El Pueblo plays this Sunday at Rehab, but we got a piece of them first. Founding member Robert Julian and latest addition Chino Sing share a few random facts via email from their respective homes (Sing keeps it West Coast, while Julian sticks to the Bronx) and give us a deeper look inside their Dominican influenced roots/reggae music. Julian, who also plays with Caribbean rock band La Sovietka, began El Pueblo when he was just a college kid in Boston. He and friend Lucas Leto infused roots, reggae, jazz, Latin and dub into their effort while studying at Berklee College of Music in 2004. The result? Earnest ballad-like lyrics to beats you can’t help but groove to, and something they wish more New Yorkers were listening to.
Name: Chino Sing and Robert Julian
Roots: Both Dominican Republic
Where do you live now? Chino: Thousand Oaks, California (L.A. suburb) Rob: Bronx, New York
Where are you answering these questions from? Home
Day Job: Chino: Advertising/Producer
Where were you and what were you doing 5 years ago? In college (UNAPEC, Dominican Republic)
Current obsessions/addictions: Music and arts in general.
Recent musical discovery: Salif Keita
Best recent meal: Anything BBQ’ed or grilled
Movie that best represents your life: Into The Wild
Last book you read: The Kebra Negast
Do you have any tattoos? If so, explain them.
Chino: I have a wrist tattoo with an Ohm (which is the Global Cumulus of Energy – God) wrapped around Maori courage symbols that these Hawaiian aborigines use to get for war.
Where would we find you on a Saturday afternoon?
Chino: Chillin’ at home, watching a movie, or hanging out with my friends.
Heroes (besides your parents)?
Chino: Che Guevara, Francisco Alberto Camaño, Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, Mahatma Ghandi, Bob Marley, George Jackson, Malcom X.
When did you start doing making music? Why?
Chino: I started music lessons at a very early age. I wrote my first song when I was 12 years old.
Robert: I started studying guitar at 13 in the Dominican Republic. I actually don’t know why – it was just something I somehow had to do, and never really questioned it.
What current projects are you working on?
Chino: I’m currently working on my debut album with my solo project called Márohu, which is a combination of music and visual arts. I’m also working with El Pueblo on some show dates and new music.
Robert: I play with La Sovietika, a “Caribbean Dance Rock” band, and I am also a film scorer.
Biggest challenges? Chino: Being a musician for the love of it and not the love of money.
Robert: Finding Latinos in NYC that are into roots/reggae.
Plans for the future? Chino: Keep on making music, and going where it takes me. You can’t plan the future, or control it.
Robert: Playing and writing more music.
Which song from your album do you feel is the most significant and describes you the most as a group and why?
Chino: I think “Sol y Luna” is my favorite track. The mellow sounds and power of true love depicted in the lyrics describes the way I approach life, or try to.
Robert: “Sol Y Luna” is a great example indeed but I also really love what Chino did with the song “Dime Morena.” It really captures the roots quality that we dig in reggae music.
What is/are the main similarities between La Sovietika and El Pueblo?
Chino: I believe the Caribbean influences and precedence shows in the music of both bands. We do have a certain spice that only Caribbean musicians have.
Robert: Chino pretty much said it – it’s a Caribbean thing. Whether you speak English or Spanish, that Caribbean connection is there. We all share the same history.
Is there anything we missed that would give the public a better understanding of the group and the music you make?
Chino: We try to keep things positive, although sometimes we have to address situations that need to be told and shown out there. Opening eyes, ears and hearts, that’s our mission.
Robert: Just want to give a shout-out to my boy Lucas Leto. We started this band together and we are always proud of seeing this band grow with new musicians and new music.