Interview by Cristóbal Torres
Xtabay is a heavy band born in 2015 from Veracruz, Mexico. After overcoming the obstacles faced by the vast majority of Mexican heavy metal groups, finally in the last week of May they released their debut album: Crónicas Siniestras (2021).
We contacted Arturo “Tuto” Vázquez, lyricist, singer and flutist of the group, to tell us about the history of this group and the making of an album that adds to the interesting heavy movement that is happening in that part of the country.
Could you tell me how the band started?
Arturo “Tuto” Vázquez (ATV): The band was formed by David Reyes (guitar) and me in the summer of 2015. We worked in a Latin music group and, as frustrated rockers, I proposed to him to make a band, which was our teenage dream and for which I studied music.
We were able to start it until that year, at 24 years old and David at 34 years old. Then we started the project and between my melodic and folk influences plus his, we began to merge musical ideas.
Several musicians passed through our line-up, but most did not stay for ideas, times, influences, etcetera; until today we have a complete training again.
Why did you decide to call yourself Xtabay? How is your music related to this Mayan mythological character?
ATV: At first we called ourselves “Capra”, but we decided to give it a more national identity that would adapt to what we do: which is to tell folkloric stories. So, looking for options, my mother suggested: “Xtabay”, and we liked the idea because it combined well with the mysticism that we wanted to capture
What happened between 2015, when the band started, and 2021; why did you guys release your debut album now?
ATV: Well, there were internal problems with some former members; constant breakups of the band for different reasons such as times, jobs and above all money.
It was until now, after recording several demos that did not come to light and that served us as learning, that we took advantage of the pandemic to take the definitive step; it was now or never.
When did you start working on the pieces that appear Sinister Chronicles?
ATV: Many already existed from our beginnings. The newest were Del otro lado de la luz y Crónicas siniestras. We have had the others since approximately 2017, El flautista del diablo was our first song in 2015.
It strikes me that you hired a session drummer to record the album, why did you make this decision; is it very difficult to find drummers?
ATV: We hadn’t had a drummer for a long time, so we decided to do it that way. Here in Veracruz it is difficult to find a regular drummer. Also, there is not much heavy movement; they lean more towards death and black, which often makes them not interested in the project.
When I listened to the album, a classic heavy sounded to me, but I also perceived elements of traditional Mexican music, where does that influence come from and what motivated you to go to those fields?
ATV: We wanted to have our own Mexican identity; to rescue our oral tradition and all the miscegenation and culture that our country has. We like European music, but we didn’t want to be a band imitating Europeans; we wanted to have a more national identity
I really liked that you write in Spanish, why write in our language and not in English like the vast majority?
ATV: Well, we are Mexican and our native language is Spanish; singing in another language would be contradictory to what we want to promote.
It strikes me that you recorded in the studio of the great Carlos Rito, the mastermind of Fortaleza, how was the decision to record there and how was the experience?
ATV: Well, we talked with him and he gave himself the opportunity. It was a pleasant experience; he is a great person and helped us in many ways; we are very grateful to him. We hope to share the stage soon or maybe a tour… we would have to convince him (laughs).
Are there physical copies of the album or are there plans to release a physical version of it?
ATV: They are just in process. Starting in July we will have them for our release concert on July 16 here in Veracruz.
I saw that you already have two dates scheduled to present this album, how is the situation in your local scene regarding confinement due to contingency; is it already possible to carry out events without any restrictions?
ATV: Well, here in Veracruz we have enjoyed certain freedoms, although measures still need to be taken; we cannot be trusted.
But the scene is barely restarting both with events and with new bands, in fact, a new movement is emerging in Veracruz more melodic with heavy, speed and thrash metal bands; Jarocho punk is also making a comeback.
What are your plans to continue spreading Crónicas Siniestras; are you planning a video or adding more dates to your agenda?
ATV: We plan a lot of things for the future: one or two video clips and, of course, playing everywhere we can. We would love to do a little tour through the country, but things have to be adjusted.
Thank you very much for your time and congratulations on this debut album. Any final words for readers?
ATV: Thank you very much for the congratulations and especially for spreading our work, and I would just like to add that you continue to support and give the national metal an opportunity, because each time we are working to have better quality both in the studio and live. And thank you very much to all who listen to us, we send you a big hug from the port of Veracruz.