Leaving the Kinks In

The Mexican band Kinky has a musical style all its own.

Ulises Lozano, one of the five members of the Mexican band Kinky, comes across as so humble and earnest, it's almost difficult to believe he's a contemporary pop musician.

While chatting during a telephone interview last week, the keyboardist and programmer for the alternative-dance band from Monterrey sounded more gracious than most preternaturally jaded next-big-thing artists could even pretend to be.

With Kinky touring the United States to support its debut album, "Kinky," Lozano found very little worthy of complaint.

"Maybe sleeping in the bunks in the bus," he said in fluent English, with a heavy accent. "And when you are sleeping in them you are afraid you are going to fall out. But really everything else is the best--touring, traveling, meeting and knowing a lot of interesting people, getting to know a lot of cities."

Kinky is currently on the road as part of a package tour with the American bands Cake, De La Soul and Flaming Lips. The band will moonlight away from the tour with a headlining gig Thursday, Aug. 15, at Club Congress.

Of Kinky's colleagues on the current jaunt, Lozano said, "This is like a dream for us. This is a collection of our favorite bands. To tour with them and know them, and having the opportunity to play in front of their audience, we just feel very lucky to be out there."

Designed to heed no boundary or border, Kinky's danceable amalgam blends driving European-style house music with Brazilian percussion, the accordion of norteño music with the wah-wah guitar of '70s funk, electronica and chill-out music with groovy samples of '60s soul jazz. It sounds as if the United Nations decided to hold an all-night party in Ibiza.

Nevertheless, Lozano consistently referred to Kinky's musical style--and those of the group's contemporaries, inside Mexico and out--as simply "rock 'n' roll."

The band formed in 1998 and this year released its debut on Sonic360/Nettwerk America Records. Its members, range between the ages of 22 and 32, all met while in college in Monterrey. As one might guess, the players collectively boast diverse musical tastes.

Lozano: "Omar (Gongora), our drummer, he loves and he studies jazz music and Latin jazz like Tito Puente and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. I am into a lot of electronic stuff--techno, house, big beat. Carlos (Chairez), the guitarist, loves to listen to and play rock, and Gil (Gilberto Cerezo), our vocalist, is into trip-hop and down-tempo rock. So they can agree on groups like Radiohead and Björk. And the bassist, Cesar (Pliego), his background is in norteño and cumbia.

More cynical listeners might assume such a catholic blend of musical genres is simply a marketable contrivance. But Kinky's style was never premeditated, Lozano said.

"That's just the way it happened--without thinking," Lozano said. "We all got together and experimented and, since each one of us has a very different background in sounds, it came out sounding like it does."

The group also didn't put too much thought into its ambiguous name, though now the members have to work hard at explaining it. Pesky journalists always seem to ask.

"Well, in the north part of Mexico it's very common to use Spanglish. A lot of people talk with some English words mixed into their Spanish, and sometimes they don't know exactly what some of those English words mean. 'Kinky' is one of those words that some people use like that," Lozano said.

"It doesn't really have a specific meaning for us. It's a very abstract word and can be used in very different ways. It's about pushing things further than the limits. If you put the word 'kinky' in a sexual context, it means like when you are doing something you normally don't do. That's how we approach music."

He modestly says the band's hometown can't boast much of a music scene beyond the requisite norteño and cumbia traditions. Nevertheless, Monterrey also happens to be the birthplace of two remarkable alternative acts, Plastilina Mosh and Control Machete, both of which have attracted considerable attention in the States.

Speaking of attention, in addition to touring the United States and Mexico, Kinky has played music festivals in France, England and Colombia, Lozano says. The group also has seen wide media exposure on The Late Show with David Letterman and on National Public Radio.

Lozano said the band doesn't moan about the glare of the media eye. Just the opposite: "We feel very lucky that all the people have been very supportive to bring new music to the United States to other countries."

He said he considers music a gift, and he and his partners in Kinky love to share it.

"Having a mixture of all kinds of music gives you also a bigger, a more rich musical thing for the country, for your people and the world. You have richer things, more options, more music, more new ways of making music and art. It is just better for all of us, and we are very grateful to be a part of it."

In the vapid, brutal business of pop music, this Pollyanna thing can be a little disorienting. But Lozano seems to mean it, and such humility is seasoned with a subtle undercurrent of belief that the road to enlightenment is paved with excess.

Kinky's manifesto might best be expressed in the refrain to "Mas," one of their catchiest tunes. The lyrics consist primarily of the mantra: "Vamos queriendo mas y mas." Which translates roughly into English as "We keep on wanting more and more."

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