Hello Balvanera and welcome to Brutal Resonance! You’re a newcomer on the site so we need some basic information. Who is in the band, what do they do, and give us three of your favorite albums of all time!
Agustina: Hi! First of all thanks for having us! I’m Agustina. I sing and write lyrics. I’m also an art historian. Favorite albums... is such a tough question! Impossible to narrow it down to three. I would just limit myself to name the first that come to mind that had a real impact on what I do: "End on End" by Rites of Spring, "Body and Soul" by Cabaret Voltaire, "Navigations Vol. 1" by Martial Canterel, "Apokalypsis" by Chelsea Wolfe, "Silencio" by Los Encargados. and "Debut y Despedida" by San Martín Vampire.
Lucas: I’m Lucas, and I write the music for Balvanera. I’m also a graphic designer. One of the first records that I first listened to was "Black Celebration" by Depeche Mode, one I’m currently listening to is "Happy Nation" by Ace of Base, and a record I feel should always be played at a party is "Rip it Up" by Dead or Alive.
Prior to Balvanera, you two were in the DIY hardcore and punk scenes. What prompted you to explore the EBM and synth side of music?
Agustina: Change. One grows older, moves, relationships end, and one no longer feels so attached to that type of music and plainly wants to explore more. We’ve always been interested in electronics. For some reason, electronic music feels like a continuation of punk to me. Like in the 80’s a lot of ex punks and industrial musicians were drawn to raving. In that sense I feel there’s a lot of similarities in the communal experience, ethics, DIY, etc. The raw and very rudimentary approach to electronics in terms of sound (when we started) definitely came from hardcore punk.
Lucas: At that time, after playing in several punk bands, I found it was complicated to make music as a group. I wanted to have a project in which I was the only one dealing with writing music. Plus I just wanted to learn more about electronic music. It’s easier not to carry so many instruments, allowing us to play anywhere.
I read that, prior to Balvanera, your local scene in Argentina was dry of electronic / EBM acts. So you decided to get the scene moving with Balvanera. How did that go? Did you manage to gain a reputation or get some others interested in the underground electronic movement?
Agustina: Dry is a bit harsh! There were a few acts when we started but I guess not really out there as a scene that would attract other people other than the goth/industrial niche that has always existed. We even had some EBM in the early 90s in Buenos Aires. Carlos Shaw, who did our mastering, was in a historical EBM act in BA, called Unidad de Transmisión. They’re a diamond. In the present, I think what’s great is that the audience has broadened a bit, and is very diverse. I believe some DJs (and I'd like to think so of ourselves) definitely helped shape and establish an underground party scene that is focused on darker sounds. And fortunately it’s very active nowadays.
Lucas: At first, we would play with DJs or bands that did not necessarily play the same style or genre. Eventually we realized that we liked to play at parties rather than gigs, where people go because of the dancing itself, making it easier to blend with us. Our music also changed towards that objective.
Right down to business then. As far as I can see, your first release dates back to 2016 with your self-titled EP “Balvanera”. When you started the project, what was your initial goal? Have you reached it or are you still reaching for it?
Agustina: I did not expect anything in particular. Coming from the punk scene I guess you know that the underground is underground and that feels right. Just to do music. I feel one is never really complete, so we are reaching for it, for sure.
Lucas: My goal was to learn how to make electronic music, make a record, and play it live. Objectives change for each record. On a more global sense, I guess my main interest is learning how to create better music/art.
Following the self-titled debut, you had two more releases. Those were 2018’s debut, full-length “Delusion / Desire” and the 2019 EP “Suspense”. As you moved forward, did you see a rise in interest in your music? Were your fans more fervent and growing?
Agustina: Sure, the scene got bigger and bigger so I presume that accounts for a rise in interest. And I would stress that this did not only happen in BA but also we get a lot of love from other countries as well. 2017 and 2018 were the global comeback years for EBM, right? It shows that more and more people are jumping on this boat, and luckily staying. Hehe. It’s not even been a week since the release and we’ve been getting a lot of messages regarding this last album, so we are excited about what's to come.
Lucas: I think so. Even though this past year was very hard. The connection with a live audience makes me aware of these types of things. Hopefully it gets better real soon to continue meeting new people.
2021 sees you releasing your new album “Courses of Action”. In the past five years or so of making music, what have you learned? Do you feel as if your sound has matured?
Agustina: I feel we actually learned how to make the music we want, haha. When we started I felt a bit more insecure from not knowing certain stuff. However, it was always a very intuitive process of learning and mastering our own skills. Now I really feel "Courses of Action" is more mature than anything we’ve done in the past. There’s less heartbreak, hehe, and it comes naturally this way. I’m always glad when things form organically and it’s not as if we are months planning each track to perfection. That’s what maturity feels like for me.
Lucas: I discovered there’s not one way to make music. You can manipulate sounds neatly or be loose about it, and it might work either way after good editing. I’d like to think that sound is something that changes all the time.
Prior to this release, Balvanera was primarily an independent act releasing music on your own Bandcamp page. What brought you to DKA Records then? Why the change?
Agustina: Well, we were independent a bit by chance, because we were solely thinking about releasing music. Local labels did not exist when we started and we found it difficult finding an international label. Since we are really, really far away...It’s a gamble for a label when you are not on the touring network. We are glad that DKA were so enthusiastic and we feel Balvanera is a perfect match for their label. We are now label mates with projects we love like Multiple Man, High-Functioning flesh, Sally Dige, Boy Harsher, Autumns, etc.
Lucas: We want Balvanera to reach more people globally since our audience in Argentina is rather limited. We like the idea that anyone anywhere may hear us now. Especially people with our same musical interests. That’s why we were inclined towards DKA. because they release music that we really like. Sometimes we get to know other bands because of our fans. That helps me grow.
What does the title of the album mean? The press release says that you are reappropriating the phrase. How so?
Agustina: I feel that "courses of action" is often a phrase we mostly associate with or hear during political speeches or in business jargon. That the term usually accounts or results in nothing actually happening. In the senses that it’s very abstract, ergo it’s somehow deprived of meaning. We felt the record sounded and demanded “action” and since last year was so hard, time itself put everything in perspective, demanding also to make choices in our own personal lives.
Lucas: It’s a record that invites you to action, to movement; to gain consciousness of one's acts. In this way, this phrase gains a more introspective nature.
While the cover art is simple and clean, it’s also interesting. It has an object that resembles a guillotine (at least to me). What is on the cover art and can you tell us how it fits in with the album?
Agustina: It does look like a guillotine! But it’s actually some wood ornamental frame or structure, and a mannequin chest torso. An Argentinian artist, Liliana Maresca, would do photo-performances in the late 80s and early 90's in which she would be naked and “wear” this object as well as others. Maresca is one of my favourite artists, I was glad to work on some of her exhibitions in Buenos Aires and also in Istanbul. She is the epitome or embodiment of the type of action we were thinking about. She had an incredible political body of work and sadly passed away because of an AIDS related illness in '94. I happen to be friends with her daughter too, which makes this connection really heartfelt and important to me. These nets of affection are ultra necessary for me. Maresca’s image for the cover, the album title and of course each song, bring sense altogether.
Lucas: We like album covers and art that generate multiple interpretations, like how listeners interpret our music or meaning to lyrics. We chose this work by Maresca, cause it’s important to have a certain connection with the image. In this case, we wanted to pursue that idea of consciousness about the body as a tool to make decisions and generate changes. Plus, being an Argentinian artist, it’s a way to connect with our culture, reinterpret it, and share it.
I always like to ask this question to bands as it’s a tough one, but what is your favorite song on the album and why?
Agustina: I would say 'Rust' probably, ironically as native Spanish speakers, it’s our first one in Spanish and means a lot to me. A friend of ours is working on a video for this song too that we hope sees light in march.
Lucas: My favourite song... might be 'Tide'. I like the feeling it generates, although it’s so short. I can listen to it many times and it does not feel repetitive and tells a tale. It’s new for us in terms of composition but it’s inspired in the type of atmospheric openings we usually do in our live shows.
When you’re not performing or recording as Balvanera, you’re working on your side projects such as Fenece and Contacto, or collaborating with your friend’s project Cándido. Tell me how those projects are shaping and if we can expect something to be released soon from them.
Agustina: Some stuff I recorded for Cándido might be out soo, aside from that I am mainly concentrating on an EP for my project Contacto. Contacto has appeared on several compilations (some more will be out soon!) but an album on my own seems like the next step.
Lucas: With Fenece, we just launched our second EP and are about to record a split with another band from Buenos Aires in the next few months.
And what else do you have in store for Balvanera in 2021? Do you have any other singles, gigs (Covid allowing), EPs, or the like sorted out?
Agustina: For now, no gigs, but wishing to tour Europe, the USA, and Latin America. But mainly focused on releasing a couple of videos real soon! A new video for 'Medium' is about to be out shortly! We found time to work on audiovisual pieces during the pandemic and that has kept us busy.
Lastly, I would like to thank you for your time. We wish you the very best and leave the space below for you to mention anything that I may have missed. Cheers!
Agustina: Thanks a lot for these really nice questions!
Lucas: Thanks for sharing, hope to see you soon!
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I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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