Interview: The new-old duo Coast City
Interview with Jean Rodriguez and Danny Flores of the new/old duo Coast City
by: Patrick O’Heffernan
(Los Angeles) Coast City is the union of Jean Rodriguez, Luis Fonsi’s singer/songwriter/producer younger brother, and SONY artist and producer Danny Flores. Together and separately they have worked with artists like Prince Royce, Luis Fonsi, Chris Brown, and J Balvin. Now, as Coast City they are creating their own sound derived from a global upbringing combined with their Latin roots to reflect the tastes of the new generation of bi-cultural Latinos around the world. Their sound is salsa and soul, funk and electronic, hip-hop and pop, tropical and indie. They launched songs from an upcoming EP at the Hispanicize conference in Los Angeles and we had a chance to talk with them afterward.
Patrick. First, let me say that I love seeing you live. You guys tear the place up. On the new song, Noches y Manaña listened very carefully to the percussion. It sounds like you used bongos, congas, rim hits on a snare, kick drum and toms. There’s a click…click…click that functions like a clavé, but it is not as clavé. Was that all live instruments or was the percussion laid in electronically?
Jean. I appreciate you paying attention to those details because us as musicians and producers, we spend a lot of time on those details. I know the general market they go on a vibe and a melody and a lyrics but those details mean lot to us.
Danny. Although our music is alt. rock, that sound that you hear – that rhythm throughout the song, is a tambora, a drum from the Dominican Republic that is used in merengue music. Initially, when we were writing the song, we started with a rhythm box that had a tambora with a merengue sound. So it is a combination of a rhythm box and an analog piece plus the tambora. It is a lot of fun.
Patrick. Interesting. I don’t recall seeing a tambora on the stage?
Danny. For that show we had to implement that electronically because we had to break down for a smaller stage. But our show tomorrow will have tambora.
Patrick. So where are you playing tomorrow?
Jean. We will be on the YouTube Channel, CongaHead. They invited us and they will cook and we will do songs…it will run in two or three weeks.
Patrick. You are both Latinos who were raised and influenced by European/gringo music. And you have blended those cultures seamlessly in Noce y Manaña including in bilingual lyrics. Since your songs are about love and Spanish is so much more a language of love than English, is it a challenge to combine the two in a song and keep the same feeling?
Jean. It is pretty normal, it is just how I talk. I throw in Spanglish…I don’t even realize it. When I am writing a song from scratch, the Spanglish comes out naturally. It is harder when I have to do a translation for an adaptation, which I do a lot, not only for us and for a lot of other artists. That is a little harder because you are playing with the cadence and the rhythm and the syllables and word play and you need to get the significance and the flow right so it is way more difficult. But when I am creating from scratch, it is not that difficult because it is just how I am today.
Patrick. Both of you have worked with some pretty huge stars like Luis Fonsi and J Balvin and Chris Brown. Do you still do that or are you focused only on Coast City these days?
Danny. No, actually I am working with a boyband called TNTO now and I am still Director of Music. It is a lot of fun to be behind the scenes and many times on stage with them. Even with Fonsi it is ongoing, sometimes I have to do an arrangement or facilitate certain things for their live shows.
Jean. Danny and I love to wear different hats and because we have been pushing the envelope, pushing a Latin alternative, it is has not been easy. The music industry has changed and music has evolved. We have had to learn a lot of aspects of music business, honestly just to make a living. We are both engineers, we are producing a lot, he is involved in touring, he helps put together my brother’s shows. So together we really have our hands on a lot of things in the industry, but all of this seems to be leading up to this exact moment, releasing Coast City. All of this has opened doors for this moment.
Patrick. In the song Noche y Manaña, in the last lines you sing,
eran las 5 de la mañana,
y yo muriendo en este frio
If my Spanish is close, you are saying it is 5 in the morning and you are dying of cold – but the cold is an emotional one, not the room temperature. To me, as an Anglo, that is the essence of Latino love song – a poetic expression of feeling. Was that from your own experience, or is that really poetic?
Jean. We in a room in LA writing and we brought in a good friend who is an award-winning songwriter, Claudia Brant, to collaborate with us. We wanted to be playful, so the lyrics have some metaphorical deeper lines, but not the whole thing. The first are more light. That is how we are in our everyday life. At the end it seems like a throwback to Juan Luis Guerra and the song Visa Para Un Sueno. We put things in our songs to honor our inspiration like we added the tambura, which connects to the DR – my grandmother was from the DR. That last line — and people don’t know it and this is the first time anyone has picked up on it – is a thank you to Juan Guerra.
Patrick. So what now? You have a song out, Noche y Manana. You just released a new song, Desconocidos. You played last week at El Chinchorro Puerto Rican relief fundraiser. Are you going to tour, or do you plan to go back in the studio and record more songs for an album or EP?
Danny. We are going back into the studio in Miami and we have shows lined up in Miami and we have things in the works to do a tour. But as soon as we are home we will dive into the EP. Our goal is to have an EP out by January. We pretty much has the repertoire ready, it just kinda going back in and tweaking and recutting some vocals and polishing.
Jean. We have also been invited to perform at one of the Latin Grammy showcases – the Producer’s Showcase. Typically this showcase is for people who have been nominated and Jean has been nominated this year. We just found out yesterday.
Patrick. Congratulations!! You saved the best news for last. And thank you for taking some time to talk with us.