by Paola Piersantelli & Kevin Vaughn
Photos by Kevin Vaughn
Tifa Rex can’t stop fidgeting. It´s a cool Saturday afternoon in the southern city of Adrogué. We’re sitting Indian-style on a beer stained carpet in a quiet apartment that rests above a small strip mall. Bob Dylan´s “Hurricane” plays in the background on repeat. Half of the apartment, wood floored, unusually clean, decorated with simple antique furnishings and a photo of Freud hanging next to a Picasso, is the office of Tifa and Nica´s mother, a psychologist. The other half, where we casually sit, passing around a bottle of Paso de los Toros, serves as the studio for the three members of Los Reyes del Falsete – Tifa Rex (on drums), Nica and Juanchi Manchi (both on guitars), all three on vocals. The room is littered with music equipment and an unkempt bed in the corner. Vintage American advertisements hang on the wall, one for New Man jeans, has a woman, bent over, ass to the camera, with a small boy holding up her long jacket to show how well the pants fit her backside.
The room feels familiar. Not just the beer stains, which invite an explosion of fuzzy college memories, but also because this long bedroom served as the backdrop to the colorful cover of La Fiesta de la Forma, the bands first LP.
Tifa keeps fidgeting. His constant squirming is in discordance with his laid-back attitude. He strums his fingers on his slim fitting jeans. Strips wood off the old bed frame he´s propped up against, tearing the long strip into pieces. He´s wearing the standard indie uniform: a Leo Matioli shirt and hoodie that he bought at the thrift store, simple sneakers, ray ban style glasses with wide black rims and clear lenses, and messy head of hair. His clean face is taken hostage by a scruffy mustache. In fact, all three guys have mustaches, complete coincidence they assure us.
“I´m very, like I can´t stop moving, I’m nervous, in my hands, my feet,” Tifa explains drumming on his legs, “and I´ve always banged on stuff, all the time banging…and my family used to say to me, “Don´t you wanna be a drummer?”
Nica sits across from Tifa. He´s got on a clean turquoise cardigan and a simple t-shirt. He speaks a lot, and with absolute sincerity, making eye contact when he speaks. We´re missing one band member, Juanchi Manchi, the two tell us he´s been hibernating the last two days. He arrives a few hours later as our interview was wrapping up. This isn´t an abnormal occurrence, if they have to start setting up for a show at 6, Juanchi Manchi arrives at the studio around 7. Juanchi Manchi is a walking contradiction – he´s tall and lanky, a physical presence of gigantic proportions. He kinda resembles Peter Fonda in his “Easy Rider” days. But he's also kind of shy, or at least compared to two very outgoing band mates, although he is always able to throw in the right joke at the perfect moment. According to the rest of the band, Juanchi Manchi is the cute one, according to him, he is the most “Falsete” of the band.
There is an incredible chemistry that hangs thick in the air. They talk amongst themselves rapidly, speaking over one another, cracking jokes, constantly smiling. It feels more like spying on a private conversation between brothers rather than conducting an interview. They’re recounting a big party they went to in Capital the night before. Red carpet sort of thing. Aspiring little starlets, lots of pretty girls, and the cute female film critic from the TN channel.
This could become something rather normal for the band, which has received a lot of attention in the last year. This year they embarked on an unofficial tour through Argentina, being invited to play in cities all over the country. They weren’t lured by promoters, but by fans and friends, who invited them to play at a local gig and crash at their houses afterwards. They’re shocked when people sing along with the lyrics. They´ve even gotten airplay as far as Brazil, as “Os Reys del Falsechi”, they fail miserably trying to pronounce the Brazilian accent without bursting into laughter. And the list of upcoming concert dates extends all the way to Christmas. Big gigs like the one at the recent Dr Lemon Festival and smaller shows at the local Adrogué hangout Tio Bizarro or the La Boca hipster bar Plasma. All of this is still surreal to Los Reyes, who see themselves as a local band, “We don´t see ourselves doing this at 50.”
“Every time before we play a show, I say ‘no one is going to come’ “, Nica tells us, but each weekend that they play (and recently they’ve been playing every weekend) they are surprised to find a full house. “People come from really far away. It started to amaze me when I began seeing people that I didn´t know, people that came to see us in La Plata, that would just leave without saying hello or goodbye”. The Reyes are in a bubble, they feel like a local band, unsure of how to approach their underground popularity.
They lead ordinary lives. Tifa and Nica live at home with their parents, Juanchi Manchi with his girlfriend (sorry ladies). Tifa studies composition of electroacoustic music, Nica philosophy (although they admit that most of their attention is devoted to the band). Juanchi Manchi works at the family business. Becoming ‘professional’ musicians was never part of the plan. No big dreams of becoming famous musicians – some pathetic rock star drinking whiskey all day, being a jerk for the sake of persona, a fake icon (“If that´s rock and roll, I don´t want that”). They liked music, always preferring to spend their weekends at shows rather than boliches. They surround themselves with likeminded friends but when they disagree about art “they start endless debates that can be very constructive” they tell us, of course, laughing. And that’s really how the band began. Humbly. After spending their early youth with friends casually playing instruments but mostly fooling around, they decided to mess around with a real band.
And so Los Reyes del Falsete began. Nica and Juanchi wanted to resuscitate an old band and approached the young Tifa (who didn´t play at the time) to be the drummer. Nica, imitating Tifa with a silly tone “I don´t want to make music, I like to listen to music!” Nica’s imitation is a total act of love, an incredible friendship that has been growing since childhood – carpooling to school in the morning, year after year of birthday parties, “I have pictures from when I was really little at his [Juanchi] birthday that my mom sent me to and I really didn’t want to be there.”
They share a great sense of humor, something they consider of great value to their friendship and the band itself. They even got rid of the fourth member of the band, a bassist, because he couldn’t understand a joke. The joke that led to the band’s name. Los Reyes de Falsete, in English The Falsetto Kings, falsetto being a trick you do with your voice to achieve a high pitch. This is the best moment to mention the boys complete admiration for The Beach Boys.
It all caters to this philosophy of not wanting to be taken too seriously. They scoff when people refer to their first four albums, which to them, aren’t albums at all. La Fiesta de la Forma is the first and only album. The first four productions, El Último Nectae, Disco Duro, Las Ciclovacaciones and Uno de Flores, “it´s just goofing around with friends in the summertime at the beach, recording whatever came out, even in a song there´s a neighbor asking to turn down the volume” Tify tells as – as his brother addresses to him several times. And that’s exactly what they sound like - wild, unpolished, fun – completely different from the album, a deceptively simple piece of musical magic.
It´s playful, the rhythms of the guitars and drum blend smoothly with one another, creating beats that are easy to dance along to and lyrics that are quickly memorized. It´s the lyrics, when listened to closely, that are the heart of the album. They are natural, authentic to the boys themselves – energetic little poems about the way they see the world, the way they view music, laced with a tangible lightheartedness.
Take the song “La Fiesta de la Forma” as an example, a meditation on time and change, that it is a constant force, always in the process of evolution. In a party the form and the deform meet one another, the hair falls out, the face changes shape, and something new is created, like a phoenix rising from the ashes a new form is birthed. The lyrics are tightly written and thoughtful, and then, unexpectedly, there is an eruption of applause, and further along a group of strangers let out a loud Indian call. It´s simple and exciting, and in a nutshell, that is Los Reyes del Falsete.
But live it´s not that simple. To see Los Reyes live is a thunderous reminder that rock and roll can be a beautiful experience. Something magical that unites people, for the simple sake of dancing, of singing along to the music with your friends, of losing form for a few hours.
Our first real encounter with the Reyes was about a month ago at Plasma, a little indie hideaway in Barracas. Plasma is a tiny bar in the middle of nowhere, on the outskirts of San Telmo and just a few blocks away from Constitución, pass by the door and you´d never know that it is the breeding ground for a growing indie underground. A playground for the cities inclined to all things alternative. The place never really fills up, a show ‘starts’ at 11, and the (small) crowd doesn’t start arriving until around 2. We arrived, punctually, expecting the normally barren room and found the street lined with smoking twenty somethings, the interior filled with skinny jeans and high-tops. The place was packed, and everyone had come (some from as far as Adrogué) to see Los Reyes.
The show started out quietly with Javi Punga´s signature playfulness, and began a slow sizzle with a raucous performance by La ola que quería ser chau. And then, Los Reyes. In an instant, it became a party. Balloons floating all over the place being volleyed from one end of the room to the other. Everyone singing along with the lyrics. Girls screaming the boys names. The boys joking jovially with the crowd in-between songs. In the end, all the musicians came on stage and sung the last song “La Fiesta de los que se enamoran de nada” (the party for people who fall in love with nothing) that was also the name of the party that night. It was an astonishing experience, and was ended the way every rock show should be, friends, high on music, ears ringing, sharing the nights final beer and a burger at a hot dog stand.