There was a time, back in 2002, when my world revolved around Spanish pop. We were young and foolish in a town that was neither Spanish or American. Half the day we spoke Spanish, the other English. We always tuned in the Spanish Pop  show on Sundays at 7pm at a Salsa radio station. We didn’t really care what the dj Kike Posada would play. He was awful. We just tuned in and called the station to request songs. Our little convenience store, a block away from the beach and Ocean Drive and the tourist flock, was almost empty by 7pm. Most people would leave the beach on Sundays around 6pm, thus from 6:30 to midnight (when our shift ended), we just restocked the refrigerators and the shelves. We had five hours to do that. It didn’t take us that much so we had time to be on hold on the phone trying to request some of our favourite Spanish Pop tunes. The show lasted a couple of hours. It was called Boom. And again, it was awful.

Jose, Chozzy for friends, and me, had been working at this convenience store for some time now. We were very young, like 17 or 18 when we started. We had hacked the audio system of the store and we had managed to connect a portable CD player to it. By far this store had the best music in Miami. Those days we played lots of Spanish Pop and more often than you could imagine people would recognize the songs and tell us stories about the days when they danced to them. Or when they went to see them back in their home countries. We shared the same memories. It was the music we listened on the radio back home when we were growing up. The 80s and the early 90s wasn’t c86 for us. It was the so called “Rock en español” were both rock and pop were bagged in the same tag.

We requested Los Nikis many times. The dj didn’t have a clue who they were. For me that was blasphemy. It was always like this: we requested a first song, he didn’t have it. We requested a second, he didn’t have it. We always felt bad with her secretary or the radio station operator, a girl with a Venezuelan accent, that by the third song request we would just stick to a song that had Alaska on it, most usually a Dinarama song. And then we would call again. And we’d request songs the stupid dj didn’t know. One could only wonder how he had any following in the city. It was always a mystery for us. He sucked and we deserved to have our own radio show. But we weren’t friends with Emilio or Gloria Estefan I suppose.

Our apartment was 10 blocks away from the convenience store and we were piling CD-Rs with bootlegs by Aviador Dro and rare tracks by Los Vegetales. We shared a big studio and payed 250 dollars each. We had for the first time in our life fast DSL internet and spent hours, days, researching and downloading Spanish Pop. And then we started buying what we could. It was hard and damn expensive. Since then I experienced the abominable postage prices the Spanish postal service charges. At some point I must have paid 100 dollars worth of postage on a single order. It was outrageous. Suddenly my drawers starting piling with t-shirts by Cola Jet Set, La Casa Azul, Fangoria and more. I was really into it.

I always thought it was going to be Spain the country I was to visit first in Europe. It didn’t turn out that way. For me it was obvious, I spoke the language, in high school I had read Cervantes, Quevedo and even Cela. I had watched every single movie by Alex de la Iglesia and watched la Liga religiously every weekend. I was a big fan of Raul, and Mendieta. And of course, the music I loved, and my favourite band, my beloved TCR, came from Spain. However I went first to Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland and England.

Next weekend I head to Madrid. It will be my first time in Spain and I’m thrilled. The first thing that comes to mind is that song by Flash Strato “Madrid in Tecnicolor” that was kind of a hit back in Lima in the 80s. It seems in Spain it wasn’t that popular, just a handful knows about it. But that’s how things work, as my grandma would often say, “Nadie es profeta en su tierra.” Translated to English it is “No one is a prophet in their own land.” The quotation is from Christ himself in Luke 4, 21-30. Perhaps there’s a similar saying in English, but you see my point. That happened a lot with Spanish bands, many of them made a splash in Mexico or Peru, but not in their home country.

It was one of those dead afternoons at the convenience store that I would rediscover this gem. Carlos who worked at a garage a block away came with a couple of CDs for me to play at the store. They were Spanish pop, songs he would play back in Peru. He had been djing in Lima for a couple of years before leaving to the US. He was a bit older than me and remembered much better the 80s and the songs that were played during that time. He lend me his CDs, just for that afternoon. One of the songs was “Madrid in Tecnicolor”. Suddenly I had flashes, the song was very familiar and I even recalled the lyrics. It took me back to evenings stuck in the lazy traffic of Lima’s tight side streets. The cab driver reading his football daily paper with a half-naked woman on the cover waiting for the light to turn green. And the cassette radio, brand-less and black, playing some of these Spanish gems on the background.

I still don’t know where the name Flash Strato came from. Perhaps it has no meaning. The band was formed in 1980s by four chaps, Emilio Huertas (guitars), Enrique Bastante (vocals and guitars), Victor Martín (bass) and Toti Árboles (drums). They lasted only 3 years, saying farewell in 1983 with just two releases on their hands.

The first release was the “Cristales Molidos” single on Carnaby Records. This record also included “Fue tu Culpa” and “Búscame”. It was released in 1982 and it seems no one picked it up. It’s a shame, I love “Cristales Molidos”. It has some great jangly and upbeat guitars. But who knows, perhaps these days their records are sought after and pretty expensive. I don’t know. Would love to have a copy, but as said before, I already decided not to buy online from Spanish record stores. The postage prices are not right. But I will surely keep an eye for their records now that I visit Madrid.

The second release was “Madrid in Tecnicolor” (1983), a maxi-single, on Columbia. This is their ‘song’ and could have been an anthem of that era. Great melodies, power-pop melodies, jangly guitars and a fun and bouncy keyboard at the chorus. A very catchy song that for some reason not many cared for it in Spain when it was released. That’s why it is amazing to see the amount of Peruvians commenting on Youtube about this song. It’s hard to believe.

The band split just after releasing this record. Toti would join Alaska y los Pegamoides and Enrique, Seres Vacíos. It didn’t matter if they had good songs and two very strong releases. It didn’t matter if they had played gigs along Alaska y Dinarama, Paralisis Permanent or Gabinete Caligari, three big names of the Spanish Pop Golden Era. They were destined to be forgotten. But far away from the Iberian peninsula, in foggy and grey Lima, we pictured Madrid as a fun place, a place painted in technicolor, were no one could stop partying.

Many years later I will experience Madrid in Technicolor, were the parties go on past midnight until the next morning. I can’t wait. I’ll see you there next week.


Flash Strato – Madrid en Tecnicolor


Now I can say that I’m up to date with Cloudberry after several trips to the post office this week. Cassolette 7″ is being pressed and the artwork for The Time Capsules CD is ready. This  long weekend (Monday is a holiday, President’s Day) The Deddingtons and the Tiny Fireflies/Lily of the Valley CDs artwork should be ready. I can leave to Spain without worries.

I do feel I haven’t taken care of the blog as much as I would have like to. There are plenty of comments I haven’t answered. Some bands have gotten in touch and I haven’t replied back. Shame on me. I haven’t conducted any interviews in the past two months. And that’s something that is unacceptable I think. But I’ll make up for it. I also would love to retake the indiepop book project, compiling this blog on in and paper. That’d be something. It wasn’t long ago that I met with my archaelogist (and Brighter fan) friend Brian in a bar in the Lower East side and he was quite inquisitive about this project. I do believe there will be some interest in it. I can see the point that my blog, as it’s articles are quite long, is more suitable to a print format than digital format I already use.

There is a very nice news coming from Japan. It seems there will be a Japanese edition for the Feverfew release, limited to just 125 copies. It will have an OBI strip and also the liner notes in Japanese. I seems it will also include the interview to Paul and Phil that appeared in the blog translated to Japanese and hopefully the lyrics to all the songs. I will try to get some copies of them, but can’t really promise much. I’ll keep you all updated.

For the past three months in NYC I’ve been attending to Mondo, the indie dance party that Maz from NY Popfest organizes. I’ve been very impressed on how packed his nights are. Yesterday was no exception even though the night moved to Manhattan for a one-off at Le Poisson Rouge. It usually happens in hipster-infested Williamsburg, at Cameo, a venue I really like. It was an odd night yesterday as there was some sort of hip-hop event at the top floor of the Poisson Rouge. It was said that Spike Lee and Vin Diesel were around. There was some character too called Grandmaster Flash that Maz was very excited about. He told me he was the grandfather of hip hop. Mind you, I don’t know nothing about hip hop. I really dislike that music. But anyhow, this Grandmaster guy told Maz that Mondo was a great party. And I can only agree with him. It is a great party. And I hope it keeps happening for years to come.

There are three DJs at the club and without hurting any susceptibilities, I hope, my favourite is Maz. He plays lots of indiepop staples and yesterday was no exception. We all danced to  Another Sunny Day “You Should All Be Murdered”, The Clean’s “Tally Ho” and The Pastels’ “Truck Train Tractor” among other tunes by Josef K, Summer Cats, Help Stamp Out Loneliness, Acid House Kings and Orange Juice. He has great taste. I know that for a fact, I mean, he has been booking fantastic bands to NYC Popfest the past 4 years! If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have been able to see Go Sailor, Days, Caucus, Gold-Bears and many others. I’m very grateful for that. And I’m sure this 2012 edition won’t be an exception, it will be thrilling again. I have already heard some “rumours” of bands playing this year and I can only tell it’s very promising.

Then there’s Miss Modular who, I learned yesterday, is originally from Miami. Just like Cloudberry Records. She mostly plays girl bands from 50s, 60s. I’m not much into that stuff, but now and then I can enjoy some Shangri-Las. It depends on my mood. This is the time when I like buying a new lager and talking with friends that are around. Yesterday it was catching up with Mark Olivan, who I met last year at NYC Popfest. He was the one who recorded on video most of the band’s performances during the festival, if not all! Great guy, and always very well dressed. At some point we were interrupted by some girls that were looking for boys clearly. One of them asked me about my Madrid Popfest t-shirt. Then she asked where was my accent from and what I was doing there. Then she was just “American” and said she couldn’t understand my accent. Funny. I guess I missed out her loving skills. It’s ok, I wasn’t interested!

And the third DJ is Kevington who I believe caters to the bigger crowd. This is the time where “This Charming Man”, “Boys Don’t Cry” and *that* song by Le Tigre get played. Usually this is also the time when most people get excited and dance. Not me. But that’s ok. I understand how a club runs and you need the mainstream songs. You need people to keep coming, and they do keep coming. It’s a compromise. So that works out perfectly. It’s fine with me. I do need to rest, I’m not that 18 year old anymore and can’t be bouncing to Altered Images all night long! No complains here, Mondo sells itself as an indie-dance party, not an indiepop party. So fine by me. I know what to expect and I don’t feel tricked when The Go Team is resonating through the speakers.

I haven’t timed the DJs but I think they change every hour and the party starts quite late, around 10 or 11. Im usually exhausted by 2am mind you, but I think it goes on until 3 or 4? Not sure. Anyhow, they make me happy. Listening once a month “C is the Heavenly Option” that loud is good enough for me. And if not, I can count them to play “Crush the Flowers”. They do play it every month. I think it’s Mondo’s anthem somehow.

Today, after 6 hour sleep and four pints of Hoegaarden, I woke up fine. Went to the post office and dispatched the last batch of orders. Went to the Manhattan and tried Burmese food for the first time. I tried Mohinga, which is rice noodles in fish soup. It was heavenly. Got me warm immediately even though it was not that cold today, just 6 degrees Celsius. It was spicy and very flavourful. Upon coming home the first record I picked for today was Truck Train Tractor’s “Starforce (USA)” 7″. I guess I was inspired by yesterday’s, or should I say today in the early hours, dancing to the Pastels song. But sure, this is not The Pastels track. I don’t have on vinyl the Pastels track. This is a totally different band, completely different, from far away. From Adelaide, Australia. Not from Glasgow. But for some reason back in the early nineties they decided to name their band after The Pastels. And suddenly I became very curious and asked myself: why?

The gold and yellow 7″ could well be an Ikea or a Best Buy ad. But it’s a Summershine release. Catalog number 032. Summershine, the Australian Sarah. A label that released fabulous bands like Tender Engines or The Rainyard. And they released Truck Train Tractor in 1993. The A side includes just one track, “Starforce (USA)” and it spins at 45rpm. The B side spins at 33rpm and has two songs “Away” and “Starting at the End Again”. From the three, the last one is the one I like the most. It’s fast, it’s punchy and the guitars sound like The Pastels!

The band was formed by Brett on guitar, Karl on vocals and guitars, Marty on vocals and drums, and Tim on bass and vocals. The cover art of the record was done by Gerry Wedd, who I believe is a surfer and also a ceramist and a potter. Looking around online it seems some of the band members went into bands like Terrance Dicks and Hermetic Music. But there’s not much information on them or what are they up to these days. The songs were recorded at ABC studio 521 (the couch potato set) in Adelaide, on the spring of 92. It was recorded without the use of any digital technology whatsoever.

And then there is. The biggest mystery. They thank Stephen Pastel on the record. So yes, this confirms that they took the name from The Pastels (I know i was obvious, but as a journalist you have to be 100% sure!). But how were they in touch? Old school letters? Or maybe Stephen had been in Adelaide? Or perhaps the TTT guys had been on vacations in Glasgow pre-Monorail times. Who knows. They were big fans. And that’s what matters. And I like Truck Train Tractor as a band name. What other Pastels song could be a good band name? Holy Moly?

And that’s all there is about this elusive band. I wonder if there’s any more songs by them. It seems this was their only release. Im sure they recorded more songs. I have a hunch that they did. What are they doing these days? Still making music? Would love to know more about Truck Train Tractor. If you know anything else, please share!


Truck Train Tractor – Stating at the End Again


It’s being quite a long time. Two months? Something like that. Hope I was missed. I did post some interviews during the past weeks. Happily some bands remembered to send me their answers. Still there are plenty that haven’t. But that’s ok. Now I’m finally settled in New York. All my stuff is here. Last Monday the moving truck finally arrived and none of my records seem broken. That’s an achievement, isn’t it? I did pack them well mind you, I feel five years sending records overseas have taught me a thing or two. I’m the master of bubble wrap.

My computers are back too. And all the Cloudberry stock. There were plenty of orders that were delayed for this reason. All of them have been shipped or will be shipped this Monday. I appreciate the patience of everyone. From now on things will run smoothly as they used to be. I’ve finished unpacking everything. I do need new shelves, new racks, new furniture. But the “factory” is up and running again. I’ve supplied it with different size mailers, padding cartons, custom forms, etc. Blank CDs, paper, ink, you name it.

Cloudberry is excited as ever! There are many releases coming up. You sure know about the Cassolette and Nixon 7″s. Sure they were delayed due to me moving. It sucks a bit, I wished they were ready by now. That was the plan though, to have Cassolette ready by February. But logistics impeded me so. For once, I didn’t have an address until early January. So where would the pressing plant send the records?! Anyhow, bands have been understanding, I hope you two. So what’s going to happen is this: Cassolette 7″ is going to the pressing plant this Monday. Hopefully by late March it will be ready. Sounds good?

The Nixon 7″: It’s been mixed at the moment by Patrik Lindgren, and soon we’ll have some news. But it’s happening. And after that release there are a couple 7″s lined up. Can’t spill the beans yet! But do keep an eye on the Cloudberry page. Or the Facebook page? Both if you want to play it safe.

This weekend I’ve set myself to finish the first draft of the second Cloudberry Cake release, The Deddingtons. It already sounds great. Now it’s just a matter to make it look great. And it will be. Hopefully this fabulous album can go to the pressing plant by the end of February. I’ll keep you updated. And what about the Feverfew release?! There are just some pins lefts and the record is selling away FAST. So get your copy as soon as possible. I hate answering emails saying a record is “sold out”. Wish I could press infinite copies sometimes. But sometimes, you end up with a whole lot of stock sitting there too. And to move that from city to city, or wait, state to state, believe me, records are damn heavy. It is expensive to move a record collection.

But the weekend doesn’t end up there. There’s more to do. Much more. The past weekends I had been very busy, had my mum in town and it meant hopscotching all the way to the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Met and other landmarks in the Big Apple. One by one, from dawn to dusk. Actually, much later than dusk. This weekend I’m working in the new Cloudberry Classic. It’s a Japanese band for a change. It’s the fabulous Time Capsules! I interviewed them not so long ago, and you can check there my favorite song of theirs, a beautiful mix of Jim Jiminee, Pale Fountains and Jazz Butcher.

And then I’m bringing back to live the split 3″CD series with Tiny Fireflies and My Lily of the Valley from Japan!

Around the corner we have Madrid Popfest too. We are heading there. Very excited! And I’ll get to DJ one of the nights. It’s very exciting. I should start preparing the arsenal of indiepop hits!

Probably I’m forgetting more Cloudberry news and treats, but I’ll come back next week as I used to and keep you updating. Perhaps I can tell you about some of the gigs I’ve attended here so far? or the record store findings? or go back to memory lane? feels good to be back to this quaint blog!

Sunset or sundown is the daily disappearance of the Sun below the horizon in the west as a result of Earth’s rotation. The time of sunset is defined in astronomy as the moment when the trailing edge of the Sun’s disk disappears below the horizon in the west. The ray path of light from the setting Sun is highly distorted near the horizon because of atmospheric refraction, making the sunset appear to occur when the Sun’s disk is already about one diameter below the horizon. Sunset is distinct from dusk, which is the moment at which darkness falls, which occurs when the Sun is approximately eighteen degrees below the horizon. The period between sunset and dusk is called twilight. Locations north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle experience no sunset or sunrise at least one day of the year, when the polar day or the polar night persist continuously for 24 hours. Sunset creates unique atmospheric conditions such as the often intense orange and red colors of the Sun and the surrounding sky.

One of the things that one could say I will miss from Florida are sunsets. I don’t. I don’t miss the heat. And I don’t mind the cold weather. It hasn’t been that cold anyways. But sunsets, I don’t know, I was never impressed by them. I remember back in Lima, lovers at 6pm bathed on golden glow., holding hands at the seafront, on top of the cliffs that face the Pacific ocean. The ice cream bicycle carts doing their last rounds before everything went dark. Kisses and fondling at the seafront. Sunsets. The sun hiding slowly in the murky and fish-abundant waters of Lima. Orange, bright orange, as orange cake mix.

I picked up today from my record boxes this 7″ by Watercolor Sunset. It was the first time I paid attention to it. I only got it some days ago as it was one of the few I was missing from the Sunday Records catalog.

Watercolor, also aquarelle from French, is a painting method. A watercolor is the medium or the resulting artwork in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-soluble vehicle. The traditional and most common support for watercolor paintings is paper; other supports include papyrus, bark papers, plastics, vellum or leather, fabric, wood, and canvas. Watercolors are usually transparent, and appear luminous because the pigments are laid down in a relatively pure form with few fillers obscuring the pigment colors. Watercolor can also be made opaque by adding Chinese white. In East Asia, watercolor painting with inks is referred to as brush painting or scroll painting. In Chinese, Korean, and Japanese painting it has been the dominant medium, often in monochrome black or browns. India, Ethiopia and other countries also have long traditions. Fingerpainting with watercolor paints originated in China.

I was terrible with watercolors. In high school and in college, I had such a hard time with them. I was never good with brushes and paint. I did enjoy the watercolor Caran D’ache pencils I had. That big tin box with hundreds of them. I didn’t mix them with water though. I would have made a mess, I know it. I stuck to painting as if they were pencils, I never took the advantage of their watercolor skills. It was dangerous, I could have stained my clothes, or someone else’s clothes. These days I stick to Photoshop. How convenient, how safe. Anyhow, I wouldn’t have been able to top Monet’s “Sunset at the Cliff in Etretat”.

So, did Jim Rao and Joe Maddalena had any painting skills? They did for music for sure. And perhaps they did long for sunsets in Connecticut. Days must be bleak there. It was 1994 when they joined forces to release their one and only 7″ under this name. It was on the fab Sunday Records, catalog number 033. Two songs, one on each side. Side A is “International Pop Star” and Side B is “The Mirror Tells a Joke”. Both pretty similar I’d say. Jangly and sad. Perfect for the winter, not for summer sunsets.

But Jim and Joe were pretty well known back in the mid-nineties and I’m sure many remember them fondly. Jim was of course Orange Cake Mix, a staple of American indiepop. Joe was in Monsterland and Names for Pebbles (their Motorway 7″ is a true favorite of mine!). I wonder how they met, how did they know each other. Whereas Monsterland would play many gigs, I doubt Orange Cake Mix played many. I wasn’t around at that time here in the North East, but something tells me it was like that. Or maybe Watercolor Sunset was before Orange Cake Mix and Monsterland? Where’s that indiepop indiepop family tree?

They had a third song, on the “The Amazing Phantom Third Channel” compilation 7″ released on Cher Doll (catalog 004), called “Hollywood Decay”. Never heard it. Would love to get my hands on that record. Doesn’t seem easy to track. Well, I haven’t tried yet. I will. But as Neutral Milk Hotel is in that record I feel it will be a wasted endeavor.  I need to clear my eBay saved searches to start. We’ll see.

In 2000 Sunday Records released a CD compilation called “Rolling Meadows Songs About Our Past Vol 2″ (which I don’t have; though I do happen to have two copies of Vol 1, go figure) and on that CD the A side of the 7”, “International Pop Star” was included. So enjoy this little and nice song, their B side, “The Mirror Tells a Joke”.

Where are Jim and Joe these days? Still making music? Did they record more songs under Watercolor Paintings? Did they play gigs? I feel akin to the Northeast area of the US since I moved. I’m very curious of what was happening around back in the day. For further reading I found this small piece on Connecticut’s bedroom pop scene.

Be back next week.


Watercolor Sunset – The Mirror Tells a Joke