Dallas' Spanish-singing synth-punk band seres (“beings” en Español, and intentionally lowercase) hasn't always been so angular, robotic and extraterrestrial. The times are just right for it.
"When I was living in North Carolina, it was more of a blues-rock sound," vocalist and synth player Alfonso Callejas says of the band's first iteration nearly a decade ago. "But when I moved to Texas, the thing that kinda got me really excited about reviving the material was going to Rubber Gloves and seeing [Denton experimental noise-rock collective] Bukkake Moms play."
Coming out of such a lively music scene, seres made its first local appearance in bright colors, each member donning a latex suit in a different color to play up their unique, high-energy brand of new wave. Their self-titled debut album followed shortly thereafter in November of 2015.
Then things got darker. Divisions within the scene turned Callejas sour toward performing, and the band became something of a studio project, letting the election that led to the current president, and the political clown car that followed him, influence the band's look and style.
Callejas was also going through some personal changes at that time. He saw the birth of his first daughter, bought a new home and moved his family to the suburbs to be closer to work.
Seres may have dialed back their live performances and kept any new music to themselves over the past few years, but next Friday will see the release of their long-awaited sophomore album SRS02. The album was expected to be out later this year, but it is seeing an earlier release thanks to the free time the lockdown put in the band's hands.
Today, the band is releasing the first video for the album's first single, "Acuerdo" ("Agreement"), showcasing the band's new look and altered sound against the backdrop of a pandemic-inspired look.
"I was really keen on making a video in portrait mode," Callejas says. "That's just the way that most people view videos in general…The video was intentionally filmed in such a way to evoke the quarantine conference calls that people have been doing…You've seen a lot of bands post videos,…and I wanted to try a take on that but kind of play with it by having the visual grid broken."
Instead of their usual bright colors, we see the band in black athletic wear and masks belting their dissonant tones over each other and letting the images distort with the sounds.
"The song itself is about the back alley deals that we make with ourselves to justify our own actions," Callejas explains. "We make a deal with ourselves to kind of ignore the more problematic and the more troublesome aspects of our lives…I feel like in my life right now, I'm in a really good moment. I'm in a happy marriage. I have a daughter who I love. I'm in a band, and I feel creatively fulfilled … I've made mistakes along the way, and I don't want to forget that."
Not forgetting is paramount for Callejas. The masks that the band has worn throughout its history have always served as an homage to influential bands like Devo and The Locust, but are also a way for Callejas to connect with his Nicaraguan heritage.
"There is a play called El Güegüense," Callejas says. "It's the only known piece of literature that was written in both Spanish and Nicarao, which was the language of the indigenous inhabitants of Nicaragua, and a big visual motif is the concept of the mask. … El Güegüense is a character who's caught between two worlds, the indigenous Nicaraguan world and the Spanish colonial world. The reason that he's able to be successful is because he wears a mask, a mask to cover up his true intentions."
While Callejas is careful not to make any direct comparisons between a seres performance and the play, he does believe that wearing a mask helps him succeed in the same way the play's title character does.
"It kind of helped me disassociate from myself when I was on stage," he says. "Instead of being Alfonso who wears the shirt, drives to work and goes grocery shopping or whatever, I am a member of seres. I can express things that I might not be comfortable expressing in conversation. The music is in Spanish and affected by [vocal] effects, so I'm able to say and share stuff that I might not be comfortable with in a different setting, and I'm able to do it and in front of a lot of people. It's a very freeing and visceral experience."
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With an album cover inspired by the film Fantastic Voyage, SRS02 deals with the exploration and dissection of what it is that makes us human, which is perhaps best seen through the masks of an alien robot playing fast, disjointed music that is as delicious as it is difficult to listen to.
"It was a challenge to really find something that kind of hit that sweet spot of sounding and feeling off-kilter, and at the same time being something that could get people in the zone and keep people's attention," Callejas says. "It's trying to find the chaos in the order."
Watch the video for "Acuerdo" below: