Miami jam band Suénalo — Spanish slang for "hit it!" — is often described as an Afro-Latin in style. But that's just doesn't go far enough. Think Dave Matthews as Davíd Matteos. But then replace Dave's Creole-seeped scatting with reggaeton influenced raps, a full-time female vocalist and dogged suave.
We spoke with Suénalo's horns, Juan Turros (tenor sax, soprano sax, flute, and vocals) and Chad Bernstein (trombone, conch shells, and vocals) about the South Florida spirit and how this eight-piece band stays so lively.
New Times: Suénalo’s music has been called a multicultural cocktail. You define it as Afro-Latin-Baby-Makin’-Descaraga-Funk. Can you elaborate on this hyper-hyphenated description?
Juan: The “Afro” comes from a heavy Fela Kuti influence. The “Latin” – being bi-cultural, we cannot escape our Latin-ness. It’s in there – powerfully. “Baby-makin” is due to the many long-lasting relationships that Suénalo helped bring together. These relationships, incredibly strong, flourished and gave fruits to the world in way of happy little children. “Descarga” is the Spanish word for Jam, as in jam session, which the band’s roots lie. “Funk” comes from the James Brown/Parliament influence.
Chad: It's rooted in Afro-Latin rhythms and grooves, there's a lot of improvisation. There's definitely funk at the core, and it's sexy. We've had lots of people tell us that they've had their first date — or other firsts — to our music.
What artists most influence your sound? Chad: Fania All-Stars, Fela Kuti, James Brown, Irakere, Parliament, Funkadelic, and Earth Wind and Fire.
What is Amin drinking in that massive flask in the music video to “305"? Chad: Gypsy tears.
Suénalo seems to be in its element while performing live. How does the audience affect your performance?
Chad: I think we have a certain level of fun and proficiency even in the dullest of settings, but when the crowd is into it, it raises us to another level. It's euphoric.
Your songs are relentlessly alive and invigorating. Do you have any words of inspiration for the sloth-like and melancholy among us? Juan: Don’t take yourselves seriously. Dance like no one is watching.
How does culture and place — particularly the place and culture of South Florida — impact your music? Juan: You are your environment. Our environment happens to be the envy of the entire world, so our music is a bit skimpier — a bit more outgoing — a little flirtier than yours.
It's rare to see a solid, full-time, eight-piece band outside of an orchestra. What are the benefits and drawbacks of having such a big crew? Any plans to expand? Chad: It's a big family. That part is wonderful. But in any large group you have a lot of variables and your splitting the dough amongst more mouths. It may not be the most effective business model, but we make it work
How did Chad learn to play the conch shells? Chad: On stage with Suénalo. Legend has it that he was visited by a mythical sea creature in his dreams.
Want to give a shout out to any undiscovered parties/venues you perform at in South Florida? Juan: Thank you Ball and Chain, Funky Biscuit, Guanabanas, Rocco's Tacos, Jazid, Blackbird Ordinary, and The Stage.
Chad: We love all of our local venues, but the full moon parties at Pierre's are a really amazing experience
What can we expect from Suénalo in the future? Juan: We are constantly shifting and adapting, kinda like the perfect girlfriend.
Chad: To continue evolving and putting out great music.
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