She’s kind of cheeky. Confident, but small sounding. Well mannered and polite, but very inviting into her dimensions. She straddles that Latin/Anglo line pleasantly and with command. With someone like Ceci Bastida, an arsenal of things come to mind: Tijuana, frontwoman, melodica extraordinaire, sassy, spanish bombs, Julieta Venegas, border crosser, LA, cute, one of the boys, Latin Grammys, seasoned…and then you trail off in thought. Because it’s not just one of these that encompass her, but rather, the whole cluster of modifiers. She suspended any and all assumptions one might have had about her when she released Veo la marea, her solo debut that rips and roars through, assertive and self aware, unlike most other solo debuts out there. She’s found a different world to her voice, creating an absurdly cohesive and hyper-fun album.
Now she’s revving up for her Latin Grammy fight, nominated for Best Alternative Song alongside Hello Seahorse!, Choc Quib Town, El Cuarteto de Nos, and Sig Ragga. When we caught up with her on the phone (the perils of bicoastal communication), she was practicing for her performance at Remezcla’s second annual Latin Grammys fiesta in Vegas (baby), sharing the bill with other female titans like La Mala Rodriguez, Ely Guerra, and more. We chatted about her beginnings, her middle, and her never-ending progress.
I was home. I got a call early in the morning and a friend of mine told me. It was very surprising, I’ve been doing this all pretty much myself. The album was released in Mexico through EMI but I’m not an EMI artist, it’s a licensing deal. I don’t have anybody behind me pushing my music, so I didn’t expect that at all.
What is the event like?
I went there with Julieta [Venegas]. We performed, so that was a lot of fun. For her to ask me to do it was an honor, especially because I wasn’t playing in her band anymore, I had left in the beginning of 2008. It was a great experience. I’m excited about the nomination so I think it’s going to be cool.
You started off in the industry when you were really young (you were 15 when you joined Tijuana NO!). Your teenage years seem to be marked by that, what was it like, being so young and active in the scene?
I think back then I was mainly focused on playing. I didn’t quite fit in with a lot of my classmates, so when I started playing with the band I found that there was a space where I could really enjoy music and just being myself. The whole possibility of recording an album, it was exciting because it was such a new experience and I’d never done it before, and this is before recording digitally. I didn’t really have expectations. I was never thinking ‘Oh, we’re going to sign to a big label!’ All I wanted to do was play and when you’re a teenager, you focus more on having fun than the whole business part of it.
I’ve never been to Tijuana (or Mexico for that matter). What was it like growing up there?
It has definitely changed, it was way more mellow. People were moving to TJ constantly and people were trying to cross the border. Driving around on a particular road, seeing people trying to cross the border, it’s part of who I am, that border that kept growing throughout the years, big musician community. But there were also these other things. One of the pros was that you could go to San Diego and see amazing shows, all these bands I loved I had access to. But then again, you’re living in a border, you see such a difference between San Diego and TJ.
“SEEING PEOPLE TRYING TO CROSS THAT BORDER,
IT’S PART OF WHO I AM.“
What’s home to you now? TJ or LA?
I stopped living in TJ a while back, at least 10 years. I lived in Mexico City for a couple of years. I think LA is my home now, I don’t have any plans to move.
Are you planning a US tour to support Veo la marea?
I don’t have a tour planned out. [The album] just came out in the US, I’m doing shows little by little. I have a few shows coming up in Mexico City and then in January I’m doing [KCRW’s] Morning Becomes Eclectic and then a show here in LA.
I read there are differences between the Mexico and US releases of Veo la marea. What are they?
There’s a song on the Mexican version called “Have you heard,” so for this US version I invited Rye Rye to record on it. I’m really happy she was able to be a part of it. Also, an extra song is a cover of a Go-Go’s song and I invited [Rancid’s] Tim Armstrong to sing on it.
I wrote it a few years back and I did one version of it that I wasn’t happy with. It didn’t sound like I wanted, so I kind of recorded it and left it. I was thinking I wasn’t going to put it in the album. I met Nina Dioz through MySpace, we both commented on each other’s music, and at that moment I was working on the track and I said ‘Hey, would you be interested?’ I had no clue what she was going to do and she said ‘cool’ and came up with something that I thought was great and it ended up being in the album. I really loved what she did. That song is not old, but I’ve had it for probably three years now, but it finally sounded like what I wanted it to sound. For some reason I wasn’t able to get there.
Most people know you for “Pobre de ti” or “Spanish Bombs.” Is there one song from your catalog in particular that you love singing?
I like “Spanish Bombs,” even though it’s not our song, but I really love doing it and the response from people.
Where did the title Veo la marea come from?
It’s two things: I grew up in TJ close to the beach and seeing that border, people coming and going, so it has to do with the movement of the water and also the movement of the people and trying to find a better life for themselves, wanting your life to change.
“I’D RATHER TALK ABOUT THE STUFF THAT
AFFECTS ME AS A HUMAN BEING.“
You’re definitely part of this sort of leading ladies crew in the Latin alt rock scene (with Julieta, Ely Guerra, Natalia Lafourcade, etc.). Sometimes women in this industry feel the need to fit a mold or a female niche. Do you think about gender when you create music or are you conscious about your role as a woman in this industry?
I don’t think about it at all. I started playing in a band with guys a long time ago and there was never a question of me being the girl in the band. They never made me feel special so I grew up thinking I was one of them. I do think women can have a different sensibility when writing music and I think there are a lot of women doing interesting stuff right now, whereas when I was starting off it was hard to see because there wasn’t the internet. Right now you’re able to find bands everywhere, men and women. Things have changed. No one’s ever made me feel like I’m a woman and because of that I have to do things a certain way or I don’t deserve certain things or I deserve more. I’ve always felt like an equal.
Female artists sometimes do specific kinds of solo debut albums (either super similar to their former bands or singer-songwritery love albums). You parted with older sounds and created a whole new Ceci aesthetic, something akin to who you are but still different.
Thank you, well I really wanted to be 100 percent happy with what I did, I didn’t want to put limits. For the first time I feel like I actually let go. With Tijuana NO! I was with a bunch of guys so we all had to compromise. So this time I felt like I could do exactly what I’ve been wanting to do and I have no one to tell me that I couldn’t, I just wanted to do as much experimenting as I could. I didn’t want something fluffy or light because the music that I tend to love is the one that moves me, so I wanted the music to be powerful and not make it a love album. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s never been my thing. I’d rather talk about the stuff that affects me as a human being.
You were part of the Lilith Fair, was that like one big sorority?
Actually, Lilith Fair apparently wasn’t doing so well so they canceled 10 dates, so the three that I was going to be a part of got canceled, so I ended up not doing it. That’s such an honor to be invited though so that makes me happy right there.
Who are the other Latin female artists you respect?
I love Rita Indiana. I think she’s doing really interesting, unique music. She’s my favorite right now. Natalia [Lafourcade] has been doing great stuff for a while. Julieta obviously. I’ve always liked La Mala Rodríguez.
Well she’ll be hosting our Latin Grammys party so you’ll get to hang with her.
Oh that’s right! So yeah there are plenty of women doing great stuff, but Rita Indiana is my top 5.
Speaking of, what can people expect from your performance at our party?
I think it’s going to be a really energetic show. We’re trying to do different setups so I’m bringing in DJ [Ethos] and this drummer who is amazing. It’s going to be high energy and a lot of fun.
Finally, you’ve worn so many musical faces (with Tijuano NO! and Julieta Venegas). Is Veo la marea the most Ceci Bastida music you’ve ever made?
Yes, definitely. I actually rerecorded the album because I finished what I thought was the complete album but I realized it wasn’t ready, so I wanted to start from scratch again. I wanted it to represent who I am and the result: I’m incredibly happy with it.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Vegas tonight, catch Remezcla’s second annual Mixtape Sessions at Beauty Bar, hosted by La Mala Rodriguez with performances by Ceci Bastida, Ely Guerra, and more!