As creative beings, our artistic manifestations are, in part, reactions to a lifetime of navigating conflicting social norms, flawed family structures, and opposing beliefs which challenge our autonomy and intellectual resilience.
The beauty of these unappetizing scenarios is that the more we place ourselves into complex or risky situations, the more our brain develops new neural connections. This allows our brain to function more efficiently, becoming more nimble.
The idea here is not that we merely apply our problem-solving skills, musically turning life’s lemons into lemonade, but that we possess the creative dexterity to, let’s say, incorporate diverse musical nuances into a single song which resonates on a spiritual level.
Where genres intersect to redefine the very nature of a song within a composition –while the listener actively interprets these junctions– is where the album Ojos Del Sol precariously teeters.
Luz Elena Mendoza, who pilots a mysterious musical project known as Y La Bamba, produces genre-bending songs whose melodies and harmonies drift and swirl through exceptional compositions, presenting the listener with Luz’s unique life perspectives and personal beliefs.
Luz’s aptitude for creating playful, yet intellectually challenging music is evident in songs such as:
“Iris” … which juxtaposes philosophical wonderment with the quaint honesty of early gramophone recordings wrapped in a snow white lullaby.
“Atmosphere”… where Rock n Roll slips into an out-of-body ayahuasca experience ripe with sonic tension on the verge of orgasmic release.
“Nos Veremos”… whose lyrics resonate as some primordial “grand plan” message to mankind carried by an exuberant chant that emanates from the clarity of innocence.
“Ulysses”…which sails along as a psychedelic ice-cream truck selling Timothy Leary LSD Bomb Pops and Terence McKenna DMT Push-Ups, while Sid Barret skips down Sesame Street wearing an Al Demiola t-shirt.
Citizen LA: Your music holds a playful innocence wrapped in abstracted truths, kinda like classic children’s songs. How does “innocence” influence your music?
Luz: I always allow innocence to remain present in my writing. I write a lot about my childhood, and when I think about youth, I think about how people raise their children. It’s important to nurture the child, to let them be who they are from the beginning.
Citizen LA: When I first heard your music, it sounded… well… insane.
Citizen LA: There’s an innocence in that kind of insanity, which allows freedom.
Luz: It’s just about being open… and vulnerable.
Citizen LA: This album seems to have no problem crossing borders, even to the point where it removes the concept of borders entirely. The songs contain influences from Cuban “Trova”, African “Soca”, and Mexican “Trio” music. What are your thoughts on bringing these worlds together?
Luz: It just kinda… happens. I know what triggers me and what inspires me, and I follow that road.
Citizen LA: You’ve associated yourself with some early styles of music; connecting dots on a deep level… and for somebody that’s only 35—I mean 34, um, how old are you?
Luz: Don’t add more years!!
Citizen LA: Sorry!
Citizen LA: There is a purity in saying “it just kinda happens” or “I’m just being me”, but there are people “just being them” that unfortunately don’t get it.
Luz: You know, I never really expect anything from music.
Citizen LA: Perfect.
Luz: I live in the shadow of what my parents EXPECT out of me… like I shouldn’t have tattoos, I shouldn’t have short hair. But I SHOULD DEFINITELY be having kids right now and be a doctor and be married. This is what I know about expectations.
Citizen LA: Expectations are very problematic. So, your parents are both from Mexico, and yet you grew up in America?
Luz: The only time I was “American” was at school… and even then I felt awkward. My parents didn’t teach me to be an American adult, they taught me to be a Mexican adult. And that confused me!
Citizen LA: I bet.
Luz: They were raised with their “truth”, which at times, can be very oppressive. I empathize, but it’s sad because they were robbed of choice and perspective.
Citizen LA: Do you travel to Mexico often?
Luz: Recently, I visited Mexico City. It felt powerful, like a really intense romantic relationship. I loved it, but there was this disconnect, especially when seeing such division, judgment, and hypocrisy.
Citizen LA: Yeah, unfortunately, there’s general distrust among a majority of the population in Mexico right now. It’s very sad.
Luz: With the release and the tour, I was really hoping to help people connect, to be brave. Some people feel oppressed in their own households… I mean, what if they don’t agree with their family and they’re trapped and only 12 or 13 years old? How do we let them know that they’re not alone? If I get to do that through my music, that would be amazing.
Citizen LA: So about your process… there are basically two ways people learn to play music. The first is to study the rules so we can be free to break them. The second is to forgo study and make the rules as we go along. How do you define “freedom” in the context of music creation?
Luz: No rules. I don’t have boundaries when I write. Rules happen when somebody else is trying to connect the dots, so they can collaborate with you. Or in the recording process, you wanna give yourself some sort of boundaries so you’re not wasting other people’s time AND can still be free.
Citizen LA: Especially knowing that it’s often difficult to find a good fit creatively and technically.
Luz: It’s very important that I work with the right people, who understand me. It’s like the psychology of raising a child from birth… you’re gonna let the child be exactly what it needs to be in order to fulfill its prophecy of being the child.
Citizen LA: A nice thought, too bad it rarely happens.
Luz: I’m very integrated with that thought. If I do have an agenda, it’s just to “be free”.
Citizen LA: Did you study music at all?
Luz: Nuh uh.
Citizen LA: That’s often what it takes to make something as beautiful as this album.
Luz: Thank you!
Citizen LA: It seems like you were raised in a dogmatic household, yet remain free from the shackles of organized religion. How does music and spiritually fit together for you?
Luz: It’s the same thing to me. Sound is a body. I feel the body. I let the body embrace my body. And then we become ONE body. I express myself through that body. It’s like breathing and eating, thinking and feeling.
Citizen LA: Great perspective.
Luz: We’re all spiritual, you know. It’s just that some people are awake to it, and some refuse to open that door… but it’s there. People have confused it with mysticism, but its way more simple. People fear, and don’t allow themselves to have a relationship with spirit.
Citizen LA: As people, we intentionally create drama and situations in our lives, and in doing so, it prevents us from truly looking at ourselves.
Luz: And that goes with being vulnerable. It’s scary to some people, even just to close their eyes and really go in there.
Citizen LA: Brutal self-reflection rarely happens, so if your music allows you to look at yourself critically, then you’re in a good place.
Luz: I know the struggle. I want to help people experience the gift of being alive within their spirit and physical body. If I have the opportunity to help my brother or sister, and nurture that spirit, I’ll do it.
Citizen LA Is there an underlying message to this album?
Luz: It’s ok to be vulnerable, especially with each other, because that is how we’re gonna communicate. And we really need to be communicating, or at least expanding our knowledge of what communication is. We’re living in some really crazy times right now.
Citizen LA: Crazy times in a crazy world that needs healing.
Luz: At the end of the day, my music is an offering to those who want to receive it… I’m grateful, and hope that it leads to positive transformation.
Ojos Del Sol refuses to conform; as if the album were a mischievous shape-shifting entity, wherein the listener is set delightfully off-balance, caught in its mesmerizing spell. Its uniqueness springs from tapping into an incredibly diverse library of technique, risk and vulnerability.
Luz’s genuine desire to connect to her audience, to free them from a sense of hopelessness while revealing the positive nature of humanity and spirituality, speaks volumes of her as a person. Y La Bamba may not solve all of life’s problems… but it certainly is some deliciously healing lemonade.