By: Paulina Candelario-Lavoie
One of the most influential Mexican rock bands in the world is bringing their reign to a close. With influences rooted in 20th century New Wave and an infectiously unconventional sound, Fobia has embarked on a farewell tour entitled “Pastel.”
With a trajectory spanning over 30 years, they have cradled us, we have grown up with them, and their reemergence in the early 2000’s enlisted a new generation of followers. Now docking in cities throughout the United States, fans far and wide are anxious to see Fobia one last time, and guest interviewer Paulina Lavoie had the pleasure of speaking with the band’s lead singer Leonardo De Lozanne about their music, career, audiences, and vision for the future.
Paulina: Fobia has been celebrating 30 years of success in the music industry and has embarked on a tour that began in Mexico and now brings them to the U.S. How does it feel to once more play in the United States?
LEO: We’re always excited to play in the U.S., especially on this tour because we are visiting cities we’ve never been to before, like Washington, Las Vegas, and Denver, and Toronto too. That will be our first time in Canada. But, it is also exciting to return to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Houston; where we have performed several times in the past. But, more than just the cities and the memories, we’ve been eager to present the original versions of our albums. This tour was conceived because we released a boxset of our albums on vinyl and that is what set everything into motion. Not only had we not performed many of these songs on tour in a very long time but, we also had not performed them as they were originally recorded. And, that is what we are excited to bring to our fans.
PAU: In regard to all of the material you are performing, how did Fobia choose and organize the songs you are playing, how did the band get together, choose, and make these decisions?
LEO: We voted. We took a vote and based it on what fans constantly ask for. After all, the fans are in charge. They are the ones who bought a ticket and should walk away happy. So, we pulled together, sat at a table, analyzed our music, voted, and any songs that had the most votes were selected, while others were selected simply because we had hadn’t performed them live in a very long time or simply had never performed them at all. I feel this is like a gift to our biggest fans. And, at the same time, I also feel it is important to play those songs that were perhaps not as popular; not only for our longtime fans but also for that younger generation that didn’t discover Fobia until we came out with Rosa Venus, or maybe have never even seen us live.
“How does Fobia reconnect after everything that the band has experienced? How does the band reacquaint itself today?“
PAU: In Chicago, we had the opportunity to see Fobia play as part of the 2017 Ruido Fest lineup and it was amazing to see you after so many years. Like many of your fans, we listened to you in Mexico and then moved to the United States, so it was incredible to reconnect with your music live after so long. How does Fobia reconnect after everything that the band has experienced? How does the band reacquaint itself today, considering the different personalities that each of you has, to come here on tour?
LEO: Well, it’s very different from what we did 20-25 years ago. We’re adults now, some of us have families, we have different lives, and points of view. I believe all groups, projects, and even businesses involving several persons naturally become complicated. We have many concerns and ideas and at times it takes a lot for us to make decisions. That is why we each have our own defined responsibilities defined and, even though there might be conflicts or differences of opinion, there is always a moment when we go in a room, begin to rehearse and things just flow. There is something special that happens when the five of us come together. That’s what has kept us alive. That’s what has kept the public listening to us. That’s what counts at the end of the day and, when we get to that point, we forget everything else.
We have also learned how to live with each other and accept one another. And, maybe we could have done things, differently, having been bigger or recorded more singles, but we are who we are and we also never imagined that we would sell out two dates at el Palacio de Los Deportes, one sold out date at the Auditorio Nacional plus a tour to 16 dates in the United States. We didn’t plan this, it just happened. It’s incredible to see that so many people want to see us after so many years and, like you mentioned, have grown up with us and that we became part of the soundtrack of their lives, it’s incredible to reconnect like that.
“For me everything will come to a close on December 2, 2019. After the last date on the U.S. tour, for me, there will be no more Fobia.”
We are frequently asked, “What’s next?” “When will you write something new?” But the truth is that not even we have the faintest idea. For me, everything will come to a close on December 2, 2019. After the last date on the U.S. tour, for me, there will be no more Fobia. But, who knows, maybe next year another opportunity will show up and, if we have time and enthusiasm, then we’ll do it, but it is no longer our modus vivendi (“way of life”). We all have other lives, careers, businesses, work, dreams, hopes. I think we are different and we have lived through this “band life” in an incredible way, we enjoyed it very much, but it’s not the same as when we were younger.
PAU: Of all your most recent presentations in the stadiums, the Palacio de Deportes, the Auditorio Nacional, etc., which has been the show that you most liked? The show that made you feel like you were truly enjoying this?
LEO: Well, without a doubt, the two shows at the Palacio de Deportes, especially the first. They were both incredible shows, to be honest with you, but it was very emotional because it was the first; and, not only because of the number of people there but also because there was a special connection with those people. It was more than them just singing along to our songs, which happens at any concert. I felt like we were in this together. Fobia has always had inside jokes and hidden messages that not everyone understands but, on that day, I realized that thousands of people do understand. That they weren’t at the concerts just out of nostalgia. They were there to say, “I understand. I can relate. I’m also part of what you have always stood for.” It was a special moment that I will never forget.
“Jose Jose pioneered singing ballads because, as you know, Mexico was born of “rancheras”, but he made the transformation to romantic ballads… So, whether you like it or not, those songs are part of Mexico’s DNA.“
PAU: Unfortunately, we also lost Jose Jose this year and you sang one of his songs in the tribute made to him a few years back, “Si Me Dejas Ahora”. As a singer and vocalist, what does the loss of an icon like Jose Jose mean to you? How does it make you feel?
LEO: As you know, in Mexico, directly or indirectly, we all grew up listening to Jose Jose, as well as other singers, but Jose Jose was special because we listened to him as children, our parents listened to him. So, even unwillingly, we grew up with him. I personally didn’t like ballads. I liked rock music but, ever since I was a child, I heard Jose Jose. So, whether you like it or not, those songs are part of Mexico’s DNA.
I would say Jose Jose pioneered singing ballads because, as you know, Mexico was born of “rancheras”, but he made the transformation to romantic ballads, with great songs, great lyrics, an extraordinary voice, and unequaled timbre, and a style that inspired many singers. Just recently, I mentioned in a radio interview that in every piano bar of Latin America, and not just Mexico, the singer was imitating Jose Jose. He inspired singers of ballads and boleros in all Latin America.
So, yes, he was a very important artist marking the golden age of Mexican music, and all of the bands and soloists that participated on that tribute know his songs and those songs shaped part of who we are. So, we recorded “Si Me Dejas Ahora”, an incredible song written by Camilo Cesto, whom also recently departed, but in an electronic interpretation. I loved that album and it had much success. I remember that Jose listened to it and told us how much it had moved him, that they were very good versions [of his songs]. You can still listen to it today and it still sounds fresh and, for me, it was special because it was my first recording as a soloist.
“I listen to a lot of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, but there are also a lot of good bands out there. I really like MGMT, I like Kaiser Chiefs, The Horrors…“
PAU: And today, as a singer-songwriter, what are you Leo listening to? What do you have on your phone or iPod, what do you like, what makes you think “Wow, I love listening to this”?
LEO: Well, lately I have been a feeling a little retro. I listen to a lot of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Elton John (the older stuff), but there are also a lot of good bands out there. I really like MGMT, I like Kaiser Chiefs, The Horrors, there is always something new. There are also albums made in the 70’s that have no equal, like albums from Led Zeppelin. There are times I will listen to playlists on Spotify to hear the new indie and alternative, and I’ve discovered many great things that way, but I tend to return to the basics because, after all, that’s where you find the essence of rock music and I love those recordings, compositions, and those iconic rock ‘n’ roll records, especially the ones from the 60’s and 70’s.
PAU: In closing, for all bands and artists of the future. Those kids listening to you today, or who will discover you one day, and who might be planning on starting a band, or who want to follow in the steps of Fobia, obviously with their own essence, feelings and ideas. What is something basic that must exist within a rock band?
LEO: I believe something basic is your sound, you have to succeed at having your own composition and sound. I believe that is the most important thing. Of course, I always suggest that they prepare/practice a lot. When we were young there weren’t many options other than schools where they taught classical music. Now there is a lot, even online, you can study music, there are a million options. But, on top of preparation, before you even think about being famous or the things that may come with that, it is important to think about the technical things, to have good songs.
The song is the origin of everything, its composition, its sound, etc. It’s obviously impossible to not have influences but you shouldn’t be the same as anyone else. You need to be unique individuals. No one starts off being the best but that will come with time, otherwise, I think this is the most important thing. If you listen to songs from U2 when they first started, they were not the best and even they have said it in documentaries. But they worked at it and hammered away at their songs and became an incredible band.
I also suggest working hard and take this seriously and not as a reason to go out, drink and travel. Approach it as a job and look at it professionally and put in the work because it is also a complicated career, many things can go wrong and one comes to depend on many persons, and many things, and it can sometimes be unstable. You have to continuously work at it.
PAU: Thank you Leo. Fobia is an incredibly well-known band, recognized for its professionalism, energy, and music quality. We are anxious to see you in Chicago. There are many people that won’t miss it! Thank you!
LEO: Thank you! We are very excited to return to Chicago. We love the city and its people, and we are excited to play there once again!
Tour dates for Fobia at: www.fobia30.com
Special thanks to Paulina Lavoie for conducting this interview with Fobia’s Leonardo De Lozanne