A couple of days ago Yago, one of the nice guys that took care of my merch during Madrid Popfest, asked me about Velasco, an almost forgotten band from Spain. He had seen a blog post, dating July 2009, were Adrià, one of Papa Topo’s half, was raving about this obscure duo. On that same post Adrià mentions my name, alongside Felipe Fresón’s…
It might be one of the few times were my name is going to be written next to one of my indiepop heroes; it seems both me and him shared the second demo CD-R with Papa Topo’s black rimmed glasses frontman, and he was thanking both of us. Yago, smartly assumed that there is only one Roque involved in what we call indiepop, and got in touch with me. He did his detective job. Now it’s my time to try to solve this mystery.
Back in 2004 I was already dreaming of starting a label. Those were days of indiepop discovery for me but my ties were still closer to the Peruvian music scene than to the indiepop community. My connections to the worldwide indiepop community revolved to the few friends I knew on the Twee Folks and the Viajeros Polares channel on soulseek. Those were rather uneventful days too. I was living in San Antonio, Texas, a place not known for their great indie acts but for some iconic landmark called The Alamo, which is such a disappointment when you finally see it. It’s tiny. And looks like any other catholic church in the Peruvian highlands. I skipped classes often, I wasn’t motivated, and in the end, the exams were pretty easy for me to get straight As. If this was literature, then I didn’t need to go to classes, really, I thought. And I had a writer’s block. And of course, my grammar was never something to be proud of. But let’s say they were “literary licenses” I took. Anyhow, I was pretty involved in the Peruvian scene as I said, and I spent hours and hours chatting with bands and fans back in my home country.
There were a couple of indie magazines back in Lima. There was “Interzona”, “Freak Out” and “69″. The most popular was the latter, and not because of it’s terrible name. They had evolved from a prior magazine, one called “Caleta” that had reached cult status among the music fans in Lima. Music fans that spent their hours in the seedy stores of the Galerías Brasil mall in the Breña district. Small stores that specialized in different genres, stores that had the latest bootlegs, CD-Rs of Elefant Records releases, and overpriced vinyl records. In this same mall you could find fanzine stores, emo clothing stores, and even porn dvd stores. On the first floor there were stores where you could rent a Playstation and play some Pro Evolution Soccer against other people. I miss doing that, especially in those days when PES was such a great game and it didn’t try to resemble to the FIFA titles. Also you could find a small cafe with cheese and ham sandwiches and Inca Kola, print shops and also some electronic stores. I read this week that this mall was closed by the city not so long ago.
So the “69″ magazine. People who wrote in that magazine were snobbish, and didn’t have the best taste I’d say. Third world country taste, you know. But the editor, Percy, had better taste than the rest of the writers. He was a big fan of La Buena Vida I remember. And also he loved All Girl Summer Fun Band. We chatted quite a bit on soulseek and exchanged emails during that 2004. By then I had already started my blog Mira El Péndulo that turned out to be quite successful among Spanish speakers. It astonishes me that people still remember it. Just a few weeks ago in Spain, during the Popfest, there were some guys that were really excited to meet me, not because of the labels, but because of that damned blog. How can you explain that? Many of them told me they had bought the C-06 tape. I’m so flattered.
The “69″ had already released a CD compilation with Peruvian bands and it turn out to be the best selling issue in their short life. So I had no better idea than to pitch Percy an international indiepop compilation. I didn’t want anything in exchange, I would contact the bands and put together the compilation. Ok, I did ask for some complimentary copies, but that was it. I didn’t have money to start my own label then, but I thought that it would be a rewarding experience, to showcase some international bands in my home country. The “69″ would have to fund the CD pressing, which back then was dirty cheap in Peru, and I would get all the songs for a very fine record. On top of that I was asked to write an article for the magazine. That was my first published piece, and it wasn’t very good. I had to explain what indiepop is and how much of a worldwide phenomenon it was.
I titled the CD “Es Pop Mamá”, nodding to the great Christina y los Neumáticos song that was later covered by the so amazing TCR (with Felipe Fresón on guitars). Some “bigger” names included on the CD were those of Tullycraft or Pale Sunday to name a few. Most of the bands were from Latin America though, but there were a couple from Spain as well. And Velasco was one of those Spanish bands included.
I didn’t know much about them back then. I remember listening to their two demo CD-Rs and loving them. Actually, not listening them from the actual CD-Rs, but from MP3s. A shame that I never managed to get proper copies of their demos. I should have asked back then. But I wasn’t that indie savvy when 20 years old. The first demo included the songs: “Recuerdas” (You Remember), “Estar Contigo” (Be With You), and “Agosto” (August). It was recorded on the summer of 2002 and the artwork is really nice, with a floral design. The second demo, titled Bijou (French for jewel), included the songs “El Viento” (The Wind), “Tú” (You), “Velasco”, “En Mi Ciudad” (In My City) and “La Luna” (The Moon). The artwork for this second demo is a just married couple. The couple seems familiar but I can’t pinpoint who they are. Any clues? The song I finally included in “Es Pop Mamá” was “En Mi Ciudad”. A pretty and naive song.
Velasco (also Belasco or Belasko) is a Spanish family name and masculine first name derived from the Basque bel- meaning ‘raven’ or ‘crow’ and the diminutive suffix -sco.
The last name Velasco is associated with an evil dictator in Peru. The only left-wing dictator in South America during the 70s. He ruled from 1968 to 1975 and screwed the country, taking the country through dark times. Music-wise, Peru, famous for it’s 60′s garage legacy with Los Saicos, Los Yorks, Los Shains and more, went into a halt. Everything that was somehow “American”, which of course includes rock, pop or garage, was not supported or approved by the dictatorship. The exciting music scene from those years died silently. I guess the only good thing from that period was winning the Copa America with Cubillas and Sotil for the 2nd time, something our Chilean brothers who think so highly of themselves still haven’t been able to achieve.
My emails with Velasco are long lost to my hacked email account. I can’t recall them clearly, but a safe guess was that they were short and sweet. We must have agreed on a song and that was it. I remember that I emailed with Maite, who was the vocalist in Velasco. The only other member was Paco, who played guitars. Where they a couple? Could be. I believe this appearance on the compilation was their only proper “release” aside from their demos. I don’t think they appeared in any other record. A real shame if you happen to listen to their sweet songs. You wonder if they were too early or too late, 2004 wasn’t really a good year for indiepop. Not many things were happening there. No such thing as Popfests back then.
That is all that I remember about this cute and small band. I don’t remember where they were based in Spain? I want to say Valencia, but I would probably be wrong. And what happened to Paco and Maite? Did they stop playing music? It’s hard to believe. I wonder if they made more songs. Where are they now? If they ever played live?
Velasco – En mi Ciudad