Carlos Arzate’s Musical Evolution

July 30, 2013 |

“I feel so liberated to be able to sing what I feel – soul, R&B, country – none of it is deliberate, it just comes out.”

Carlos Arzate is explaining the artistic shift from the loud rock he sang in his previous band American Andriod to the more upbeat, accessible, positive songs of Carlos Arzate & The Kind Souls, self-described as Sonoran Soul.

“I was stuck in a rock mode (with American Android). This is an avenue to tap into all the influences I grew up on. With American Android, I was listening to a lot of Radiohead and Tool. That band formed at the time of The Patriot Act during the (George W.) Bush administration. I got involved with guys who wanted to preach anti-establishment. It was hard to listen to because it was so loud and had a lot of anger and self-righteousness. I was preaching from a soap box, for people to not be androids.

“In 2008, the steam went out (of American Android) with the Obama winning the presidency.”

Cut to 2011.

“I was learning to play guitar and wanted to be more hopeful. I talked to Ryan Alfred after Gabby (Giffords and others) got shot, asking him, ‘How can we be the change we want to see in the world?’

“Ryan encouraged me to keep playing guitar and writing songs that weren’t American Android.”

Ryan Alfred, who is also Calexico’s current bassist, is credited by Arzate as being a major catalyst in Arzate’s musical evolution.

“I met him through Cameron Hood (of Ryanhood), and he played a few American Android shows on bass.” Alfred also produced and mixed the forthcoming Carlos Arzate & The Kind Souls EP, Fly Away.

By the end of 2011, Arzate had scribed 10 songs on guitar; fueled by the knowledge he had gained from people like Taylor Bungard (of The Tryst) teaching him chords and from a desire to honor his sister.

“My older sister Anna was a real champion of me performing and she told me I had to keep learning.” When Anna passed away, Arzate penned “My Darling Dear,” a song he describes as “singing to our loved ones beyond the grave.

“And (all of this) helped me become more confident as a songwriter and to be known as a songwriter.”

In the fall of 2011, Arzate opened for Sweet Ghosts (a project of Ryan Alfred and Katherine Byrnes), and he admits: “I was scared to take the plunge. It was a real watershed moment for me because people liked it. I was able to say the same things, but people can groove to this. I still feel relevant in social commentary, but it is not as polarizing.”

As we talk about his background and the new EP, I feel honored to sit with a man who is real about his desire to bring positivity to the world. The five songs on Fly Away capture that mission. Arzate’s tunes have the heart-warming, and political, poignancy of Ziggy Marly and Michael Franti with a southwestern bent.

“It is a backlash against the brutality of humanity,” Arzate says. “Being tired of being angry and trying to be more hopeful.”

Opening the EP is the title track, a sweet, soaring sing-along song with percussion that reminds me of the beach. Carlos says it is about “shaking off adversity and the things that hold us down.” The next tune, Love Letter Missile, is darker with an edgier feel – it has that desert rock vibe and great lines like: “I don’t need to take no lip from the mouths of hypocrites who don’t see it my way. I don’t need to waste my cares on what other people say; they don’t matter anyway.”

The third song, On The Fence, features Arzate’s heart-searing howling and Jon Villa’s trumpet playing, with Carlos singing about the border and its militarization. “There’s no dialogue anymore, it’s just a one-sided conversation,” Carlos intones during the interview. Following is A Little, about finding common ground and “working it out,” Arzate says. “Turn down the hyperbole; we’re all generally in the same boat.”

Dear Liberty, the EP’s final track, is a gorgeous piece stripped down to Arzate’s voice and acoustic guitar. His vocals crackle with wisdom and pragmatic optimism that is genuine about embracing a humanitarian world view.

Overall, the directive is to “be more positive with a message of community. Be kind in your everyday walk!”

Carlos Arzate & The Kind Souls perform an EP release show on Saturday, August 3 at Plush, 340 E. 6th Ave. Details are at CDs of “Fly Away” will be available for sale at the show. There is also a Phoenix gig on Friday, August 2 at Last Exit Live, 717 S. Central Ave.

So, who are the Kind Souls? On the “Fly Away” EP, the Kind Souls include: Ryan Alfred (bass, acoustic guitar, backing vox, synthesizers), Collin Shook (piano, organ, vibraphone), Nadim Shehab (drums), Aaron Hulstrand (acoustic/electric guitar), Katherine Byrnes (backing vox), Jon Villa (trumpets), Jason Urman (accordion), Han Hutchinson (pedal steel), Efren Cruz Chavez (congas, shaker, tambourine).

photo by Jimi Giannatti


Category: MUSIC