A 2018 Interview with Enrique Chi, lead singer of Making Movies — Pizza FM
Two years ago, in July of 2018, I reached out to Enrique Chi, lead singer of the self-described psicodelia tropical band Making Movies for an over-the-phone interview. At the time, I was starstruck and in awe about doing this interview, especially after doing research on this group and their music. As part of my series on Latinidad in the American Pop Music landscape, I wanted to publish this previously unpublished interview/conversation with Enrique in full. Just over two years ago, we discussed his upcoming concerts, recent and upcoming releases at the time, and the specifics of the concept behind their most recent album. We also talked about the future of the group, politics, collaborations, and other creative endeavors.
The reason I decided to publish this now, as a part of this Latinidad series, has to do with how well this interview holds up. For me, it’s fascinating to hear this conversation from over two years ago and find that much of it rings true today. It’s also fascinating to see so much of what we took for granted before the coronavirus pandemic. In discussing touring, I’m certain that both Enrique and I could not have anticipated the near-ceasing of touring in the United States over the past few months. I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did upon completing this transcription.
I’ve made some small edits to our conversation for clarity’s sake, but I’ve kept them to an absolute minimum. Enrique and I can be somewhat eclectic in our conversation (I mean this in the best way possible), and I’d like to preserve that. I’ve attempted to clear up some things for a reader’s eyes, but otherwise retain Enrique’s responses and exact wording to the fullest extent. Enrique also uses Spanglish at certain moments in the interview, which is extremely appropriate considering the Spanglish present in the music that Making Movies creates. Words and phrases in Spanish are italicized and are not translated into English as a matter of principle.
Federico Hernandez Nater: There may be some reading the interview who don’t yet know what kind of music you make. Would you mind describing to our readers the music that Making Movies creates and what influences you and your bandmates draw from?
Enrique Chi: Yeah, of course. Making Movies is formed by two Panamanian brothers, my brother and I, and two Mexicano brothers. We all grew up in Kansas City, Missouri in the middle of the United States. So, there’s the influence, there’s this-when you’re an immigrant, there’s a longing for your own roots’ music. The folklor and all that stuff, you romanticize it. Making Movies is reinterpreting a lot of the folkloric music, Latin American folkloric music, through the portal of a kid that grew up in the Midwest, in the United States. So, the music we make, I think that that ends up sounding, you know, something like if a Buena Vista Social Club or something was being played by Jimi Hendrix or something like that, because we’re very psychedelic.
Something like that, we grew up with Psychedelic Rock fans and musicians. And so that influence is strong with us, too. We kind of like marry these two worlds that actually really link; they’re really similar. The Rock and Roll story and the story of Latin music are two parts of the same story, and we live in the part that they both share.
FHN:Thank you. Your third and latest studio album, I Am Another You, took a few years to make. How was the creative process for this album different than A La Deriva and In Deo Speramus?
EC: In Deo Speramus, it’s good that you know about that one. Was that on the press release?
FHN: No, I found it on SoundCloud, actually.
EC: Oh wow! Somebody has it on SoundCloud, that’s crazy. So that one, In Deo Speramus, was basically a demo. We were a young band, and we had this idea of what kind of music we wanted to make, but we had to record it so we could book shows because our dream was always to be on tour. We made In Deo Speramus as kind of a-pretty quick, kind of as a demonstration of what kind of music we can make so we could start doing our shows and book our shows.
To me, A La Deriva in a lot of ways is our first record. And it was with someone as a producer, it was with Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. I think because we were so excited for that process, we didn’t know what was ahead of us, we didn’t know what potential it may or may not have. I remember having the attitude that, “if the only two people that hear it are Steve Berlin from Los Lobos, and my dad-and I-and if we all like it, mission accomplished. I don’t know what’ll happen after that, I’ve never done this before.” And so, that attitude made everything flow out easy, because we were our own critic. And we didn’t really have an audience, we didn’t really have a fanbase yet, so we felt free to do whatever we wanted, because there’s nobody listening.
And then, with the second album, we had built a little bit of a following around the country, and we knew how important this album would be. We were all growing up, becoming adults, Juan Carlos is about to become a father when we were recording it, and a lot of friends in our lives were going through the same growing pain. That’s actually what the album’s more about than the political themes and our references. That was about growing up. It’s about three young men growing up, and people really close to the band. I think because we were all growing up, it really dawned on me as we were writing it and creating it how serious this all is. It wasn’t as fluid as the first album where it was like, “oh, we can do whatever,” you know? “We can dream big and also we have to accept that nobody really knows us, so if only my dad likes this, I’ll be happy, ’cause I just got to make an album with a legend, who cares?”. The band, we were trying to make this our careers, and we had enough of a following to get a record deal, to making that second album, but we were still struggling very much. We all felt the pressure to make it great, and the people in our lives were struggling, too. I think that made the process take longer, because we knew there was a lot at stake.
FHN: Thanks for that. I’m a musician too, and I really appreciate you thinking about where to go musically, and thinking about that, so I (laughs) I appreciate what you said.
EC: Nah, thanks again.
FHN: But I want to say, you did mention reflecting struggle in your album. There are a lot of people that enjoy when there’s an overarching story conveyed in an album, myself included. As someone with Venezuelan family, the story told in [ I Am Another You] interested me even before I listened to it. And I know you talked a little bit about, as it was coming along, you kind of thought about that struggle. How was that story of the three young men in different places in the Americas cemented into that album?
EC: Why did we choose it or how did we execute it?
FHN: How did you execute it?
EC: Well, what we did is we designed three songs, or wrote three songs for each of the three characters, and then there’s a couple interludes that tie it all together. So, each character, my cousin, Ivan, my second cousin, he gets three songs, and then there’s skits that tie to his story. And this was all very real, like he leaves voice messages, that’s really my cousin. And I was trying to show-when you make music, you’re just kind of reflecting your own life experience, trying to show it to other people. And for me, you know, being an immigrant kid. And a lot of the vocals are the sound of my tía, an immigrant from Panama to Venezuela. She went to study, then stayed there, got married, had a family. And so, my relationship with my cousin is — even though we’re very close in a lot of ways — has always been through emails or WhatsApp Messages, you know, like the WhatsApp voice memos where you can hit record? That was our relationship within most of the time. And then we had this one time where we got to take a trip; Ivan came to the US and came on tour with us. It was a while back; it was before Venezuela was as chaotic as it is today. And he really did leave Venezuela, he moved to Panamá, but didn’t want to, you know? He did it because he realized it was a necessity, but he didn’t really want to leave everything behind because all of his relationships. And most people he knew he was gonna struggle to see again, because it’s not easy to get in and out of Venezuela. The dieselism, the country makes that hard, and it makes it hard to pull money out too, so you kind of have to start over when you leave. So anyways, all that struggle, it was very real for our families and the stories we were telling. The characters in the album were actually in the album.
FHN: That was an awesome insight into how that came about. In an interview with American Songwriter, you called I Am Another You “an ode to the interconnectivity of us all”. Was that always in you and your bandmates’ minds before you started making the album or did it come along the way?
EC: It was-we kind of knew the name of the album early on when we travelled around: In Lak’ech Ala K’in [“I Am Another You” in Maya], that phrase, that saying, because that’s what we felt. We just felt like we were travelling. We toured a lot back then, almost as much as we are now. It was just the touring; it was very grassroots. So, we would play in a little underground joint or a DIY spot or a punk rock club, and we would attach to the people for a couple of days, because we just-we weren’t busy enough. We weren’t busy enough to listen in, get that in growing the business of being an artist enough so that we were booked in every city or had tons of interviews and things to do. So, we would play a show in some DIY space and then might have Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday in San Antonio or San Diego or wherever it was that we were. And so, we’d really get to know the people. Like, we’d live with them. You know, in the self-music scene you can’t do that, you can’t-activist kids, with like houses. And when you are like kind of living with-you kind of see a little taste of a lot of different places that way. When you get to do that-we did a DIY tour in Puerto Rico, twice, and we DIY toured into Panama, twice. Same kind of thing, underground clubs, really like, part of like a scene. So you like, you start to see things, and you’re like “wait a second, that’s so different than over here, and that’s so different then over here, but also, that’s so similar to over here, and this kid reminds me of my friend in Chicago, and the Chicago friend reminds me of-he’s like the Panamanian version of Brian from, you know, Dallas or whatever.” You know what I mean? I don’t know, you just like, you see how things kind of connect to anywhere it can: that was the inspiration, to kind of like “how do we capture those feelings into music,” and that’s what we set out to do. That’s what we attempted to do, and I think in some ways we succeeded.
FHN: I think you succeeded! I definitely felt that when I listened to it. Switching gears a little bit: there’s been a lot of talk in the United States about immigration. If I Google your band name, this phrase will come up often: “we are all immigrants.” It’s a phrase I’ve seen you use, and it’s an inspiring message. Could you kind of explain what “we are all immigrants” means to you?
EC: Yeah, definitely. You know, it’s funny, it didn’t start out as a protest, though it very much is so now. It started out, like, looking at my family’s history. My tía went to Venezuela to study. A lot of my tías on my dad’s side moved to the US. My great grandfather is from China, immigrated to Panama. My grandmother is from Alabama, married a half-Chinese, half-Panamanian who was in college in the States and moved to small town Central America. And the Chaurand family, our drummer and bass-our drummer and percussionist family, their family’s moved from México, so México to LA to Kansas City to like, all these different places, and I’m just like the more I study music, too, the more I like-”wait a second, Merengue is actually like a Haitian immigrant thing that was taken, that the Dominican Republic like adopted. So, Merengue which is the Dominican Republic’s prideful music, like they take pride in having that beat, their music, it’s actually this mix of the immigrants leaving the civil war. Ok, interesting.” And any other genres of music: New Orleans, where there’s a melting pot where you had European people and you had the Spanish influence and you also had the Cuban influence, because there’s the ferry boats from New Orleans to Havana, so Rock and Roll, and Jazz, and Blues are actually these blends of a lot of different cultures of music that create that awesome music that we now have as a genre. And so, to me, “we’re all immigrants” is like-look: all this stuff is a mix mash of the mixing mestisaje de mankind you know, I say mestizo for mixed, it-the recipe for any of the things that we like as human beings, art, culture, language, is because of the mixing of human beings. So, I painted an American flag saying “we are all immigrants” during the Obama Era, and, you know, DACA started to move in the right direction, the program was initiated and all this. I wasn’t really protesting. I mean, there was still-like, it was-things were-there was a lot of work to be done, but I felt fine. I didn’t feel like-I was actually blind to how much xenophobia existed still. And that atti-that story is the same story. We’re all part of this mix, this blended culture. Everyone is. No one is a pure anything. You could spit into one of those tubes and send it to ancestry.com if you need proof, you know? It’s fact. We’re all mixed up. And…then Donald Trump started campaigning and eventually took office. And he shined this huge light and then you realize, all those things that were hiding right under the bed, they’ve been there the whole time. And they were laying a little quiet, and now they’re coming out, and they’re speaking their minds, and they’re saying these absolutely backwards ideas about humans should treat each other and think of each other, this-just dehumanizing people by…”well, these illegals,” by lumping and calling whole races of humans by a small subset of them who are criminals. “All these MS-13 members” as if that can also describe every Latino in the world. And also, with a lack of understanding and empathy that perhaps, if we all think about it for a split second, the forty-six United States interventions in military-interventions in Central America might have had something to do with the political instability, which might have something to do with why a gang could take a stronghold, that perhaps-there’s a cause and an effect and we’re at least one part of the cause. And so, to have some empathy that these are young people who feel hopeless. But regardless, even if you don’t understand that, it’s like describing all of Americans by the Oklahoma City Bomber. It’s like, “I’m going to describe the United States. Well, ok, so those Oklahoma City Bombers, they’re just evil people. They’re bad people.” It’s like, yeah, in the United States there are those people, there are a scary amount of those people because we have those mass shootings all the time, but there’s also beautiful, really kindhearted people. Let’s not be idiots here. And I just like-I can’t believe Donald Trump is doing that, I can’t believe it’s being supported, I can’t believe it’s being put on national television, such completely racist ideas.
So, it changed. It changed from like a “What is this, we’re all immigrants, isn’t that beautiful?” to like “Nonononono, we are all human beings and we all come from everywhere.” And that’s worth standing up for, that’s worth fighting for, and in World War II, that idea that we all need to be treated equally, was worth dying for. One million Americans went to die so that somebody couldn’t treat humans unequally, just based on who they are for. So, this country was based-and has fought and takes pride-in eradicating that kind of evil. So, this is not ok. It’s a really big shift for me.
FHN: Yeah. Thank you, thank you. That was-I just enjoyed hearing you there, because you had a lot of-you made a lot of sense.
EC: Thanks, man.
EC: -Well, you know it’s not my idea. It’s just is how the world is. If you don’t-I’m not really talking about opinions. I’m telling you: all of those stories really did happen.
FHN: I agree, I agree. I hope you don’t mind me saying something…
EC: No, of course man, we’re having a conversation.
FHN: When I first listened to you guys, I thought it was really cool-well, my first introduction to you was that Tiny Desk Concert. The NPR Tiny Desk Concert.
EC: Oh, cool
FHN: ’Cause in the email I got about you [from your promoters], that was the link I could click, and so I was like “ok, let’s hear what they got.” I was just blown away by how you were making music and bringing in Panamanian and Mexican influences. I-as a Latino person, I don’t see that a lot in the music I listen to too much, and that might just be ’cause of what I listen to, but also, I feel like there’s-you know, there’s not a lot of people like you guys where they’re taking-I mean (laughs) not to say that there’s not great Latino musicians because there are and I’ve listened to a lot of them.
EC: Of course
FHN: But, um…you know, I feel like it’s-what you were doing was really unique and I just really enjoyed it, kind of the culture blending you were doing musically, and then to see, to kind of hear you talking right now about, you know, that we’re all people, you know, we shouldn’t divide each other, we shouldn’t other other people, you know. I-that really resonated with me and I kind of think that your music is…music is a way to bring people together, so I’m really glad you’re out there and you’re making music and you’re putting that message out there that has been there.
EC: Well, thanks man, I appreciate that, that makes me feel good about the work that we’re doing so thank you.
EC: No problem
FHN: So, your latest EP, You Are Another Me, features some really great covers, and you have another upcoming EP, titled Ritmo de mi Pueblo with Las Cafeteras and Mariachi Flor de Toloache.
FHN: They were tourmates on your recent North American Carnaval Tour. What was it like collaborating with these groups on the EP?
EC: Oh, it’s been awesome. It’s been a great learning experience, you know? We had only made two other albums…or three, the demo, and, you know, it’s pretty much-I guess it’s on SoundCloud, I guess that’s not a bad [album] to hear, but then we made use of drums, and we hadn’t really spent that much time in the studio before. So, being able to collaborate gave us this opportunity to spend a lot of time in the studio, which has been super fun. And then, with Las Cafeteras, there’s so many different personalities in that band. It was interesting to find a way to fit us all together. I think my favorite of the songs we did with Las Cafeteras is a song called “Tormenta.” And what might be a close second is a song called “Ritmo de mi Pueblo,” which’ll be coming out soon. But the “Tormenta” track, at the end of it, there’s a piece at the end where there’s a jam happening, and literally like all eight of both bands’ members are doing some kind of piece of the song.
EC: And that’s-it’s really fun for me, to hear, because I could hear our friendship in the song, you know. And that’s fun. And then with Flor de Toloache, those gals are such-so brilliant. They’re geniuses with their vocals and their instruments and that one was really fun to hear their beautiful voices accompany Making Movies and that song’s gonna be interesting. I think we’re going to try to play it live in New York City.
FHN: Oh, cool!
EC: We’ll all be in the same place in August. And we were just hanging out with them, but they flew-they got in after our set here at the Nidos concerts, so we couldn’t do it onstage yet. But it’s born out of very, very raw-not raw, very organic relationship. Like we’re friends. We were just hanging out with Mireya from Flor, and her mom, and her brother, and they met Juan Carlos’ mom and dad, and they ate at Juan Carlos’ family restaurant when they were in Kansas City, and they stay with my friend ’cause my friend has an Airbnb and…we just like…we become a family, and that is-we’re lucky, we’re very lucky in that way.
FHN: Yeah, that’s really cool! Kind of switching gears again: it’s been eight years since you came out with In Deo Speramus in March of 2010, and your music has developed and progressed along the way. In what trajectory do you see Making Movies’ music going eight years from now?
EC: So, somebody described us at this event we played a couple weeks ago. She says, “What I love about you guys is that you’re a really good ‘sopao, like a really good soup, cause the influences-you can still-you can taste all the ingredients, but they actually combine together to make one flavor.” And I feel like, as we started, it was like a soup that you haven’t boiled long enough. And so, the vegetables and the broth and the meat and the, you know, whatever, haven’t quite all merged together into one perfect flavor. But as we developed, little by little, we integrated the things more and more and more. For us, sometimes it would be like-we would go from the more Rock and Roll influenced part of a song and an ethereal and abstract part into the more folklorico-influenced part of the song. The things would have a divide within the song. The song was here and then, boom, was over there. And what has begun to happen and what I think will happen more in the future is that somehow, both will be happening at once. So the influence is more and more, would just be simultaneously happening, but kind of also blended in together in way that it seems like a cohesive-one cohesive entity.
FHN: Well, I’m excited to hear you guys in the future and kind of see that play out. Your band, Making Movies, has been featured on Clairvoyant, Remezcla, American Songwriter, NPR, and has even been shouted out by Rubén Blades. To top it all off, I Am Another You has charted on Billboard and Latin Billboard Charts. But I want to ask you: what recognition or accolade that Making Movies has received have you appreciated the most?
EC: That’s a great question
FHN: Thank you!
EC: Well one recently is that Rolling Stone Colombia wrote about us, which is our first big international piece. And Rolling Stone as a kid, you know, rock and roll fan, that felt really big and power[ful]-and exciting. That, and maybe-let me think what other accolade. You know, I think having Rubén Blades-we just did a song together, and that’s gonna come out soon. And he-he wrote the majority of the lyrics, but he left me the bridge, for me to write. And I think that the fact that he trusted me to finish a lyrical idea he had was like the biggest compliment I’ve ever gotten. ’Cause he’s my hero, and he just tells these beautiful narratives, and like (chuckles) a friend-I have a feeling-I actually have thought of this because I have a friend who-and I was telling my friend about it yesterday, he’s a really talented musician too. And he’s like “Yeah, if Gabriel García Márquez was like ‘hey, I have this novel, and I just want you to add one character into it,’” we were like, “Oh god, how do I do that? Like, how can I ever write at your level?”, you know? And that’s how I felt. I felt very nervous to-to do that, and honored, and it was such a gift because study-because I had to-you know, it’s different when you learn a song versus create a song. So, since I was part of the creative process of this song, I really got to learn from Ruben Bladés’ writing, because I had to finish it. So, I had to understand from a deeper level what-where he was going. And, man, that was pretty special, and I can’t wait for the world to hear it.
FHN: Yeah! Kind of along the same lines of songwriting: last year, you created “Arts is Mentorship,” a weeklong youth songwriter program in Kansas City. You’re also launching a Fall Session this September. If you could give only one piece of advice to a young, aspiring Latino, Latina, or Latinx songwriter reading this interview, what would that advice be?
EC: It would be…oh man, just one? There’s so many. I’ll try to-I’ll distill it, I’ll maybe…maybe try and do three?
FHN: Go ahead, yeah!
EC: Three pieces of advice?
EC: I would…one: you create a routine of writing. ’Cause writing is like a muscle, and the more often you do it, the more in tune your muscle becomes. And so-and not to say that you’re always going to write inspired work, but if you’re always creating, then when inspiration comes, it comes out naturally to create. And the second piece of advice, I would say, is to steal other people’s processes. So, read interviews about songwriters and how they write, or writers, you know, like novelists and stuff, and steal their…their disciplines, and their techniques, and their attempts, you know? And if you can meet other writers, hang out with them, and collaborate and write songs together, ’cause you’ll learn something about yourself by paying attention to the way that these people create. And then lastly, I would…one exercise that I learned from my friend Melinda, from Hurray for the Riff Raff, is…a simple way to write, if you just want to practice, is to rewrite the lyrics to somebody else’s song. So, if you have a beautiful song that somebody else wrote, write all-new verses to their folk song or their old classic ranchera, or this bolero,or this whatever, Beatles song. Rewrite the words so that-like, make a song about something else. That way you have to work with-you’re working with a genius’ mold, you know? Some brilliant person made this song, and then-and if you take out the words, you still have the mold there, and you can plug in yourself into an already brilliant mold. And by doing that, you learn, “oh, you-how do I frame things? Well then, this is how they did it. Wow. Interesting.” That’s my three pieces of advice.
FHN: Okay. I only have a few questions left; I don’t want to take up too much of your time. From what I’ve seen, your live performances are really energetic and personal, and all the members of Making Movies are amazingly talented musicians. Your upcoming benefit show in Chicago also features Quinto Imperio and Los Madafakas. What can concertgoers expect to hear from you and the other groups in the upcoming Raíces show in July 14 th?
EC: We’re wanting it to feel like a celebration. So, you’ll see us both do the high-energy, Rock and Roll influences and the danceable, Latino rhythms. The people who come to our shows, they come ready to dance. And then we also really lean into the folklorico part for certain parts of the show. So, I think it’s just going to be a celebration of how proud we can be to be Latinos in this country, even in this time.
FHN: Is this any question you wished I asked you but didn’t?
EC: No, I think that is great. It was fantastic. I’m excited about Chicago, I’m hoping you hear about the show and-
FHN: I’m actually-I’m gonna be out of the state, so-
EC: Oh no!
FHN: I mean I would go. I feel really bad ’cause I heard your music and I’m like, “I need to see these guys live but I’m not gonna be there!”. I did tell other people at Pizza [FM] about it, so maybe someone will go out there, but I know at some point I’ll go and see you guys.
EC: Wonderful! Well, I appreciate it all.
FHN: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers of the Pizza FM blog about your upcoming shows or releases?
EC: Just stay tuned through our socials and follow us on Spotify, ’cause we’re putting out a bunch of new music. So, Spotify is one of the best ways to connect for that level, and then our Instagram and Twitter and iTunes and stuff. Yeah, just stay connected with us and we’ll be there in the Chicago as a benefit. All the artists are kind of like forgoing their paychecks to raise money for RAICES so that we can be our little piece of sand in this huge work that needs to be done. We try to do our best to do our part.
FHN: Awesome. Well, Enrique, thank you so so so much for doing this interview. I really want to say: I’ve shown your music to all my family and everyone’s just crazy over it. It’s just really great to be able to hear someone’s music and talk to them about their process and what they’re doin’. I can’t thank you enough.
EC: Oh, you’re welcome.
FHN: I hope you have a great day, a great week, a great show, and I’ll hope to see you sometime in the future and I’ll keep listening to your music.
Unfortunately, Pizza FM was not able to have someone cover their show that summer of 2018. However, Making Movies (alongside the aforementioned group LasCafeteras) has since released the EP that Enrique discussed in this interview, Ritmo de mi Pueblo. Since our interview, baterista Duncan Burnett has joined the Making Movies lineup to replace Andres Chaurand. The band released their follow up album to I Am Another You, titled ameri’kana, as well as the standalone single “Accidente” in 2019. Their latest single release is a redux of their cover of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.”
Originally published at pizza.fm on August 24, 2020.