The duo discuss their Caribbean influence and forthcoming debut album…
“I think our music is a weird fusion of styles. Growing up in Bogotá, Colombia, the musical landscape was not rooted it in just one style. ” says Nicolas Losada (though he prefers “Nico”), one half of pop duo Salt Cathedral. “We were listening to a lot Latin/Caribbean styles like merengue, reggaeton, champeta etc, and as well as the Top 40 that was happening in the US and the UK.”
The band – who named themselves after a cathedral in Zipaquira, Colombia which grew out of miners building shrines to the virgin on their way in to work – have been causing a stir with the creative arrangement of their most recent effort ‘Always There When I Need You’. With tropical percussion and impish vocal of Nico’s bandmate Juliana (Juli) Ronderos, it is a concoction that is almost sickly sweet and reeks of the hazy joy of summer, yet the fate of their lead single could have proved very different.
“Juli started writing with the idea of making a song for Justin Bieber,” explains Nico. “Sort of as a joke, but no joke! She did it as demo and when I heard it I thought it was a great song. The process was very fast and super fun because we weren’t overthinking anything.” An intervention from friends who were fans of the track resulted in the version that we now love. “Juli tried to edit out the “girl” parts off the song, but all our friends who already loved it had been playing it for months weren’t into that version, so it reverted back.”
“We are not afraid of showcasing our love for different styles of music in our own.”
Identity and individuality are recurring themes for the pair, whether it be personal or musical. “We embrace everything,” Nico states. “And are of a young generation of Colombian musicians that are not afraid of showcasing our love for different styles of music in our own.” This aforementioned willingness to expose themselves to their native sounds as well as that of the multinational Top 40 tracks results in a sound that is truly unique, even serving to distance the band from their own music such as that of their 2014 EP Oom Velt.
“[Individuality and identity are] important because they are part of reality and are a common experience of all people and the beauty of diversity. We struggle with that as Colombians,’ explains Nico. “Because we grew up in Bogota, a very cosmopolitan city, where some of it’s culture is derivative of Colombia but also a lot is taken from American values (music, ways of dressing, design).
“Later we studied jazz music, a genre that is not precisely our own, and now we live in a mostly African American and West Indies/Caribbean neighborhood in New York – all of this while making art and trying to grasp the world in it’s current state – immigrants, refugees, racism, the alt right, America’s foreign policy in the Middle Aast … it’s a lot and so these concepts are important in the sense that if you can understand your identity and role in a community and be inclusive and tolerant of others, there’s a way to a better world. We’re hopeful.”
Your 2014 EP Oom Velt received acclaim from Pitchfork, The Guardian and The Fader. What made you wait so long between releases?
This is going to sound a bit cheesy but we needed to have our path of music self discovery. We wanted to make a record that had a thesis and that connected with us so the process took more than we expected. We also had such a vast amount of influences and such an urge to reinvent our music that it was hard to stick to one sound for a full album. In 2016 we released some B-sides that were off the albums’ process – one was a soulful ballad and the other an EP of very electronic, UK Garage influenced tracks. In all honesty, we’re glad we did that because we learned a lot and now we feel more confident about what we do.
Your forthcoming album Big Waves // Small Waves is released later this year. What can you tell us to whet our appetite?
It’s probably going to be released in October and it includes a variety of styles and moods. We still have ballads but mostly very uplifting and energetic songs. The songs are more relatable than our older material, it speaks to our collective experience in this world. We have some cool collaborators in the album, like a bonus track with Lee Scratch Perry, and we are planning a tour in Europe for the fall – so hopefully we’ll see you soon!
What was the writing and recording process like for you?
Well it all varies but the constant is that writing and recording are in the same process. I would have a rough guitar part or Juli would have a demo vocal and a lot of times it would stay in the song. Writing wise, sometimes we sit together and bounce ideas from each other, or other times Juli will have a demo and I just have to tweak it. It all depends on our head space at the moment.
We see that you have a number of collaborations on your new album; can you tell us a little more?
We wanted it to include collaborations that were meaningful and that added something we didn’t have so we decided to work with dub legend Lee Scratch Perry because he’s a crazy genius that we admire a lot. Assasin, did some stuff with Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West, but what he represents in the reggae world means a lot to us. And finally Matisyahu. He’s super talented and a cultural bridge for a lot of people in America. In the end, it was about a connection and making our journey more interesting with them.
Salt Cathedral play a handful of live dates TBA. Their debut album Big Waves // Small Waves will be released later this year.