Photo by Anna Oakley for Del Castillo
It’s an hour before Del Castillo comes to the stage at Antone’s and already the venue is packed in anticipation. Even among the faces, lead singer Alex Ruiz is easy to spot. In black leather pants, vest and long sleeve button down, he shakes hands and talks with fans before guiding me to the small green room upstairs.
Past the olive green half door, the room smells of incense and band is in high spirits because they plan on playing songs from their latest self-titled album. It’s been three years since their last album Brotherhood, and difference now is that the band explored different styles. One particular track, “Boricua del Cielo,” made Alex a little nervous.
“That song was actually one of the scariest to learn to sing because it wasn’t in the same vein of what I was used to,” Alex said. “It has the salsa beat, and it’s Cubano and cadence, and I had to knock on Ibrahim Ferrer’s door and study some salsa music.”
In making this album, guitarist Mark Del Castillo said the band let the songs speak for themselves.
“On this album we didn’t play, I feel like we didn’t play, like the Brotherhood album,” Mark said. My brother and I really set out to play crazy solos and stuff and this album it’s more about the songs and you know we solo a little here and there like what we normally we do, but it was more about the songwriting effort like for the song instead of trying to be flashy.”
Whatever the band took away in terms of flash, it didn’t compromise the sound of the album. On the whole it has a sentimental feel with moving yet mellow guitar and punctuated by rollicking tracks such as “Corazon Loco,” “Anybody Wanna,” or “Boricua del Cielo.”
“[On Corazon Loco] we wanted to tip our hat to the stuff our parents would listen to,” Mark said, “and that’s kind of where the inspiration came–what could we do to make our mom and dad smile and dance and through a grito?”
Grito or no, what the band didn’t place too much emphasis on was deciding whether to write lyrics in Spanish or English.
“It was kind of awkward to have an English song and now it’s not even weird,” Mark says. “You know it’s funny, most of the people that listened to the first two, three albums didn’t speak Spanish anyway and people would always come to our show and say ‘I don’t know what you’re saying but i love the music and I was hooked’ and we got comments like we were transcending language and stuff like that.
“So it really didn’t matter that we’re trying to reach more people, we were already reaching the people through the music and not the language and so it got to the point where English or Spanish didn’t matter as long as the music’s good.”
What’s the most important thing about doing what they do, bassist Mike Zeoli said, is the type of experience they provide to their fans.
“I think most bands want to take their fans on a journey,” Mike says. “The music should be moving and groovy to get you into it, but it should also take your mind off your everyday worries and let the music do it’s work, remove them out of the shoes they are standing in for that moment. That’s what I think music is meant to do.”
Check out our exclusive footage from Del Castillo’s CD release show at Antone’s for their new single “Anybody Wanna?”