Colombian indie band Armenia have been super active in the ‘cuarentena total’: the single “Ay, Corazón (Silencio)” was released on March 27, they’ve curated a quarantine playlist on Spotify, they’ve opened their inbox to fans and are set to launch an EP of remixes next month. Rebecca Wilson catches up with band leader, lead singer and guitarist, Juan Anotonio Toro, to find out more.
The young indie pop-rock five-piece from Bogotá have grown a wide fan base since releasing their debut album Armenia in September last year, just seven months after their first single was released. (A refreshing cover of Rosalía’s “Pienso en Tu Mirá” will take you by surprise eight tracks in). Armenia’s modern indie sound is peppered with melancholy and nostalgic rock and synth inflections. “We take the best of the past – the great bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s – and bring it into the present”, the band’s leader Juan Antonio tells me over email.
Aside from being an eastern European country and a small arty neighbourhood in downtown Bogotá, the band name Armenia is a tribute to Juan Antonio’s birth city, the capital of Colombia’s coffee region. Alongside Juan Antonio, Armenia comprises Daniel Moreno (bass, backing vocals), Ricardo Laverde (keyboard, vocals), Daniel Cardona (drummer) and Alejandro Ochoa (lead guitar).
The band’s new single “Ay, Corazón (Silencio)”, with its pop beat, power piano chords and sombre indie vocals, was released on March 27. “[The song] is about being alone, feeling down and living with anxiety and depression. It talks about suffering, about not enjoying things as you did before, not wanting to do anything,” Juan Antonio explains.
Directed by María Paula Cote – a friend of Juan Antonio’s from university – the video is a glimpse into the life of a young woman (played by another friend of the band, photographer and model Natalia Zambrana) as she returns to familiar places that now take on a whole new meaning. The subject matter seems perfectly apt for an indulgent, alternative anthem to these strange times.
I ask how the band is coping with quarantine. “We feel bored, nostalgic, melancholy. We really miss playing together as a band, singing for our fans, being able to hang out together and hug each other.” But they’re still working hard. Juan Antonio is writing songs at home and has a number of projects on the go. They’ve created a Spotify quarantine playlist compiling their own music and that of bands they like, they’ve run a number of live streaming sessions with musicians, illustrators and artists, and they’ve invited fans to join in the fun.
“We want to get to know [our fans] properly, to understand what their lives are like – that’s why we’re doing live streams on Instagram. We’re no more or less than our fans simply because we make music. We just create a portrait of what it’s like to live in 2020, and they’re a part of this” Juan affirms. The band have publicly opened up their social media inboxes for anyone who wants to talk. They want to make sure fans don’t start to get an image of them that isn’t real. “We want to keep being ourselves and establish links with our fans, links that go further than them simply being a number in a venue, a follower or a like.”
“We want to make this a pleasant situation, that’s why it’s important for us to generate content for our fans,” Juan tells me. As well as publishing demos and sheet music to their songs on social media, the band will release an EP containing remixes of “Ay Corazón (Silencio)” across streaming platforms in May. The remixes are from four producers, “friends of ours who we admire and always wanted to collaborate with”, Juan Antonio adds. “We like electronic music and wanted to give this album to our fans to show that we always want to be as honest as possible about who we are. We also see this as an opportunity to support our friends’ emerging projects – especially in such difficult times as these, where what we need most is to unite as a community.”
Ay Corazón (Silencio) – Remixes will be released on all streaming platforms (Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music) on May 1. You can hear their debut album here.