Los Amigos Invisibles have been playing for almost 20 years since they first started in Caracas, Venezuela. LAI has toured the planet, received their first Latin Grammy in 2009, and pioneered the polyphonous sounds of Latin American across the world. Through it all, José Luis Pardo, lead guitar and songwriter for the band, has remained spirited in his approach to life and music.
Pardo says, “the torrid heat of Venezuela and its vibrant musical history serve as a constant source of inspiration for musicians,” like himself. Born where be band was born, in the clustered city of Caracas, Venezuela, Pardo began playing guitar at an early age, after school among friends. Pardo notes, “it was a fun and easy way to stay together and hang out with friends.” The band, which has remained intact for almost 20 years, definitely retains Pardo’s youthful exuberance and jovial nature.
Inspired by a telenovela he saw when he was a child, Pardo became enamored with one particular character, played by 80’s Spanish soap opera star and pop singer, Guillermo Dávila. The character in the melodrama happened to be a guitarist. Pardo confesses, “I got the idea to become a guitarist from watching a Guillermo Dávila telenovela when I was a kid. He would get all the girls by serenading them. I wanted to be like him. So I told my Papi and after a while of begging he bought me my first guitar.”
Aspiring to one day be a great guitarist and casanova like the personage in the telenovela of his youth, Pardo continued his university studies, as was expected of any respectable young man in Venezuela. Pardo went into journalism and it is precisely with that journalistic intent and inquisition, coupled with a deeply rooted desire to express and explore his musical prowess, Pardo persisted in his guitaring. Pardo has since pioneered the jazzy-disco, electro-funk style that makes up LAI’s singular sound. Much like his childhood pop influences such as pop-culture telenovelas, Pardo confides, the band has recently taken a turn to more commercial, pop sounds in order to reach a wider audience, “I think people look down on pop music, but some of the greatest songs of all time were pop songs.” Promoting their new album, “Commercial,” Pardo discerns, “this record is the most commercial we can get,” confirming LAI’s commitment to authenticity and ingenuity.
One of the only Latin American acts to grace the alleged international festival this year in Chicago, LAI feels “excited and blessed to play even be accepted to play Lollapalooza. It’s an honor to even be let into the park to watch some of the other acts,” admits Pardo. Elated by the bands recent success, and their world tour, Pardo doesn’t see an end to the magic and fiery passion that the music ignites inside of him. “When I play there’s the same enchantment, the same energy as when I first started playing. When you’re on that stage, you can feel everyone. All we want to do is make people dance, to forget for a second their troubles and dance.
The intense desire to celebrate, live, and be free through dance and music comes directly from his Venezuelan roots. Pardo continues, “Venezuelans are different than other people in Latin America. We’re a sweltering people. It’s always blisteringly hot over there and the heat is in our blood. Caracas is hell. A delightful and disastrous chaos. But you love it. And that deep desire to dance and to continue gozando la vida (enjoying life) is all we care about. [LAI] just wants to make people happy. We want to make people move. Playing up on that stage is the best thing you can do with your pants on.”
Los Amigos Invisibles see no end insight. The party will stay alive as long as they still have hands and arms and ears to play by. Pardo notes, “We’ll keep playing until we die of hunger.”