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“No Te Perdono,” the opening song from Mugre’s brilliant 2019 EP Gracias Por Cuidar El Equipo, kicks off with a rhythmic dance between drum and bass. The stuttering rhythm is soon accompanied by a cheeky palm-muted guitar melody. The song’s vocals, bratty and insouciant, chime in to list the various grievances that result in the song’s repeated refrain – you didn’t come to my birthday party, you fell asleep with your girlfriend instead. And here you are with a present in tow, trying to appease my anger. What am I to do?
The grudge may seem petty, but delve deeper and hints of underlying emotions emerge – a fissured relationship, regretful longing and smoldering resentment lie beneath the surface. These undercurrents could easily be overlooked, such is the lure of the song’s many charms: its cheery syncopated handclaps, its chunky guitar riff, its Beach Boys-esque vocal harmonies. It sounds like a distant relative to “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones; a perfect summertime pop anthem, set on fire and sprinkled with sugar.
That song was my first exposure to Mugre, the power-trio made up of Jazmín Esquivel, Mariana Michi, and Sofía Naara. With each of them having their own impressive career – Naara’s “Las Torpezas,” Michi’s “Hijo de Campeones,” and Esquivel’s “Medianoche Radio Club” all hold spots among our favorite releases of recent years – one could be tempted to dub them a “supergroup.” But that tag, set against the band’s punk ethos and ferociously DIY approach, feels glaringly incongruous.
Gracias Por Cuidar El Equipo and the group’s previous release, 2018’s Emocionando a La Gente, are bursting at the seams with razor-sharp rock songs, brimming with attitude and edge. Their compositions are joyfully uncomplicated, but crowded with hooks and memorable moments. The songs often take sharp left turns, jumping into frenzied bursts of energy, paired with lyrics that explore desire, relationships, and the complex minefield where these themes intersect.
The trio is on the verge of releasing their third EP, La Santisima Trinidad. The title could playfully allude to the triad of members that make up the band or the three mesmerizing tracks the EP offers. Kicking off with the maddeningly catchy amp-up song “Ave María” (no, not that one), the EP progresses into the irresistible “Ni Tu Perra,” a simmering kiss-off with a delightfully slinky bassline. And then there’s “Tóxica,” the group’s reimagining of Britney Spears’s “Toxic” as a mid-tempo garage-rock song with James Bond guitars.
On Saturday July 22nd, Mugre is slated to take the stage at Strummer Bar to present La Santísima Trinidad live. There’s something extremely invigorating about Mugre’s live show. Their recorded output is undoubtedly excellent, but seeing the three of them ply their trade in front of adoring fans– fueled by the adrenaline of the live setting and the three performers’ effortless showmanship – is something else.
On three separate occasions, I’ve watched with delight as friends, previously unfamiliar with Mugre, emerged from a show as newfound fans. The most recent being my friend Fabiana, who swiftly joined me in extolling their brilliance. Fast-forwarding a few months and there we were, perched on the terrace of the rehearsal space, Espacio Charcas, straining to catch the faint echoes of the band’s rehearsal from below, eagerly anticipating our chance to photograph them and delve into a conversation about their upcoming show and EP.
Note: The interview below has been condensed for clarity and translated from the original Spanish.
How was your rehearsal?
Mariana Michi: It went surprisingly well. We’re working on a new album, an LP, and our last ten sessions have been all about composition. We hadn’t practiced in a while, so it was great to dive back into the songs.
You each have your solo careers that are quite distinct from Mugre in terms of aesthetics. What does playing with Mugre satisfy in you that other projects don’t?
Mariana: It’s the desfachatez [editor’s note: this word is a cross between sloppiness and audacity].
Jazmín Esquivel: Yeah, I like that word.
Sofía Naara: That word definitely encapsulates the thirst that Mugre quenches for us.
JE: And humor, too.
SN: It’s about expressing things a bit outside our individual languages. It’s a unique language we three share.
So, did the band start out looking for that unique concept?
MM: I think the root of it all was our desire to play the instruments we are now. We each came from a more acoustic style and wanted to play rock. We met playing each other’s songs, and we had a backstage conversation that led to the creation of the band.
SN: Literally backstage. It was at Vuela el Pez. We said, “We’re looking for a bassist,” “I’d love to play bass.” It was a perfect match of need and desire.
JE: I had always wanted to have a band named Total Mugre.
SN: And I just dropped the “Total”.
JE: She said to me, “Okay, if it’s just Mugre, I’m in.” [laughs] “Otherwise, I’m not.”
MM: And I was up for anything.
JE: We told you we needed a bassist for our band named Mugre. The name itself was defining what we were seeking.
SN: We have our unique way of tackling our projects. We are all pretty obsessive, but Mugre offers something different. There’s still an obsession, but it’s on a different level. It’s a unique experience.
The music you create together as Mugre can be stylistically classified as punk. Is it a genre you currently listen to a lot, for pleasure?
JE: I used to listen to a lot of it, but not so much recently. In fact, I feel like I’ve been listening to very little rock music. But these things come in cycles.
What have you been listening to recently?
JE: I’ve been drawn to serene and tranquil instrumental music.
SN: I’m on the same boat, seeking something calming. [laughs]
MM: I still listen to a lot of rock, though.
SN: You’re undoubtedly the biggest rolinga among us.
JE: Even if I don’t listen to it as much these days, I relish the experience of a punk concert. I believe that reflects in our band too – it’s about the live energy. There’s an essential magic to live performance. The challenge is then to encapsulate that energy in a recording. In our other projects, heavy production and studio work dominate, which then begs the question, “How do I translate this to a live setting?” For us, it’s usually the other way around.
When you’re recording, do you struggle against the temptation to layer the arrangements with more than just the guitar, bass, and drums?
SN: We write on guitar, bass, and drums, but when we’re recording an album, we remain open to adding anything else that feels right in the moment. We’ve done it before. If a synth complements the track, we’re all for it.
JE: We do dabble with that, and indeed, in Gracias Por Cuidar El Equipo, there are some synths. But I feel like we collectively, albeit unspokenly, agreed not to add any extras. There’s something about capturing the raw live sound that really suits us.
How does the songwriting process for Mugre work, and how is it different from your solo projects?
MM: For this new album, we’re coming together to create at least one song per session, starting with an idea, a melody, or even a problem one of us is dealing with, and progressing from there.
JE: We haven’t been bringing prepared ideas. It’s all about the creative energy that sparks in the room.
MM: That’s how Mugre began. While we’ve occasionally brought a song from home, particularly for Gracias Por Cuidar El Equipo, the collective composition process is much more exhilarating.
JE: We have a good understanding of what Mugre represents and what we enjoy exploring. The process is so fluid. It’s always a delightful surprise when I compose with these two. The freedom and ease are astonishing. We’ve composed two songs in two hours, complete with chords, lyrics, arrangements, the whole shebang. “This is good, let’s lock it in.” “Oh no, now we have to record it, what a chore.”
SN: We’ve already created five or six new songs in this manner.
It’ll be four years in August since the release of Gracias Por Cuidar El Equipo. How do you feel about that album now?
SN: I gave it a listen today. To me, it’s like revisiting a location filled with pleasant surprises. Each of us has her own solo project, and Mugre is like a shared island we’ve constructed. Every time I return, I’m taken aback. I find the music strikingly beautiful and unique.
MM: It’s a joy for me to listen to it. It automatically brightens my mood. I especially enjoy listening to it while cycling.
Where did the decision to incorporate a section in German in “No Te Perdono” originate from?
SN: During our rehearsals, we used to sing a quote from another song. But when it came time to register the songs, we realized we had to replace it. We wondered what we could insert ourselves. I think Jaz suggested, “What if it’s in German?” and I agreed, “Yeah, why not.” I had a poem I’d written about a small incident that had occurred to me. And we included that there.
In the song “La Nena,” there’s a recurring line “me pongo porno en Constitución” (“I get pornographic in Constitución”) I’m intrigued by the lyrics and their link to the neighborhood of Constitución.
JE: In its original form, there was also a quote from a different song. “En el caribe sur” (“in the southern Caribbean”).
So, there’s nothing overly pornographic about Constitución, then?
MM: Everything’s pornographic. [laughs] Constitución is brimming with obscenity.
JE: Actually, that was one of our first songs. I remember biking around Constitución singing “en el caribe sur…” but I was in Constitución, not the Caribbean [laughs].
MM: Feigning dementia just to keep moving forward.
JE: That’s art for you.
What lessons from Gracias Por Cuidar El Equipo did you bring to the creation of La Santísima Trinidad?
JE: I’d say we carried over a heavier dose of “mugre” (grime), in my opinion.
MM: Plus a stronger emphasis on the vocals. All three of us sing, all three of us harmonize – the vocals are critical. We recognized that on Gracias Por Cuidar El Equipo. There was a ton of vocal work done.
JE: I remember when we first heard the mix, we said, “hey, this is too polished.” We asked for more ambiance, more chaos. This EP was recorded in a much more live, organic way.
The new EP is called La Santísima Trinidad (The Holy Trinity). It opens with a song called “Ave Maria”. You tend to wear white for live performances. There’s a religious or even pristine theme going on here. Was that intentional, or did it just evolve naturally?
MM: It just happened. I went to a very Catholic school and was captivated by that world as a kid, but was mainly drawn to the music. I was in the choir. There’s a whole emotional element to it all. Once I moved past that phase, I was like, “Wow, what a spectacle.” I think a lot of it is meant to hide the messier aspects. And it’s funny how by performing in white and playing the way we do, we reveal our chaos.
JE: Your mention of white and “Mugre” is spot-on.
MM: That’s the joke. But that came about by chance too! Carlos, our music video maker, is a friend who lives in New York and occasionally visits, and we’ll go and shoot something. The first time he came, when we were filming “Tus Pantalones,” he brought us three white jumpsuits.
JE: All neat and tidy, like, “Hey, I got these for you.”
MM: We figured, let’s use them for the video. What’s our role? We’re three aliens who encounter the band. Then it was like, “Hey, what if we wear these for live shows?” “Yeah, let’s do it.” Looking back, there are many decisions that you think, “Okay, I liked this for some reason; it wasn’t arbitrary.” But at the moment of decision-making, Mugre’s choices are made with a “just do it” spirit. The concept isn’t premeditated.
JE: The concept forms itself afterward, in hindsight.
SN: We seize what’s available, make it our own, and infuse it with meaning.
One of the three songs from La Santísima Trinidad is a cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” What obstacles did you face when translating the song into Spanish?
MM: The biggest hurdle was recording and releasing it. [laughs] The song isn’t going to be on Spotify. To translate a song, you need permission from the rights holders. We requested it, but one of the parties didn’t respond. Therefore, we can’t upload it to Spotify as it could lead to issues.
SN: There’s a record label involved as well. We’re not looking for any trouble. But the song will be available…
MM: It’ll be everywhere except Spotify and other digital platforms. So people can still find it.
SN: That was the main challenge. As for the musical aspect, we wanted to do a cover and found that Britney was a figure that resonated with us. “Toxic” is a phenomenal song. Whenever we play it, it’s like, “Wow, what a song!” Translating the lyrics required a lot of exploration. I once attempted to study translation and applied some of the techniques I learned to the process.
You’re unveiling this EP just as you’re crafting a new album. What motivated you to release these three tracks now rather than hold off until the album?
SN: These three tracks have a distinct voice that — yes, it’s connected to what we’re creating because it’s a part of us — but the compositions we’re working on now feel more forward-looking, while these three tracks resonate with our past.
JE: They’re songs we’ve been playing for years, since Gracias Por Cuidar El Equipo, but for a variety of reasons, they didn’t make the cut.
SN: Some of them felt like they were still works in progress, so they ended up in a sort of limbo. They belong together, but they don’t quite fit into something more extensive.
As you prepare to return to the stage, what do you consider the most critical aspect of Mugre’s live performance?
JE: Above all, it’s about having a blast.
MM: Exactly, it’s about enjoying ourselves, cracking up, and keeping the audience entertained. We don’t ever want to give up that moment when the crowd gets on stage to dance to “Fataliti.”
JE: Honestly, we want to do more and more of that. We want to get the audience involved. “Come on, just get up here. You sing. Go for it”. We’re looking to break some rules.
When you compose, do you envision how it will come across in a live setting?
MM: I think we do. There are parts where we know we’ll all be singing out loud together. There are moments that feel like…
SN: An anthem.
MM: A ceremony. [laughs]
SN: A mass!
MM: There are parts to sing, parts to dance, and parts to sway…
JE: There’s also the question of where we want to go. Not just in terms of what we want to bring to the audience, but what we want to create for ourselves.
MM: There’s also more of a free-spirited vibe in these new songs. More moments to get lost in.
What do you believe needs to change within Buenos Aires’ “underground” music scene?
MM: We need more venues that can accommodate between 300 and 500 people. There’s a lot for up to 300, and then it jumps to 1000. There’s a void there that needs filling.
SN: Generally, I feel the work dynamics could use a little more ambition, but in a positive way. There needs to be a genuine desire to create something great, something well-crafted, not just throwing together a “pizza and a water, and you buy the rest”. The synergy between the venue and the artist isn’t quite there yet.
MM: It can be challenging to find a venue that feels like an ally, like Cemento was. A place where the artists and venue complemented each other, contributing to a unified spectacle. The music, the venue, the happenings – all elements of the same experience.
JE: We really struggled to find the right place for this gig.
MM: Yes, we’re looking for a venue with a rock vibe but also good sound, that doesn’t feel sketchy, where people feel secure and at ease…
JE: And not the same old venue, or the swanky place where all the bands play.
MM: We’re after somewhere countercultural but not shoddy. Because if you’re going for something countercultural, you end up at a venue with terrible sound, and if you want decent sound, you have to go somewhere that’s a stretch for people’s budgets.
JE: It’s our first time playing at Strummer. We have a good feeling about it.
MM: Some of our friends have performed there. It’s a rock joint, a rock hangout. It could be a blast.
Mugre is performing Saturday, July 22nd at Strummer Bar. Tickets can be purchased here.