by Jeff McCord
It was a great plan. The Austin outfit Money Chicha, a more nimble offshoot of Grupo Fantasma, plays the Amazonian psychedelic rock Cumbia known as Chicha. They had already brought in Peruvian Chicha superstar Jose Carballo (guitarist of La Nueva Crema) for a couple of short sessions and workshops they captured on tape. And they also had started work on their own second full-length album, after years of single releases, recording at Sonic Ranch Studios in West Texas.
Bassist Greg Gonzales explains the original idea. “So we put out this album with [Carballo] and hopefully through the association with him and kind of the story of us linking up with this legendary musician, we can kind of Buena Vista Social Club it, so to speak. You know, maybe get some good cultural events, some festivals, whatever, on the basis of this amazing story. Since those things book so far out, we’ll make our own album as well. And then when we’re on tour, we can also sell our own album and we could route in between these big anchor dates doing our own shows without him. He’s an old man. I mean that in the best sense, he’s in great health. But he doesn’t have any interest in riding in this stinky van with five dudes. We would route between these events and he could just fly in and hit us there, and all the routes in between would be the Money Chicha events, and we would have two albums to sell. It’s kind of the grand scheme. But you know what they say, man plans and God laughs.”
COVID derailed it all, of course, and left the band with two unfinished albums. So they combined them. When I mention to Gonzalez how cohesive they sound, he laughs out loud.
“It just struck me one day. If this is on vinyl, you’re going to have an A-side and a B-side, right? They can sound totally different. It might be more noticeable on a digital download, but we also did some tricks to try and even it out. And one of the funniest things about it all is, you know, Sonic Ranch is this amazing, beautiful place to make a record. We recorded it to this Neve console that used to live at Motown in Los Angeles. We recorded on this pristine, two-million-dollar board using all this fancy gear. And meanwhile, the stuff we recorded with Jose Carballo was at Lechehouse Music in Buda [the studio of guitarist Beto Martinez], recorded to a Tascam 388 reel to reel. So what we ended up doing is, we took all the tracks from Sonic Ranch and bounced them all down to eight tracks and then mixed [both sessions] on the same reel to reel. That’s how we tried to match it. We also ended up doing a lot of overdubs to add a cohesive sound as well. A big part of that was [Colombian percussionist] Victor Cruz from Nemegata. We got him to lay down all the kind of hand percussion and little drum elements, and that really helped tie it all together.”
Joining Carballo and Cruz in the all-star lineup is Colombian American vocalist Kiko Villamizar. And the band has assembled some mash-up videos, with Carballo filmed separately, to help promote the release. The result, Chicha Summit, is an exuberant joy to hear, a non-stop rhythmic propellant with explosive guitar bursts, that sounds like it was just as much fun to play. Gonzalez concurs.
“Absolutely. It’s been really a good time having this band. And it kind of pushed us all to redefine the borders of what we were able to do. Playing Cumbia music with Grupo Fantasma has always been a blast. But, when you have that many people in a band, everyone has a more defined role. There’s not as much room to improvise. So it’s been really liberating, but it’s also allowed us to push the boundaries of what we thought Cumbia music could be. Our drummer, John Speice, gets to do kind of a hybrid situation where he does like cymbals and drums that combine to make his own unique drum situation. Kind of the same with our conga player, Lou [‘Sweet Lou’ Holmes]. He’s doing bongos and congas at the same time.”
I bring up to Gonzalez the in-joke of Money Chicha‘s name: being freed from the huge lineup of Grupo Fantasma, the players might actually end up with some cash in their pockets at the night’s end.
He laughs. “It’s more of the infrastructure that’s required. Grupo Fantasma and Brownout, with that many people, require so many monitors and microphones and sound systems and, you know – money. Money Chicha just started out playing at the Continental Gallery, which is basically three microphones that we put on ourselves and then started going cutting loose, you know? That allows us to play more community gigs of benefits or things or smaller events that don’t have the budget for the bands. I mean, it also the money is not split as many ways, but it’s not like any of us is getting rich playing music.”
Armed with a great new album, will Money Chicha be hitting the road in these uncertain times?
“At this point, we’re playing a ton regionally with our bands, and we don’t have any plans to tour unless flyouts present themselves. If we end up doing tours, it would probably not be until next summer at the earliest. There are too many unknowns to take that kind of risk. Even the people I do know who are in big bands like Gary Clark and Black Pumas, our colleagues in the Austin scene, they’re taking all kinds of precautions, whether it’s flying on private planes or traveling in a bubble where they can’t interact with other people and having nurses on call. Smaller-level bands who are doing band tours are doing daily tests, and if someone gets sick, the whole tour is canceled. We just can’t afford to do that. On top of that, during COVID, everybody had to pivot a little bit and start doing some other stuff. So Beto is producing and mixing and recording a ton of stuff at his studio right now. And I decided to finish my graduate degree. So I’m actually at UT right now, halfway through that.”
Everywhere, not only in the music business, pivots have become a part of pandemic life. In the meantime, Money Chicha is releasing Chicha Summit on October 15th, and we can all celebrate with them in person. Their next show is on October 8th at the Far Out Lounge.
Go Fever is the KUTX Artist of the Month for September 2021. Photo by Mel Koutchavalis.
Go Fever is a familiar presence in Austin’s rock scene, playing alongside A Giant Dog and recording at White Denim’s Radio Milk studios. But singer and songwriter Acey Monaro’s Australian roots bring something else to this city. Her songs are filtered through a love of classic country and the kind of loose pub rock you can only find in Australia. You can rock out, but you might miss the sharp wit of her storytelling.
On October 8, Go Fever returns with Velvet Fist, and this week on My KUTX, Monaro is back as our guest DJ. She’s come up with an hour of songs that have influenced the new record–Squeeze, jump blues, Australian jukebox hits–and songs that have kept her going through trying times. Hear Go Fever’s My KUTX on Saturday, September 25 at 6 p.m. or listen anytime in the player above.
–Art Levy // producer, My KUTX
[intro music: Go Fever – “Long Run”]
1. Squeeze – “In Quintessence”
2. Patti LaBelle – “Lady Marmalade”
3. Daddy Cool – “Eagle Rock”
4. Liz Stringer – “First Time Really Feeling”
5. T-Bone Walker – “Tell Me What’s The Reason”
6. Flor de Toloache – “Dulces Recuerdos”
7. Minutemen – “I Felt Like A Gringo”
8. Yola – “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
9. Joan Armatrading – “Water With The Wine”
10. Us Mob – “Genocide”
11. The B-52’s – “Hero Worship”
12. Tom T. Hall – “Subdivision Blues”
13. Dead Kennedys – “Moon Over Marin”
As temperatures dramatically drop here in Texas, it seems fitting to give Go Fever the “all clear” to heat things up again. After charismatic mastermind Acey Monaro spent a year in the respite of her Australian motherland, these two-time Studio 1A veterans seem right at home back here in Austin as our September 2021 Artist of the Month.
And true to their name (minus any rushed negligence), Go Fever’s always got a sense of anticipation for their next rock project, in this case the upcoming Velvet Fist. The catchy, sarcastic beast that is Velvet Fist is set to drop hard on October 8th, and Go Fever guest hosts My KUTX this weekend, but the big news today is a close-knit two-song at-home pop-up session, which includes “Long Run” and “FYI”!
NPR Live Sessions/KUTX – Musicians: Acey Monaro, vocals; Josh Merry, guitar
Credits: Cameras: Gabriel C. Pérez, Michael Minasi; Edit: Michael Minasi; Audio: Jake Perlman; Producer: Deidre Gott
–Photo: Gabriel C. Perez
KUTX supports Austin music; your support makes KUTX possible. Donate today.
photo by Mel Koutchavalis
The band returns with their blistering new album
Follow Go Fever HERE:
By Jeff McCord
When vocalist Acey Monaro lit out for her native Australia last summer, she and her husband Ben Burdick left behind high COVID rates, an inactive Austin music scene, and the rest of their band. Go Fever, a fixture on the Austin scene since 2017, had just finished an intense ten-day June session at White Denim’s Radio Milk studios, recording their second album. But when it would be released, or when the band could reconvene, remained uncertain. Without gigs, or Acey’s supporting day jobs as a bartender and booker, there was simply no work. In Australia, where COVID was much more under control, she found work painting houses and got to spend some time with her family. But she missed her bandmates, and listening to the rough mixes of the session, she felt they really had something.
They did. In this time of endless introspection and echo-laden synthetics, Velvet Fist has the effect of a door slamming at a funeral. You sit up and listen. Call it melodic ferocity. It can be a bit retro (the band calls themselves ‘uncool’ in their bio, and Stones and new wave influences do bob to the surface), but their songwriting wit places them very much in the present day. It’s bracing hook-laden indie rock, where auto-tune is vanquished, guitars aren’t shy, and neither is Monaro, powering track after track into a thrilling frenzy. Like all good records should – and so few actually do – the nine tracks fly by. It all ends way too soon.
A single is out now, and Nine Mile Records releases Velvet Fist on October 8th. It’s been a long layoff, but it’s time for Go Fever to go back to work.
The name BLK ODYSSY might seem a bit grandiose on first glance, but a quick listen to their recent material justifies the epic magnificence of their sound. While D’Angelo & The Vanguard maintains a naming convention that touts their frontman’s saga, singer Sam Houston has graciously allowed his own name to go by the wayside as the “feature” of BLK ODYSSY and allowed his breathtaking vocals (almost reminiscent of post-Impressions Curtis Mayfield) to mesh effortlessly within a more traditional “band” framework.
Nonetheless, our August 2021 Artist of the Month‘s new record BLK Vintage could definitely make for a good pairing with Black Messiah, offering up a slick mix of modern jazz-psych-soul and seductive funk-R&B. You can catch BLK ODYSSY’s My KUTX session tomorrow night at 6PM and enjoy the grainy visuals of a three-song set below, taped just for KUTX at 512 Studios. The intimate performance (complete with a scarf-wrapped mic stand and plenty of stank face) opens with a previously unheard demo (“Gangster of Love” – that already packs a ton of potential) and KUTX rotation favorite “Funkentology”, but with Texas summer keeping the sun high and the heat in close company, the belle of the ball may just be “Hang Low”.
NPR LIVE SESSIONS/KUTX – KUTX August 2021 Artist of the Month BLK ODYSSY // Musicians: Sam Houston, Vocals; Matt Weatherly, Bass; Alejandro Rios, Guitar; Matt Muheling, Guitar; Adam Jackson, Drums
Cameras and Edit: Rashad White, Audio Engineer: Rich Baur // Filmed at 512 Studios // Set List: 1. “Gangster of Love”, 2. “Funkentology”, 3. “Hang Low”
KUTX supports Austin music; your support makes KUTX possible. Donate today.