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Lido Pimienta: Wavelength Interview

Lido Pimienta: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyor of: New Colombiana, Música glamurosa dramática y de terror patético
File Next To: Tenderness, Pachamama, gangster shit
Playing: All Toronto’s Parties a.k.a. WL 582, Nov. 22 at the Garrison

Lido Pimienta is an absolute powerhouse. Since moving to Toronto via London, ON via her birthplace of Barranquilla, Colombia, she’s stormed stages, rocked parties, and brought smiles to stony-faced crowds with enough energy to light a city block. Bumping up Afro-Colombian rhythms with beats, brass, and her beautiful vocals, Lido has created a hyper-coloured hybrid sound that can’t be boxed into lazy genre tags. Alongside a posse of musical and multi-media collaborators, she’s now geared up to bring these righteous rave-ups to a headlining set Friday night at the Garrison for All Toronto’s Parties. Weird Canada’s Jesse Locke fielded a set of questions, and keeping in step with her outspoken stage banter, the answers are free-flowing and refreshingly frank.

Can you tell me a bit about your musical background? I understand you started off in Colombia playing with everyone from metal bands to hip-hop groups. How did those experiences influence what you do now?

My background is truly diverse, yes. I always speak in terms of two parts when asked about a musical history, a before and after moving to Canada and the impact or rupture that occurred, which changed my perspective and outlook in (music) life.

Basically, as a child I was always singing and daydreaming, playing with shapes and sunlight coming through my bedroom or classroom window. That was TERRIBLE, because I would daydream and move my arms to form shapes/shadows on the floor in the middle of science class, blocking out all sound and people until I got screamed at by my teacher, “waking up” to that and my peers’ laughter at my “crazy self.”

My Mum was always super supportive, so she would enroll me in dance and art classes to have a space to explore that side of me. In dance class, I was not great. I can’t do choreography. I sucked and still suck at it, but I would become friends with the drummers and singers and then shortly after joined both the choir at that very religious/racist/elitist school and started playing Tambora, the mother of drums in Afro-Colombian folk. It was a redeemable quality that damn school had. Yikes! I found shelter in music and my songs back then (age 11-15) were written in English. I did not know how to write in Spanish. Maybe I was embarrassed? But melodies and rhyming are simpler in English. I was also listening to lots of electronic music and European stuff compulsively. I did not have a real identity. To make things worse I started violin lessons… BAD!

The year before moving to Canada, I was living at my aunt’s house and my cousin came up to me and said, “Are you Colombian? Or are you white?” I did not know what the hell he meant by that, so he introduced me to music made in Colombia that I had taken for granted for my entire teenage life. My reconnection with Afro-Colombian music, Indigenous chanting and Cantaora music saved me from becoming yet another confused neo-colonized youngster.

La Rata, by Lido Pimienta from Guillermo Restrepo Cervantes on Vimeo.

Coming to Canada, I began to understand where most North American indie music came from and how some of that music I considered the Holy Grail meant shit next to music made right around the corner in my hometown. So then of course upon my arrival to London, Ontario, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery and connecting with my roots — with the help of the Internet of course, ‘cuz in London, Ontario, I definitely wasn’t going to find any Afro-Colombian gatherings.

I went out for walks and would go to shows based on how cool the poster art was. The best posters came from this party/show series called Music For No 1 created by Cailen Dye (Exit 2012) and shortly after we started jamming together. By hanging out with him, I met the whole London indie/experimental noise scene and we collaborated. I met my ex a.k.a. baby daddy a.k.a. Golden Death Music from Columbus, Ohio and we moved in together, married, had our son. While pregnant, we started making album one, the Color LP, which is a compilation of songs written or started in Colombia or inspired by Colombia and my naive, nostalgic view of the country.

I was so proud to be Colombian in a blind way, in which I missed the real issues and problems like the inferiority complex from brown Colombians and superiority complex from white Colombians deeply rooted then and now (still). Album one would not have happened without Golden Death, because he introduced me to recording software and would teach me to play guitar (which never worked out ‘cuz my kid would always grab it from me). He would teach me his songs to play on the keyboards/organ and with that experience I would make my own melodies. So in a sense my musical background has been an array of instinct and self-awareness. When Golden and I split up, I was faced with new homework, to make it myself, to do it myself with no help, but also to create a narrative, not just songs that have been dancing about my head.

I am more selective and organized now after touring and enjoying a modest success with album one. Playing live from such a young age, before learning how to record myself, and experiencing music in the streets in front of crowds at festivals and improvising with new people in a new country impacted my musical landscape immensely. Album two, which is happening now, has that LIVE spirit in that the music is coming to life as we perform it. I have at least 34 songs to work with, but with the help of my partners Kvesche and Blake, I am able to better dissect the music and decide which ones work best (I know what those are now). Because we are playing so much, we get a chance to try them out in real time/life. Electronic music and the mobile set-up we work with allows it to happen and flow so much more. No heavy equipment to carry, just internalizing beats and melodies, looped and sampled. That is where I am at now. Gangster shit.

Your music still draws from a lot of different sources, mixing rhythms that may be unfamiliar to North American ears with electronic beats, textures, and in your own words, “out-of-this-world chanting.” What inspires you to create this kind of hybrid sound?

Even if I did not set out to create musical hybrids, it is impossible not to, mainly because I work with two lovely white boys who have independently had quite different backgrounds on their own. Nothing makes me feel more disgusted than the words “World Music.” I think it degrades any music not created by white people, so in a sense my mission is to make music that is good and create melodies that can touch hearts, but also carry an important message of inclusion and love. I never received vocal training. What I know comes from instinct and feeling, and when I sing I see colour and shape and lights and vibrations, which I cannot quite describe, which is why I wrote that cheesy bit for my bio about the out-of-this-world chant stuff.

I am hoping this album truly disassociates me from that stupid new Cumbia label or world music crap. This album is basically inspired by my brother and how I want to make an album he would listen to in his car really loud. My vision is to marry hard/gangster beats with catchy melodramatic pop tunes. I don’t want to be indie or obscure in a way that only a selected and privileged few can reach at. I want everybody to dance and cry and get happy and angry in one sitting, and it’s not gonna happen with world music cliché bullshit. The hybrid is impossible to escape. Even if I were a white girl, the Internet and access to information allows us to listen to stuff from all around the globe. If we’re lucky, those lovely sounds creep into our soul and help us make awesome music.

Your collaborators include producer Kvesche Bijons-Ebacher and trombonist Steve Ward, among many others. How do new members get jumped into your gang?

We all belong to different backgrounds and styles, but we recognize talent and each other’s strengths and make it work. With this stupid government, we cannot afford to wait for shit to happen for us, we gotta do it ourselves. Hustling together feels good. Whatever success people like Petra Glynt enjoy, I feel it’s also my own. When I DJ (as GlitClit) nothing feels better than playing Tenderness. When my bandmate Kvesche, who plays in like a million other bands, sets out on a new project, I am there for him just like he is always there for me. My other mate Blake is also an incredible filmmaker/editor. If he needs help with a video, the entire crew is there to help him shoot. Love.

When me and Kvesche met, I was starting to get my name out there after moving to Toronto. I played a bunch of smaller shows by myself, and would bring my li’l organ and xylophone and pedal. One day, he was the sound guy at a Day of the Dead show at the amazing Creatures Creating Gallery. He approached me and said, “Hey, we should play together, I like your stuff.” I replied with, “If we do play together, you gotta wear a dress.” He said, “Of course! I’m down!” It was love at first sight. We started jamming the songs I had created by that point. I gave him skeletons and stripped versions of stuff we are playing now full force. Midway through the process, Blake MacFarlane asked us for stems to remix, but we liked what he was doing so much we decided to integrate his beats to the songs, and now we are a perfect triangle.

Steve and I go way back. In 2011, David Dacks from the Music Gallery introduced us to play/collaborate at an electronic rendition of Asalto Navideno albums. It was lovely. I heard Steve play and my heart stopped. I dragged him to my shows and I still drag him to my shows. I give me little to no instruction and he blows my mind each time. When I have a part written specifically for him, he will play it and then some.

Not all of our shows are the same though. For Nov. 22, Henri Fabergé and Rob Drisdelle are gonna play brass with us. Sometimes I have my girls from Bizzarh sing or my baby girl Caitlin Wolf(SPAWN) or Pachamama. I mean, I see talent and I want it. I want to collaborate all the time and create magic. It’s so boring to see a really cool band and hear them play the same set they did last time, so rehearsed and controlled. Our shows are always different. It’s awesome!

Another element that sets your live performances apart is the multi-media collaboration of visual art collective Tough Guy Mountain. Can you give any kind of explanation of what they do, for the uninitiated?

Tough Guy Mountain are a performance/art/collective/brand/design/architecture/firm from Halifax/Ontario based in Toronto for the people, to the people, for you. They have installed a CondoMaximum Project show room at the OCADU student gallery and are taking applications now for better condo living for YOU. Their interns will help you fill out all the paperwork. That is all I can say. The contract does not allow me to disclose further information.

You’ve also developed a bit of a rep for your outspoken political beliefs and fiery onstage banter. Do you think it’s important for artists to use their live shows and communications with listeners as a kind of soapbox?

Yes. I know I don’t have to, but it would be silly not to. I am aware that the fact that I am Latin and have an all-white crew WHICH I LOVE AND LOVES ME BACK is revolutionary. The fact that I am queer, sex-positive, a free-thinker, a feminist, an atheist, sing in Spanish, don’t apologize, a single mom, sexy, and get gigs and respect without being a damn groupie or selling my dignity for a spot on the global bass/world/indie scene music pedestal is political. Being brown in Canada is political. I cannot pass on the opportunity to be heard by hundreds. It’s a fair exchange: I make them dance, they listen. I give them my love, they listen. It’s fair. I do get the usual email from the straight white guy who thinks I am racist. Some people can’t handle listening to the truth. Some people can’t handle a “third world citizen” being powerful. It’s “uncomfortable.”

But I owe it to my Mum who came here for “a better life” without killing anybody or stealing anyone’s land or had that land passed on to her for free. She still apologizes and fears the government or some fucked-up law will take her citizenship away eventually, or maybe she won’t speak her mind at work because white people there don’t like the immigrants to steal their jobs, or doesn’t really speak up because her accent might not be understood by the lady at the bank…

If I don’t speak about these issues, then I will continue to perpetuate stupidity and consequently become subservient to evil, which we inevitably are/become when we decide to be passive-aggressive in life. Embarrassed or fearful of stirring the boat, when the 5% are freely exploiting natural resources, contaminating the water my kid is drinking and filling our bodies with pharmaceuticals that (short-term) cure one thing, but fuck up another in our bodies.

It’s cool to be smart, it’s sexy to be political, didn’t you know? I know my mouth keeps me from having a boyfriend (haha) but girl gotta do what girl gotta do and girl gotta say what girl gotta say, even if it intimidates or annoys a few dumb people.

Your son stole the show with his onstage appearance at Long Winter earlier this month. Can we expect to see him at All Toronto’s Parties?

I asked him if he wanted to go but he said he is too busy. If people want to see him, they are welcome to visit him at home any weekday after daycare for a Mario Bros. match.

Photo by Hyun-Yin Kim.



Recording: Lido Pimienta

Artist: Lido Pimienta

Song: unknown*

Recorded at The Great Hall (“Long Winter – Year 2 Volume 1”), November 8, 2013.

Full review to follow. The first season of Long Winter shows developed their sensibility as they went along, but a second go-round gives a chance to plug into — and expand upon — an existing template. This time ‘round, The Great Hall was even more stuffed to the gills. The main hall and conversation room stages were running in tight tandem, meaning you could (and I did!) basically watch music continuously all night long. But on top of that, there was a third stage in the restaurant, plus a full separate slate (including a live talk show) in the basement BLK BOX, to say nothing of the art interventions scattered throughout the space.

As the main hall started to feel filled up, it was Lido Pimienta’s cutting-edge Colombian-inspired grooves and elastic voice that really gave the spark that got the night grooving. With distorted Rob Ford videos projected behind the group (five wide, including Steve Ward on trombone), she started a conscious party while celebrating being included on a limited run 7” single being handed out at the door. Invigorating stuff — my recording’s a little murky, so to get the full force of this, you should come see her at the forthcoming All Toronto’s Parties spectacular.