Photo by Piero G. Giunti
Article by Gabriel San Roman (OC Weekly)
Las Cafeteras, a seven-piece son jarocho inspired ensemble from East Los Angeles, are beaming after the release of their latest music video “Luna Lovers.” Our sister blog over at the LA Weekly had the honors of exclusively premiering the social media exploding effort last Thursday. The song is the second single off the band’s It’s Time debut. Directed by John Cantú, “Luna Lovers” goes into general release on Vevo today. As eyes fixate on the dreamy imagery of the video, we take a behind the scenes look with Cantú and jaranero Hector Flores on how it all came together!
The filmmaker and the folk-fusionists met each other out where the group built up its fan base early on. “I had known Las Cafeteras through a lot of community events,” says Cantú, whose previous credits includes Rushing Waters, Rising Dreams: How the Arts are Transforming a Community, a documentary film about Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural, the legendary Northeastern San Fernando Valley space founded by author Luis Rodriguez. It was also a place where the filmmaker saw the group do its thing.
“I always respected their ability to get a crowd going infusing their indigenous jarocho music while contextualizing it in modern Los Angeles.”
As the band pondered a follow-up to their wildly popular “La Bamba Rebelde” video and song, Cantú had an idea. “When John first came at us, it was larger than life,” says Flores. “He was trying to capture a magical essence and energy that comes from the moon.”
Definitely not shy from the politics of the day, Las Cafeteras previously dedicated “Luna Lovers” to an enforcement separated immigrant family in Arizona. They had wondered if the quintessential and elemental love song could be made into a explicitly political statement before signing on to Cantú’s vision.
“The filmmaker that really inspired me was George Méliès,” Cantú says in conceptualizing what he wanted to do. “He was the first special effects god of cinema. He had a background as a magician.” The French filmmaker’s A Trip to the Moon was his most famous work. Cantú, who had never taken on a music video of this size before, was sitting in a LA bar pondering what to pitch the band when the film screened. “Oh wait, this would be perfect!” he thought to himself. “I knew then I wanted to do George Méliès by way of Boyle Heights.”
The Eastside odes in “Luna Lovers” are subtle. There’s a hint of Hollenbeck Park, but nothing too explicit. That was by design. “There’s always what I call ‘the walking through LA video,'” the director chimed. “What I wanted to do is reach people who don’t know Las Cafeteras.” As a song “Luna Lovers” definitely has crossover appeal with its English language letras and universal theme. The video aimed for the same.
“We really wanted to show that Chicanos love it all and do it all,” Flores adds with enthusiasm. “Latino music and videos are always in a box. We wanted to break that mold.” A friend recently described the effort to him as Smashing Pumpkins meets Lila Downs, a fitting description reflective of the group’s bi-cultural being.
It also provided the band members with the chance to assume character roles. “I’m this magician in search for my magician’s assistant who has gone away,” Flores mentions. Denise Carlos plays the part as she avoids Flores’ attempts to get her back. “She uses the magic and the mystery that she’s learned to take people away. I’m trying to stop them from going to where they are supposed to go which is the moon.”
At the end, Flores is transformed when given a jarana in place of his wand and joins the rest of the band on their journey to the celestial gem stone in the sky for which the song is named.
On location for the shoot, Las Cafeteras as a whole underwent their own transformation. “These elaborate sets were created and we got swallowed up into becoming these characters,” Flores recounts. “We felt like we walked into another world.”