Chicago indie rock band Así Así emerges from the pandemic with new album ‘Mal de Otros’ | Entertainment

CHICAGO — Early iterations of Así Así may have started in a different country and under a different name, but this burgeoning indie-rock quartet is now firmly a Chicago musical group. And on their debut album, “Mal de Otros,” which drops August 19, listeners new and old can hear the fruits of their labor, largely honed in the dark and disparate days of the onset of the pandemic.

According to songwriter and frontman Fernando de Buen López, Así Así hails from Mexico City, where he lived before moving to Chicago more than a decade ago. In Mexico City, de Buen López was part of another musical project, El Mañana. But after arriving in Chicago, he took a break from creating. “I didn’t do much in music for about five years,” Buen López recalled. Then in 2018, after meeting future bandmate and drummer Ben Geissel, he decided to revive his former Mexico City-based band here in Chicago.

Unfortunately, another band recorded the same name just before de Buen López decided to revive his old band, forcing them to really start over.

“I guess it was also an opportunity to change things up a bit more and take a different path,” he said. In 2019, shortly after their second show in Chicago, Así Así was born.

Así Así (also made up of Celeen Rusk on keyboards and Sam Coplin on bass) was still in its creative infancy when the pandemic hit. Before the pandemic, the band was mostly concerned with practicing old songs for live translation. Now – without the help of audience interaction – the band have been forced to settle down again, at least musically. For different members of the group, this created different results.

“For me it was really difficult at first,” said Geissel, who couldn’t play his instrument due to restrictions at home. “I was in kind of a weird shutdown for a while.”

Meanwhile, Rusk said the pandemic was a time for her to reorient herself with herself. “Something I’ve learned in the first year of the pandemic is that taking time for myself is really helpful in establishing some sort of routine to build my life on,” she said.

But for de Buen López, who is the band’s main songwriter, it was time to get down to business. He would force himself to sit and work on songs for two hours every day after work, often composing the tracks first on acoustic guitar. He often worked with band members or other collaborators via Zoom. Eventually, their list of 35 demos was narrowed down to 13 tracks that they “considered consistent” and the final eight would appear on “Mal de Otros”.

“One of the things that I really like about playing with you guys is that the creative process is pretty continuous. These songs in that regard are like living, breathing things,” Rusk said of of their creative process. “That flexibility and experimentation, it’s part of the band, I think.”

Fans got a taste of their tracks in 2020 when the band self-released “Carne Molida.” But the songs that make up the bulk of “Mal de Otros” weren’t completed until 2021, when recording began.

Despite their time away from each other, the group says the split hasn’t taken away the initial cohesion they began to build during their pre-pandemic time.

“I think the way everything came together in the studio was magical,” Rusk added. “It happened so seamlessly, and it was a delight. Just being a part of, creating music collaboratively in that environment was so much fun.

On their first single from the new album, “Ya Lo Sé,” the band’s trademark danceable indie rock takes on a psychedelic twist, with warm, moodier surf elements. The track, which features the bass of famed local musician Wyatt Waddell, is a perfect complement to long dreamy summer days and a soulful first introduction to the up-and-coming band. Their latest single, “Me Quedo Ahí,” released in May, invokes a sonic aesthetic similar to “Ya Lo Se,” with Buen López’s shrill, crooning vocals matching the track’s captivating synthesizers perfectly.

“Suddenly we have a record. It’s incredibly satisfying,” says de Buen López. “Even though nobody listens to him, nobody likes him, but I love him. So I feel like we’ve done something that I’m very proud of.

(Britt Julious is a freelance reviewer.)

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