Back in February 2008 I spend two weeks under the warmth of the Peruvian summer. The humidity and the lack of a/c, that I’m so used by now, was painful to the point of having sleeping problems. It was a good time nonetheless. Those were the days when Plastilina Records was becoming a party of two, instead of four. It wasn’t a harsh break-up, I think our friends Jose and Sete had their own good reasons to leave and Jalito and me thought it made more sense to run the label just the two of us. We could be more productive that way. This brought a breeze of fresh air to both of us to keep the label afloat first, and make it a well known indiepop label. A respected label. We had (and still have) a big debt with our home country though. Our main mission since the start was to be able to create and support an indiepop scene in Lima. We figured out that by having some bands under umbrella we could be able to do this, by organizing gigs, releasing their records, doing merch, and well, the list can go forever. You get the point. We wanted followers in Lima, not just in UK or Japan.
During these early days of 2008 there was a buzz in town about a band of 4 girls called Las Doñas. I remember being at Jose’s house while some football game was on with the volume turned off. The boombox was playing. “I’m going to show you something you are going to like” he said. He grabbed a CD called “No Hit Wonder”, a compilation of Peruvian bands that came along with a magazine called Freak Out!, and swapped it in the boombox player for the Stone Roses CD that was playing. He skipped all songs, all the way to number 08. Suddenly a band that sounded like a very rough version of Los Fresones Rebeldes was playing. La-la-las, wo-oh-ohs, and poppy guitars. This was a true discovery.
I should attribute the discovery to Iván, the guy that was behind Internerds Records who released this CD compilation. He loved Spanish indiepop lots, especially Family and early Mirafiori, but also late 90s American bands like Holiday, which was his favourite. He even made some nice instrumental songs himself, in the vein of Daily Planet, under the name Callahan. But Las Doñas had already made an splash before this underground discovery, they played at a rock contest in 2007. This contest is called Rock in Bembos and happens every year as far as I know. Bembos is a Peruvian hamburger chain that is quite popular, more than McDonalds or Burger King even, that because they have tastier hamburgers, they serve Inca Kola and have yellow hot pepper sauce! And I believe they have stores in many countries, even in India. Anyhow, they organize these rock contests were bands from different high schools are allowed to participate. I remember when I was growing up in Lima and enjoying the juicy hamburgers, that the paper tray liners in Bembos, around November or so, would have photographs and names of the bands that were going to the finals of the contest. I always thought it was a great initiative.
Las Doñas didn’t win this contest sadly. But it was the start of a very short run playing in many bars around the bohemian district of Barranco in the coming year. It was actually in one of these bars, the Bernabé, that I catch them live once, just a couple of days after Jose showed me their song. I was convinced that they could be the force that would inspire more kids to start indiepop bands and finally have some sort of scene in Lima. The song had great lyrics and an unusual charm. And you could tell they had great influences. Of course, the production wasn’t the best, but I was already thinking ahead, and thinking this would sound glorious with proper production. So I told my partner Jalito, let’s go to the gig, and sign them. Just like that. We come in, we see them, if they are any good, we sign them to Plastilina. He grinned and agreed.
Upon arriving to this small bar/venue, we found out that the summer heat was going to kill us. There were a couple of fans, but the body-heat of the packed venue was going to be way more powerful than them. We ordered some Pilsen Callao beers. The tall ones. And sat down for a bit until the gig started. We didn’t have a clue on how the girls looked, so we had to wait after the gig to talk to them. The gig was heroically shambling, everything was like falling apart, but they managed to charm everyone with a great attitude. I wasn’t wrong about their love for Los Fresones Rebeldes as they dared to cover, and with success, their indiepop anthem “Al Amanecer”. It was shocking to say the least. And the crowd, they knew the songs, they sang along!
After the gig was over, we approached them, all the way to the room that was acting as a backstage, where guitars and cases were scattered all around and you had to be careful not to step on them. I stopped the lead singer Susana on her way out, “hey, I’m from Plastilina Records, do you have a minute?”. It was the first time I’ve done that. It kind of felt good, like, you know, a proper label. That you go to gigs and sign bands instead of finding them online. Suddenly the rest of the girls swarmed around and we had a chat. I remember we offered them to release an EP, 5 songs. We would pay for the recordings even. We really believed them. We trusted that they could spearhead a new scene. They said “yes!”. That they would record some demos for new songs in the upcoming months, and then we would choose the best and try to find some time for recording the EP. We had time and patience, so why not.
Sadly time passed and things never came around. We had too big expectations perhaps, and didn’t consider that the band would surrender to the lack of support to an indiepop band in Lima. They did record some songs before breaking up like “La Vaca” or “Penelope Cruz”, but still without the production we hoped for. Nowadays the girls have a rock and roll band that I can’t recommend listening to. Whatever happened to their joy, to the innocence of their songs? It all went down the drain somehow. I always longed to see an indiepop band tagged Peru in Twee.net. I thought this one would be it, that we would make it happen with Plastilina. It didn’t happen. We had some shots before, but never as close as this one. We even introduced ourselves as serious indiepop entrepreneurs at their gig, right? I thought this was our chance to fulfill our Peruvian mission. But they lost hope in guitar pop somehow and by consequence I lost hope in Peruvian indiepop.
Las Doñas – Aeorosol (demo)