Two psychology students, one journalism student and one attorney walk into a rock bar in Lima, Peru. They don’t have the backbone of money, the motivation of groupies or even an abundance of glossy photography and are restricted by family obligations, but they sure have a powerful spirit and a truckload of ideas that suggest they will be quitting their day time jobs sometime soon.
South Americans Red Route describe themselves as a “free band” that bring together four musicians from different musical backgrounds. Free of restraints and due to their unsigned position, currently free of record label pressure. Vocalist Dave Alvarado started off in blues rock band that succeeded in longevity but failed to record anything. He was introduced to guitarist John Deluque by a mutual friend, who enjoyed performing covers of classic hard rockers Whitesnake. Whilst the missing pieces was finally completed with drummer Carlos Vizcarra from the jazz and funk scene and bassist Gustavo Mego Diaz from a more conventional Latin American path known as Cumbia.
A compromise was born. Heard in numerical order on their stream on promotional platform Soundcloud, their erratic style is demonstrated and it exemplifies the notion of never judging a band from one song. That one song being the opener “Vidas“. It brings to mind many elements of The Foo Fighters: Grungy guitars, hard rock drums, shivering feedback and a forceful voice that calls for attention. Moments of shred guitar appear on the majority of their album, but on here, they display their dream of being in an arena with a flood of horn gestures. Hence Deluque’s Whitesnake end of the deal. Later in the album, “Cliche (Sexy Wild)” and “No Estoy Bien” are just as explosive and venture into the neighbourhood of Kiss and AC/DC.
Then suddenly, they transform into a funk rock outfit a kin to The Red Hot Chilli Peppers on “Vacio” and the rhythm and tempo of self-confessed influence Jamiroquai. When the environment turns jazzy, it’s clear that this track fits in Vizcarra and Diaz’s categories respectively. The majority of the album is sung predictably in Spanish but there are the occasional English-language call-outs that feel familiar, including the speech: “Don’t stop, fight for the rhythm!“, on “Vacio”, which not only states that they have the capability to perform in English but that they have a curious mind for international intention. It can also add a tiny ounce of accessibility for listeners, who might feel alienated by foreign language lyrics. It’s a very engaging track and also benefits from tremolo and flanging experimentation at the end, parading their scholarly approach.
“Desde El Espacio” translates as “from space” and its extraordinary environment purposefully sounds like its on another planet. A squishy flanging electronic effect and squeaky synths begin the track in extraterrestrial fashion and they remain there on the left side of the speaker like a monster attached a car window unable to be removed with wind-screen wipers. The track still has a rock edge but this addition of theme makes it one of their most intriguing tracks.
The bossa nova of “Valiente (Teenagers)” reminds us of their South American roots, “Decidido” points towards disco, the inclusion of electric organs and Hendrix-improvisation compliments the nostalgic blues-rock jamming on “Lo Que Pueda Salir” (Dave Alvarado’s origins) and the piano on their cover of The Beatles song “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” pictures them in an all-night bar where whisky is on the house. The original pro-creation meaning of the McCartney-written song adds to the cheeky atmosphere. Their own lyrics contain personal and social statements about “mass media in Latin America“. As Alvarado puts it, “(it) hide us from relevant information and we sell trash, talk about ecosystem problems and about the optimism of fight(ing) every day“.
As captivating and exciting as the instrumentation can be, vocals are usually the commander and chief of a song and unfortunately Dave Alvarado’s range is an acquired taste. Style wise, it is a mix of conventional rock yelling and a trying-too-hard emotive personality. It can sometimes sounds toneless and threatens to overshadow the brilliance and delicacy of the sophisticated delights. Even when he calms the volume down and attempts a smoother edge on “Lubipop” and “Valiente (Teenagers)” and melancholic balladry on “About You” and “Lo Que Pueda Salir”, it still suffers from uncontrollability and a strained method.
On a positive note, he attempts an experimental coating on his voice in the Funkadelic epic “Funck Off“, which he hums in an unusually ghostly nature. You can also view the rock flavour of his voice as being a genius decision by the band because it creates a unique fusion of metal with urban music that can be targeted at both demographics. The expansive possibilities market themselves. Thus proving that compromise can be wonderful thing.
If you like to hear all of their tracks, you can visit Red Route’s Soundcloud page here, and Dave Alvarado would like to add a plea to the record industry: “The entire album, singles and music videos that we have, we have done independently, if any record company is interested in our project, let us know to talk since I’m in bankruptcy“.
Words by Matt Hobbs