When asked the question: “how many Puerto Rican musicians can you name?“, the immediate thought for Europeans is “where exactly is Puerto Rico again?” along with a vision of a geographically-guessing vision of the most oceanic parts of a map. For those wishing to be culturally richer, Puerto Rico is located in the Carribbean, just east of Dominican Republic. Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, it remained a Spanish colony until 1897 where it became American territory following the Spanish-American War. With a population of 3.5 million, Raquel Berrios and Luis Alfredo Del Valle could finally put Puerto Rico on the music map as eclectic Neo-Carribbean duo Buscabulla.
Despite, most Puerto Ricans possessing the bilingual ability to speak both Spanish and English, recent referendum showed that 60% of its residents want statehood independency, so it’s not a surprise that honeyed Iisa-Pykari-like vocalist Raquel Berrios performs all of the four songs on their debut EP via French culture brand Kitsuné in Español. We had the chance to interview Raquel Berrios from the New York-based group about their formation, the lucky encounter that led to Dev Hynes (Lightspeed Champion, Blood Orange) producing their EP, their support for a transsexual documentary and the evolution of Puerto Rican music.
How did you two meet and what are your backgrounds in music?
We met in New York in 2011. Luis is a multi-instrumentalist and had played in a few bands back in PR. I was a deejay and record collector.
Buscabulla is Spanish for troublemaker, why does that name apply to your music?
It’s a quirky Puerto Rican slang word. But if you break it apart it can be a good thing or a bad thing, like The Upsetters.
Your music is very original and diverse throughout your EP. How would you describe it and what instruments are involved in the music process?
We like to call it Caribbean music of the future. We combine both analog and digital sounds: live bass, guitar and drums with samples and synths.
Is it a different set up when you perform live?
In a way I guess, we program some backing tracks and things are triggered in a certain way when we play live. But drums, guitar and bass are pretty much the same.
Which musicians from the past have inspired your musical creativity?
Many: Charly Garcia, Roberto Roena, Marvin Gaye, Todd Rundgren, Willie Colon, Mecano… the list goes on and on.
Am I right in saying Dev Hynes produced your EP. How did you get involved with him and does he speak Spanish? What was it like working for him?
Yes, we got to work with Dev through a crazy contest. It was one of those few weird lucky moments you get in life I guess, we produced it with him and he also plays guitar on most songs. No, he does not speak Spanish, ha ha. He was pretty down to earth and a great mentor.
Where are you based? In Puerto Rico or Brooklyn? and are planning to visit the UK for any gigs or promotion?
We are now based in Ridgewood, NY. Although we go to Puerto Rico a lot for shows and visit family. We would love to go to the UK, perhaps with this second EP.
You released your EP via French label Kitsune last year. They are known for helping new acts reach the potential, how did Kitsuné find you?
One of the execs that worked on the contest event showed our EP it to Gildas at Kitsuné and he loved it.
How successful has the EP been and what countries are taking the most interest in you?
I guess at this point its hard to measure that success, but it has gotten great reviews and we get really good feedback. We feel like our fan base is growing steadily. I feel like Mexico, Chile and Puerto Rico are places where people are pretty excited about us.
Considering your Facebook updates are in both English and Spanish? Are you planning to release songs in English or stick with the Spanish language authenticity?
I am not sure, singing in Spanish is what makes me passionate right now, it sets our music apart I think.
How did “Métele” become the soundtrack to a documentary Mala Mala’ about transsexual struggle in Puerto Rico?
One of the directors is a good friend of mine and he invited us to participate in the soundtrack. We were very excited, this film is a such a candid and raw portrait of our Island.
You also managed to get your song “Temporal” used in the soundtrack for a Stella McCartney catwalk. Where was the catwalk and how did they ask you? do you have a big interest in fashion and will it become heavily involved within your music?
The Stella peeps just went directly to Kitsuné to ask for it, we were stoked. I like clothes and design, but fashion can be too complicated of a world for me I think.
Your EP cover is an interesting collage of 2 images that appears like an animal has scratched through it? Did you design it yourself?
I directed it, it was a collaboration between two friends, photographer Izamar Silva and artist Radames “Juni” Figueroa.
When do you plan to release your debut album and will it include the songs from the EP?
We don’t know yet. We are working on a second EP which we plan to release sometime this year.
Has Puerto Rican music evolved much in the last 20 years? What is your perspective on this?
Well it has definitively evolved, we went from salsa to reggaeton in like 20 years. But now there is a big indie scene there, the internet has made everybody more educated and diverse. So peeps are experimenting and some very interesting things are brewing.
What other Puerto Rican musicians or friends can you recommend to us?
Bands: Fantasmes, Jean Nada, Bairoa, Mima, Orquesta del Macabeo etc…
Purchase Buscabulla’s self-titled EP on iTunes here.
Interview by Matt Hobbs