Mou + Anel.
Old friends and part of a burgeoning creative movement in Mexico, Mou Ortiz and Anel Escalante are the pieces of Monterrey’s XYX. Playing loud and spastically, the duo hit the ground running at their first show in a two-week tour at Emo’s Austin.
Categorized as noise-punk, avant-punk or, no wave, they are walking proof of seeds planted in a cultured, music-infused metropolis more than a hundred miles from the Texas border. The two are proud to be a part of a city that is undergoing a music Renaissance. Within the last couple of years, South By Southwest has featured a number of Monterrey’s artists, including XYX, Los Llamarada, Nina Dioz, Plastilina Mosh and another of Mou’s bands, Bam Bam. (XYX also played a number of shows during this year’s hardcore feast, Chaos in Tejas.)
XYX’s music is chaotic, trippy and relentless, comparative at times to the Stooges, the Liars or their beloved Butthole Surfers. They are minimalist with drums, bass and Anel’s voice as their instruments. She delays and distorts her voice while she screams, wails and laughs through songs.
Fervent in their friendship and love of music, they spearhead a record label together, Nene Records and collaborate in a rolling number of bands. Both are college-educated, but have decidedly shaken off the career-oriented life for a higher calling. When they aren’t touring, they pursue a lifestyle centered on music and burgeoning creativity. They like to lie around for days just listening to records. During these musical hermetic fits, which are ofttimes enhanced by their teeny appetite for psychedelic drugs, they urge themselves to grasp onto whatever kernel is beautiful and unique about a certain song and hold onto it forever.
They are touring on the cusp of their latest and limited release, Momento ácido contemporáneo. More known and available though is the group’s first 7” Sistema de Terminación Sexual. Hailed by Maximum Rock’n’Roll, it’s available online in an extended digital version that includes the four original songs from the record, a remix of Microvibraciones and a live version of Momento ácido contemporáneo.
Austin Vida sat down with the duo outside of Sound on Sound Records to talk musical projects, chemical inspiration, and the Monterrey music scene. Anel – clad in a black dress, tights, and wrestler-esque boots – stared into the skyline. She seems quiet, but on stage she sings and screams like a banshee – her heart’s contents on display for all to see. Meanwhile, Mou wore dark-rimmed glasses; his hair was characteristically unkempt, with curly tufts shooting into the air.
First things first: Where does the name XYX come from? Does it have to do with the XXY chromosomal pattern responsible for the birth of androgynous males?
Mou: Maybe it has to do with something chromosomal. There is no XYX; that combination does not exist in nature. But, I guess for us, it was more visual. Well for me, anyway, because it’s like symmetrical.
Anel: And simple… it’s very easy to remember. When we started playing music together, we didn’t know what we were going to be playing and we thought that XYX was a mathematical thing.
How long have you two been playing music together? I know that you are in a couple of different projects together. How did you meet? What’s the back story?
Anel: We met a long time ago. I had just started playing music in another band when I met him. I think he was booking a show for my band like several years ago.
Mou: Yes, she was in a band when we met, so I guess we met at a show. But we started to make music two years ago.
Aside from XYX, what are your other groups together? There’s Mama Burger…
Mou: Yeah, but that one I guess is dead now, Mama Burger. Everyone started to enjoy other projects. It was that those other projects just got more interesting for us.
Anel: It’s dead? I guess we don’t play anymore, we have other projects. Mou has this other group, Bam Bam and we have another Penetración Cosmica and the other girl that played the bass in Mama Burger has another band. It’s hard to keep up.
So out of all your projects, right now would you say what you are doing with XYX is the most interesting?
Mou + Anel: Yeah!
The live version of Momento ácido contemporáneo from SXSW this year is on the extended digital version of Sistema de Terminación Sexual. What does the song title mean? Does it mean you like to drop acid a lot and record music or is it a joke?
Mou: No, haha! We don’t make music on acid, that’s hard!
Anel: We just got together because we were dropping acid. We met that way. Then we started playing together but we don’t write on acid it’s kinda hard. The reason we use the delay and the reverb on the vocals and everything is because its music you can listen to while you’re tripping on acid.
Mou: Mostly what we do is just listen to records. We try to listen to things you normally don’t listen to. You’ve got to do that to make music. In some mental states, you can get other things and then you take those things and bring them back to the music you are doing. It’s like a whole process. It’s fun.
Anel: It’s a different way to be. Not only when you’re dropping acid but it’s a different way to live your life. Like, we started making music, not only because that’s what we do, because it’s our mission. We understand when we drop acid and listen to records and we really understand what the people who were making that record were thinking or talking about or doing, it’s like, ‘That’s the way we want to do it now.’
Monterrey is booming with arts and music, kind of like here in Austin. What is it like to be in the midst of all of that, as a part of it?
Mou: I’ve lived there all my life and I started playing in bands 12 years ago. I’ve seen all the changes that Monterrey has been going through. When we first started playing music in the nineties, there weren’t too many groups. Now, there are different bands playing different types of music – some hip-hop, some punk. What’s happening in Monterrey is interesting because now you see more people from art and music getting together to do stuff more seriously.
Anel: There are a lot of people making music right now.
Mou: You can pinpoint the people who are really interested in making music. I was thinking a couple of days ago. Two years ago in Monterrey, when we did gigs, every Saturday there were five or six gigs at one time. There were lots of bands everywhere and suddenly I was thinking, what happened to those bands? A lot just suddenly disappeared. Some of the people who played in those bands aren’t playing in other bands, they just disappeared.
Anel: It’s like other bands that we have even been in died somehow, but we are still making music and there are only a few people who are still doing it.
Mou: For some people it seems as though it’s just something to do before they get married.
Anel: Or before they figure out what they want to do with their life.
And this is what you want to do with your life?
Mou + Anel: Yeah, yeah!
Anel: It’s our purpose.
Mou: It’s our life.
Now, let’s talk about Nene Records. Tell me about your mission. I know there is a whole page online that describes everything extensively, but if you could just tell me in your own words that would be great.
Mou: Nene Records started in 2000 but other people were involved. Anel started playing with those guys and I had another band. And, suddenly, in 2007 there were a lot of good bands in Monterrey and we started inviting them to play with us. But they didn’t have records or any recordings. So, we thought of making a compilation of the bands we liked in Monterrey, and we did. It took more than a year to record like 10 bands, about two songs per band. And we would just record anywhere, in different places, like where we were living or in the houses of the bands. And, that was the first thing that Nene Records did more seriously. We had to do it in an online release.
Anel: In Mexico, it is really hard to get people to buy your records.
Mou: In Mexico there is no culture like in Austin where you can play in a record store and at the end of your show people come up to you and ask if you have a record for sale and other people give you a donation for gas or food.
Anel: Even more, in Mexico, people are not thinking of making their own records.
Three years ago, no one was thinking of making a CD to give away or sell to people. If you have a record, they think someone else has to put it out for you, not that you could possibly put it out yourself.
How does it feel to be touring and playing at Emo’s?
Mou: Even before I came to Austin, I heard about Emo’s Austin. And suddenly to play there it’s like, ‘Wow, how did we make it?’
Anel: I know there are people in Mexico that we tell them, ‘Yeah guys we are gonna play a show at Emo’s again.’ And, they are like ‘WHATTTT!’ It’s really cool that when we come here, we have a following. That’s something we barely have in Mexico. And, because of that I feel like this is my second home.
To download the extended digital version of Sistema de Terminación Sexual, check Nene Records: