Introducing Interview: Mexican Radio

With their third album due out later this month, Berlin-based Mexican Radio pride themselves on their visceral energy and quirky unique, ‘uniformed’ style.

Complete with pumping beats and glitchy electro hooks, latest single ‘Night Of The Nihilist’ is an intense, energy-fuelled synth-punk anthem with shades of the likes of LCD Soundsystem.

We caught up with Dyan from the band to find out more…

Hi Dyan, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about the band?
Hello Get In Her Ears! We of Mexican Radio are a synth punk trio out of Berlin. We wear uniforms at all times, limit ourselves to our setup of synths, vocals and drums (no stringed instruments), and pride ourselves on our high-energy music and performances. We celebrate our weirdness and want to connect with others who do the same.

How did you initially all get together and start creating music?
Nathaniel (lead vocals/synths/effects) and I moved over to Germany from California with our old band The Blood Arm in 2011. Hannes (drums/vocals), originally from Berlin, was playing with his band The Mokkers and we all met through the rock scene here in around 2016. Nathaniel and Hannes are obsessed with The Fall. They formed a German-language Fall cover band (Der Sturz, German for “The Fall”) and roped me into playing keys with them. It was mostly just for fun, but we played a few wild shows. The guitarist and bass player of Der Sturz had other projects on the go, so after a couple of months they decided to move on. Hannes, Nathaniel and I looked at each other and asked, “can we keep going?”. We had learned so much from playing The Fall’s unique brand of intensely repetitive music with powerful vocals and bizarre lyrics, we wondered what would happen if we took that inspiration and tried making something of our own. And so, out of the ashes of Der Sturz, Mexican Radio was born.

Your new single ‘Night of the Nihilist’ is out – can you tell us what it’s all about? Are there any themes running throughout the track?
The song was inspired by the Russian nihilist movement from the 1860s and makes reference to the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. The narrator of the song also takes influence from the nihilist character Bazarov from Ivan Turgenev’s novel Fathers and Sons. The song is about rejecting everything, wreaking righteous havoc and still managing to have a good time in the process. Out of all our songs, this one is the most closely tied to techno music. Berlin is world-renowned for its club scene, and this is the closest we’ll probably get to it. Anyone who has been to a club here has seen a special kind of reckless abandon that can only come when people completely let themselves go in an environment with almost no limitations – so referencing this musical style when singing about hedonism, chaos and destroying everything seems to make sense. There’s also a conspiratorial vibe to the song – it’s almost like a manifesto written behind closed doors by people who are eager to unleash their “holy hate” on the world outside as soon as the sun comes up, once they’ve finished dancing the night away.

 

You’ve been compared to the likes of The Fall and Chicks On Speed, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Well, since we started as a German-language Fall cover band, I would consider us to be fairly high-level Fall obsessives. Mark E. Smith and crew have definitely been a big influence on us – in fact, we went on a band field trip to what ended up being the last ever Fall show in Berlin, and Hannes and Nathaniel ran on stage to kiss Mark E. Smith on either side of his face, I suppose in an attempt to absorb some of his magic. I was meant to photograph the incident, but in my excitement the picture ended up being very blurry (which the boys have not let me forget since!), but I think there is some video of it online somewhere. Other than that, we take a lot of inspiration from Neue Deutsche Welle bands and bands from Berlin in particular. When Nathaniel and I first moved here nine years ago, I was eager to follow in the footsteps of other musicians who have come here to find inspiration – David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, etc. However, in the last few years, I’ve been discovering more and more of Berlin’s homegrown musical history. Bands like Malaria!, Ideal and of course Einstürzende Neubauten came out of 1980s West Berlin, and have been hugely influential for us as a band. 

How is your local music scene? Do you go to see lots of live music?
Berlin is primarily known as a techno city, but there are actually a lot of very exciting punk and rock bands playing around town. The city has a tradition of fostering innovative music – punk and rock venues like SO36, Kirche von Unten, and Schokoladen give space to all kinds of emerging talent. The city’s countercultural DIY aesthetic encourages everyone to work together and get involved in each others’ projects – the goal is not commercial, but rather to create something interesting and inspiring.We’re also very eager consumers of new music – so much so that we host a monthly radio show on KCRW Berlin called The Mexican Radio Radio Show, on which we play our favourite bands, old and new, and feature interviews with musicians we think are cool. We go to a lot of shows to find new bands and to interview people on tour – we’ve had Ian Svenonius, Surfbort, Alex Kapranos/Franz Ferdinand, IDLES, Ezra Furman and many other cool musicians on the show so far, with future episodes featuring Amyl and the Sniffers, Death Valley Girls, John Dwyer/Thee Oh Sees, Stereo Total and more exciting guests!

And what can fans expect from your live shows?
Our shows are like a psychotic radio broadcast from another planet – I am the hostess of the show, and I try to run a tight ship that relentlessly charges through until we hit the last notes. We wear uniforms at all times (the stage uniform is a red jumpsuit with a white lightning bolt emblazoned on it, and we have separate uniforms for offstage). We are a gang, and want to inspire the audience to join us.

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any new/upcoming bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
Nathaniel just sent me the new Dry Cleaning EP Sweet Princess this morning, and I loved it. There is a very cool modern Anne Clark vibe to them, and they wrote the only post-punk song about Meghan Markle that I am aware of, which makes them great in my book!

And how do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
Yes and no. Obviously the internet allows everyone to put their music out there, it’s just a question as to whether anyone will listen to it. Streaming platforms are getting more and more sophisticated about connecting listeners with new music they might like, so hopefully that will allow the little guys to get a bit more exposure than they may have in the past. Ultimately though, you just have to play a lot of shows and go to a lot of shows if you want people to hear your music and meet people who might be able to help you get a foot in the door. It’s all about hard work, diplomacy, stealth and charm!

Finally, what does the rest of 2019 have in store for Mexican Radio?
Our album Destruction / Reconstruction comes out on 20th September, so we’ll be working hard to promote that with press and as many shows as we can play. We’d like to play outside of Germany and make it over the UK either this year or the beginning of next year, and in addition to producing The Mexican Radio Radio Show, we plan to start writing the next record. Our first album Mexican Radio (2018) was our white album, Destruction / Reconstruction is our red album, so now it’s time to write the black one to complete the trilogy.

Massive thanks to Dyan from Mexican Radio for answering our questions! 

Destruction / Reconstruction, the upcoming album from Mexican Radio, is out 20th September via R.I.P. Ben Lee Records.