Mexicans love Morrissey, so much so that some of the most popular contemporary Mexican artists are paying tribute to the English icon with a super group covering his biggest hits — in Spanish and with mariachi, cumbia and danzón arrangements.
Camilo Lara, the multi-instrumentalist best known as the leader of electronic act Mexican Institute of Sound has assembled an all-star cast including Jay de La Cueva (Moderatto, Fobio, Titán), Ceci Bastida (Tijuana No!), Sergio Mendoza (Orkesta Mendoza/Calexico), Chetes (Zurdok) and Alejandro Flores (Café Tacvba) to re-imagine the '80s and '90s classic songs from Morrissey’s solo years as well as his most popular songs as frontman of The Smiths.
The band is called — what else — Mexrrissey, and they just wrapped a successful 6-date tour in the UK. This Sunday, May 10, Mexrrissey is hitting New York City’s Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and, on May 11, Los Angeles’ Regent Theater, which is basically Mexican territory.
We spoke to the lady of the band, Ceci Bastida, about how this passion project became a touring reality. And, really, why are Mexicans in particular so obsessed with the emo Englishman crooner?
Fusion: How did the idea for a Mexican Morrissey band come about?
Ceci Bastida: Camilo [Lara] called me around November he told me he was putting together this band, and whenever Camilo asks you to say something you say yes.
Camilo and Sergio [Mendoza] started working on a demo, I went to Mexico City and we started rehearsing and did a show to try it out there in early March.
Fusion: How was the process of translating the songs into Spanish?
Ceci Bastida: Most of the translating was done by Camilo and Sergio, and they chose the songs. It was my idea to do “The Last of the International Playboys” switching it to “playgirl” instead!
Fusion: Growing up in Tijuana, were you a huge Morrissey fan?
Ceci Bastida: I grew up in Tijuana listening to a radio station in San Diego. My friends and I would listen to Bauhaus, The Clash, The Ramones, Bob Marley. It wasn’t a weird thing to listen to The Smiths. It was easier back then to cross the border so I would go to shows in San Diego a lot. That gave people, especially musicians in Tijuana, really good influences.
More than Morrissey fan, when I was really young I was a huge Smiths fan. I had almost all of their albums. In a way it was easy [to do this project] because I knew the melodies, a few of people in the band weren’t as massive fans as I was.
Fusion: So what’s your take? Why are Mexicans so obsessed with Moz?
Ceci Bastida: It’s true that we tend to like drama, we do! The way he sings, it feels familiar to us…like Juan Gabriel, it’s all about hurting, and suffering. A longing… I can’t really say what it is, it’s just super melodramatic.
Fusion: How did the shows in the UK go?
Ceci Bastida: We weren’t expecting it to go this well. The response was completely unexpected. All the shows were super well attended: people were dancing! A lot of them just loved the Smiths and they just wanted to see what we were doing.
Morrissey is from Manchester and that was our last city. It was intense, like a club. We relaxed towards the last show and had an extra drink, so we were having a really good time. [Laughs]
Fusion: Why did you guys choose to wear mariachi pants onstage? Isn’t that playing on stereotypes?
Ceci Bastida: I have to blame Camilo for this one. He brought it up and I was like “Really? OK, sure!”
So we went to Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City and got them tailored. Camilo brought them to London and we were hoping they would fit!
Fusion: What about the sombreros the band is wearing on stage floating around Instagram and Youtube?
Ceci Bastida: The sombreros came from the audience. People would come with sombreros and ponchos to the shows. But it was a way for them to show their love, it was very respectful.
When people aren’t as familiar with Mexican culture that’s what pops up to them. It was funny.
Fusion: Does Morrissey have any idea there’s a Mexrrissey tribute band touring right now?
Ceci Bastida: I think he knows… Andy [Wood, the London-based promoter] was telling us that he put something up on his website. He’s definitely aware… Ok, I have no idea if he knows.
Nuria Net is a founding editor at Fusion and now Social Storytelling Editor working on our Snapchat Discover channel. Co-founder, former editor-in-chief of Remezcla.com. Net is her real last name; Lechuga is her DJ name.