Mexicali Noise-Punks Silent Embrace the Loudness
Mexicali noise-punks Silent are, technically, a new band, but they’re veterans when it comes to wrecking stages on either side of the border. Vocalist Jung Sing and bassist Rodo Ibarra previously made noise together as members of Maniqui Lazer, and Sing clocked some time as a member of spastic dance-punk outfit All Leather with Justin Pearson (the Locust, Retox). It’s not terribly surprising, then, that Silent’s debut album, A Century of Abuse — out now via Three One G — sounds like the work of four seasoned musicians who have mastered the fine art of post-punk intensity.
Sing, Ibarra, guitarist Alejandro Lara and drummer Andrea Varela are a truly ferocious troupe, channeling the likes of Nick Cave and Joy Division while powering through blistering punk songs that tend to aim for heaviness and directness above atmosphere. The punchy first single, “Self,” is an all-pistons-firing blast of white-hot intensity that never lets up during its three minutes. Yet when Silent ease back, like on closing highlight “A Century,” they’re every bit as visceral and tense without moving with such reckless abandon.
As Silent prepare to release their debut album, we spoke to Sing about the political background in Mexico that informed the album, feeling at home in two countries and performing a noisy dirge while holding a toddler.
You originally weren’t going to be the vocalist for Silent. Did it take some adjustment getting used to singing?
In my other bands, I’d do, like, the screaming thing. More aggressive. Here, we try to do something more serious ... more intense, but without screaming. All of the band members, we grew up listening to Bauhaus, everything like that. So, I got some pieces from there: a little bit of this and a little bit of my thing. When people ask what we play, I say I think we’re punk. Maybe more obscure punk. But everyone says it’s more post-punk. Well, maybe? We don’t necessarily disagree with that. It’s not a bad thing. But it came together really quick. When we had all the parts of the songs together, the voice came really quick.
Is it important for you that your recordings are an accurate reflection of the live show?
I think live we’re more intense. We’re always pretty tired after the show. [Laughs] But live is more noisy, and more loud, and that’s what we try to do live — be more like a punk band, or like a metal band. Loud! Most post-punk bands are more dark and mysterious, and we were trying to do obscure, but loud and dirty and nasty. Most post-punk bands aren’t really like that. All of the bands on Three One G are more like us.
What’s the story behind the title of the album, A Century of Abuse?
I first came with the idea to call it A Century. Here in Mexico, we have a couple ... political sides. Like you guys have the Republicans and the other ones. We have the PRI and PAN. One of them, PRI, they held the government for 100 years. But during all of that century, everyone was complaining about it, because it was a terrifying government. And then, 16 years ago, the government changed over to the other politicians, PAN. But then they changed back again to PRI six years later. I was thinking, well, it must be another century probably. Then Rodo was showing me some pictures he took in Mexicali, and there was this picture of an old Mexicali building ... that was all old and cracked and fucked up. But it looked like a record cover. And it really went with the name, A Century of Abuse.
Having played in bands from both sides of the border, do you consider Silent a Mexicali band, or one that represents a broader cross-border community?
I think … the best thing we can do is say we’re from both parts. We’re right on the border, so we have the opportunity to be both there and here. It’s important to not be from any specific place. Music can take you around the world. We have friends there and we live here, but they’re so close. Sometimes we’ll just say, “Let’s go to San Diego to eat something,” so I think we’re from both parts — San Diego and Mexicali. More so than Calexico. We live five minutes from Calexico, but we don’t really have anything in Calexico. We’re more between San Diego and Mexicali.
Do you have any particular expectations for the album?
I never really think about that. People can think, “What is this garbage?” or, “This is really good!” When I was growing up, it was so hard to find music with no Internet. If you found a new band, it’s because somebody had a cassette, and made a cassette of the cassette. And it’d sound so bad because it was recorded and then re-recorded and re-recorded. Everyone has a lot of information right now. For me, I just think you can listen to the record and think what you want. It’s the same thing with YouTube. In the past, the live bands were like, “Holy shit, this band’s coming to town,” and it was the only way you can see them live. But now, if a band is coming to town, you can go to YouTube to see how they play. But it’s never the same watching them on YouTube. It’s not the same energy or intensity. So, you might think, “Oh, I won’t go see them, they look boring.” Dude, come on. The quality on YouTube might suck. It might have been the worst gig of the tour.
I saw on social media that you were playing a show recently where you were holding a small child. How did that happen?
It was weird. I was singing a song called “A Century,” and it’s kind of an intense song. Not violent, but slow and intense. Some friends of ours moved from Mexicali to Philadelphia, and they had two kids. I didn’t know they were at the show, but I saw them. And I saw the little kid jumping, like super excited. It was weird because I kept trying to talk to the kid, and then he put his hands out, like, “Can you carry me?” He just put his hands up, so I was like, OK, and just grabbed the kid. And maybe he was scared, but he was holding me super tight and put his head on my shoulder. Every time I’d sing a really loud note, he’d grab me stronger. And I sang that whole song with the little guy in my arms. At the end, I talked to him and said, “Did you like singing with me?” And he said, “Yeah, that was the best day of my life.” I was almost crying, dude! He was like four years old. For me it was like, “Holy shit!”
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