Alt.Latino
1:03 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Bosnian Rainbows: Carving Out A New Place In Latin Rock

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 4:13 am

To understand why Bosnian Rainbows' music stands out, you have to go back to 2007 in Guadalajara, Mexico. A singer named Teresa Suarez has taken the stage name Teri Gender Bender — adopted as a feminist statement while at the head of a band called Le Butcherettes.

With a snarl that could send Billy Idol off whimpering into a corner, she's a mesmerizing and at times terrifying performer. Her style is part Iggy Pop and part Mick Jagger, with a Mexican punk soul. "Frightening and glorious" is how one audience member described her to me. There is no woman quite like her in Latin music, but she says that early on, that seemed to work against her.

During one particularly rough gig in Guadalajara, the power went out, but the band played on. It was a good thing it did, because somewhere in the audience was a Grammy-winning producer and musician named Omar Rodriguez Lopez. He was mesmerized: She was exactly what he was looking for in a collaborator for his new project.

Lopez himself has a cult following, as leader of The Mars Volta and At the Drive In, two bands that redefined progressive rock in the past decade. The Puerto Rican musician is considered by many to be a mercurial genius — immensely talented, but also immensely difficult to work with.

"It was hard for me to work with others, I was so neurotic," he says. "And at some point, I decided to get over that neurosis, and at some point I decided I wanted to get over that neurosis. And you have to take your own steps, because no one can hand it to you."

Lopez was looking to turn a page by working with strong musicians who would keep him in check and challenge him. The band Bosnian Rainbows was born, featuring Teri Gender Bender, Deantoni Parks on drums and Nicci Kasper on keys.

The band's self-titled debut album, out this week, is hopeful and cheerful, with hints of melancholy. The song "Turtlenecks" is a lament for a distant lover, but with a surprisingly upbeat melody.

It sounds as if a burden has been lifted from Lopez, who in the past has struggled with addiction. He says that even Bosnian Rainbows' name is about finding hope in a bleak situation. Teri Gender Bender's voice sounds more powerful than ever, with "Torn Maps" bringing to mind David Bowie's anthemic vocals.

The band is currently touring the West Coast and working on its next album, which will be recorded in Spanish. The partnership continues, with Lopez making music free of his demons and Teri Gender Bender carving out a new role in Latin rock.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Scour the Latin rock scene, and you'll find a lot of hombres. It tends to be a rather male-dominated genre. There are great Latina rock musicians, but these women rockers are out numbered and often get lost in a sea of sweet and sexy pop singers. A new rock band, Bosnian Rainbows, defies that stereotype. It's led by an edgy, up-and-coming Latina singer, and backed by a renowned Puerto Rican musician with a reputation for being difficult.

NPR's Jasmine Garsd has this profile.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: To understand why Bosnian Rainbows is different, let's go back in time...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M GETTING SICK OF YOU")

GARSD: The year is 2007, in Guadalajara, Mexico. And a singer named Teresa Suarez has taken the stage name Teri Gender Bender. She says she did it as a feminist statement, while fronting the band called Le Butcherettes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M GETTING SICK OF YOU")

LE BUTCHERETTES: (Singing) Two weeks later, I'm getting sick of you. I'm getting sick of you.

GARSD: With a snarl that might send Billy Idol off whimpering into a corner, she is a mesmerizing, at times terrifying performer. Her style is part Iggy Pop, part Mick Jagger, with a Mexican punk soul. Frightening and glorious is how one audience member described her to me. There is no woman one quite like her in Latin music, but early on that seemed to work against her.

TERI GENDER BENDER: In Guadalajara, not many people were very supportive to my band. Like, all these really cool record labels at the time were not - I don't know why - they wanted nothing to do with me.

GARSD: On one particularly rough gig in Guadalajara, the power went out. But the band played on. And it was a good thing they did: Somewhere in the audience, was a Grammy Award-winning producer and musician named Omar Rodriguez Lopez. He was mesmerized. She was exactly what he was looking for for his new project.

Lopez has a cult following, as the frontman for The Mars Volta and At The Drive In, two bands that redefined rock in the past two decades. The Puerto Rican musician is considered by many to be a genius. He's immensely talented and immensely difficult to work with.

OMAR RODRIQUEZ LOPEZ: It was hard for me to work with others, I was so neurotic. And at some point I decided to get over that neurosis, and at some point I decided I wanted to get over that neurosis. And so you have to take your own steps, because again, nobody can hand it to you.

GARSD: He says he was looking to turn a page, by working with strong musicians that would keep him in check, and challenge him. The band Bosnian Rainbows was born, featuring Teri Gender Bender, Deantoni Parks on drums and Nicci Kasper on keys.

Their self-titled first album, which is out this week, is hopeful, cheerful, with hints of melancholy. The song "Turtlenecks," is a lament for a distant lover, but with a surprisingly upbeat melody.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TURTLENECKS")

BOSNIAN RAINBOWS: (Singing) I don't know, turtleneck, where you've been all my life. But I feel...

GARSD: It sounds like a burden has been lifted from Lopez, who in the past has struggled with addiction. He says even the name of the band - Bosnian Rainbows - is about finding hope in a bleak situation. Teri Gender Bender's voice sounds more powerful than ever. The song "Torn Maps" is reminiscent of David Bowie's anthem-like vocals.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TORN MAPS")

RAINBOWS: (Singing) Can we just stop acting like we don't know?

GARSD: The band is currently touring the West Coast, and working on their next album - which will be in Spanish.

The partnership continues: Lopez making music free of his demons, and Teri Gender Bender carving a new role in Latin rock.

MONTAGNE: Jasmine Garsd, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TORN MAPS")

RAINBOWS: (Singing) The minds are tearing at old scars.

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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