Ozomatli is partnering with an unlikely band to unite the country…
The Latin rock band is uniting with Squirrel Nut Zippers to rage against the machine, in their own distinctive ways, when they tour together this spring.
The two groups will play six United Together Tour dates starting March 28 in Tucson, Arizona, with more shows to be announced. They figure that the example of an idiosyncratic Americana group from Mississippi joining forces with an outspoken troupe of Latin American descent from Los Angeles will be a blow against the separatist agenda they feel is being forwarded by President Donald Trump and his administration.
“The conversation about this started in the political season leading up to the election, so I think that’ll play a big part in this,” SNZ frontman and leader Jimbo Mathus tells Billboard. “The Zippers love satire, black humor, parody. Ozo’s been more straightforward in their political thing, but I can almost certainly say that we stand politically together and socially together in bringing people together, bringing cultures together and hopefully spreading a positive energy and positive energy of unity, togetherness, music and joy. I think we can do something really positive, and really fun, and we just have to activate that creative force and then see how the audience responds to our combined message.”
Ozomatli’s Poree adds that, “We definitely come from two different worlds, but what we’ve always tried to do through music is bring people together. I’m sure (SNZ) are trying to do the same thing. I think putting us together really makes a statement.”
In addition to the concerts, the two groups have committed to recording at least one song together. Mathus has sent Ozomatli three pieces he’s working on for the new SNZ album — the group’s first since 2000 — and he’s already written a take-off on W.C. Handy‘s “Crump Blues” (aka “Memphis Blues“) called “Trump Blues.”
“I’d like to do a real fun, subversive piece together,” Mathus says. “I think that would suit us both.” Poree, meanwhile, is looking forward to the challenge of melding the two group’s disparate styles.
“I said, ‘Where’s the common ground between the two bands? Where do we kind of meet each other?'” Poree explains. “I was thinking bout their kind of vaudeville, big band, almost like 30s kind of style and our Latin influence, Perez Prado. That’s the common ground, where we can meet in the middle, kind of like a mambo, Perez Prado 40s kind of huge sound, update it a little. Lou Bega did something like that with ‘Mambo No. 5,’ so reviving that sound. I think it’d work if we commit ourselves to it.”
Mathus says the SNZ album, which the group has been working on in New Orleans, is nearly finished, and the band will sandwich some dates of its own during April in between United Together shows.
Ozomatli, meanwhile, will release a new album — Non-Stop, Mexico > Jamaica — on May 5, featuring classic and contemporary Mexican songs done reggae and dancehall-style and produced by Sly & Robbie. Both groups expect to weave in and out of each other during the concerts, and Poree is confident that their political message will fall on receptive ears.
“Y’know, every administration, even the (Barack) Obama administration, does shit normal, everyday people that live in this country would not agree with, but Trump took it to such a level where everyday people can’t help but be like, ‘What the fuck is going on?!'” Poree says. “So it’s waking people up, and I think it’ll last, at least as long as Trump is in office. I was talking with my dad, even before Trump got elected, and he said, ‘Damn, this is like the 60s. The whole country is getting behind it. He was really happy about it, so I just hope it’s not a fad and people stick with it, ’cause that’s our only defense.”
Take a look at the first set of United Together Tour dates below.
Mar. 28 — Tucson @ Rialto
Mar. 29 — Tempe @ Marquee
Mar. 30 — Las Vegas @ House Of Blues
Apr. 19 — Ridgefield, CT @ Ridgefield Playhouse
Apr. 20 — Concord, NH @ Capitol Center For The Arts
Apr. 21 — Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel