Ceci Bastida Interview: "You Need To Feel Free"
Tijuana might be better known right now for its crooked cops and affordable prescription drugs, but Ceci Bastida has been sounding off for the border city's next generation since she was a feisty 15 year-old fronting politically-minded Mexican ska band Tijuana No! (famous for their cover of the Clash's "Spanish Bombs"). After dropping out of the scene to teach history at a TJ middle school, and then returning to music as keyboardist for friend and Tijuana No! co-founder Julieta Venegas, Bastida finally moved to L.A. and broke away from las bandas in 2008 in order to record her growing cache of electronic-infused Spanish-language post-punk songs (after her debut solo performance at SXSW in 2007, KCRW basically put "Ya Me Voy" on repeat).
Her first solo record, Veo La Marea ("I See The Tide," released independently in the U.S. last week after previous release in Mexico on EMI) is an aggressive mix of emotional honesty and socio-political advocacy, entrenched in both Anglo and Mexican sounds without alienating either. The culture-straddling work features cameos from American artists such as Diplo and Tim Armstrong (on a bi-lingual Go-Go's cover, no less) as well as Mexican rapper Niña Dioz, proving that when worlds collide, it's not always chaos.
The spunky fireball of future music answers some questions via email after looking thankfully out-of-place on the red carpet at the Latin Grammy Awards ceremony in Las Vegas, where her track "Cuando Vuelvas A Caer" was nominated for Best Alternative Song.
This is your first solo album, yet it oozes with confidence. How did you find your own voice so quickly?
I had a decent idea of what I wanted for this album and since I worked on the record over a period of two years, I had time to listen to the songs many times and was able to change whatever I wasn't completely happy with. I do think that during that time I learned a lot about myself and allowed myself to make mistakes. That freedom helped me try out things that I would've probably not tried if I continued to be such a control freak. I think in the end that's exactly what you need to feel--you need to feel free.
Until a few years ago you had only performed as part of a band. How do you feel you have distanced yourself from past projects?
I think it helped when I left Mexico. It was a good thing for me to meet other people and see how we could work together. The people that I ended up working with had nothing to do with the bands I had played with in the past and knew nothing about them either. I also knew that I didn't wanna sound like I did when I was a teenager playing with Tijuana No!. So much time has passed since then that my musical interests have obviously changed. While playing in Julieta's band, I learned a lot--but I also knew that as much as I love her music, it was her music and I was ready to make my own.
You mix a lot of biographical songs with politically-charged songs. How do they connect?
They way I write politically-charged songs now is very different than how I did when I played with Tijuana No!. A lot of the times I try to tell a story sometimes in the first person. I write about things that affect me as a human being--it's hard for me to ignore what is happening in my country for example. I feel saddened by the increasing violence in Mexico and when I talk about it, I do it from my point of view. I also talk about immigrants and the struggles that I see them go through. This has been always important to me because I come from a city where the border is very present. I grew up watching people try to cross that border every single day and in a way it becomes part of who you are.