the ones doing it.”
So whether it’s a profit or a loss at the end of the night, Buenos Aires can expect a continuing presence of Mamushka Dogs in the local music scene.
“We’ll keep doing this as long as someone comes,” Banchero said.
Leandro Pereiro, cofounder of Mamushka Dogs Records