La Marisoul on Life, Death, and 12 Years of La Santa Cecilia
La Marisoul—the front person of La Santa Cecilia—opens up about the extreme losses and changes the band has experienced together, and this week’s release of their most personal album to date.
As one of the most prominent cumbia bands out of Los Angeles, La Santa Cecilia is comprised of greatly accomplished veterans—Marisol “La Marisoul” Hernandez (vocals and ukulele), Jose “Pepe” Carlos (accordion and requinto), Miguel “Oso” Ramirez (percussion), and Alex Bendaña (bass)—who have been going 12 years strong in the scene, and are not stopping any time soon. Named after the patron saint of music, La Santa Cecilia won a 2014 Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album (Treinta Días) and have six full-length albums under their belt. This week, the band will release their highly anticipated new album, La Santa Cecilia—their most personal music to date.
La Santa Cecilia’s emotional self-titled release is a deep trove of songs about tragedy and perseverance, and includes a cover of Bessie Smith’s “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” She Shreds caught up with La Marisoul, who opened up about the meaning behind La Santa Cecilia’s new music, personal loss, and motherhood.
You’ve got a lot going on these days with a new album and shows all over the country. How are you feeling?
I feel great, I feel excited, I feel nervous—I feel a lot of things, but I think they’re good feelings. Sometimes I’m running around like a chicken without a head. And I have a daughter—she’s 3 1/2 years old—but I’m also thankful I’m part of a band and can share all these things.
Are you planning on taking your daughter out on the road with you?
She’s been on the road with me since I was pregnant with her. I had a great pregnancy. I didn’t feel too busy, too tired. On the contrary, I felt great. I felt energized, I was eating healthy, sleeping, and obviously not drinking or partying. So, she’s been coming on the road with me since she was a baby, and she comes with me to some gigs, but sometimes if it’s a little too hectic and the traveling’s tough, then I prefer that she stays home with dad or with my mother. But she’s most definitely a touring toddler. She loves it, she’s a great traveler. She loves to fly, she loves going to hotel rooms, she’s all about that green room life. [Laughs] It’s fun to have children’s energy around.
It kind of keeps you alive, right?
I’m discovering life again through my daughter and experiencing motherhood with her. It’s great to see life through her eyes, how she’s discovering the world, how she sees the world, and how I get to be a part of that. I’m honored to be her mother and that I get to share my life passion [with her], which is music.
Does she have a favorite song on this new album?
It’s a song called “Always Together”—it’s kind of like a disco song. And I think she also really loves the song “Thousand Times.” She always sings those songs.
When did you start writing for this album and how long did it take to complete it?
We started writing it two years ago. We stopped touring for Amar y Vivir, which is a super traditional album, and we started writing songs about love and being in long relationships. Now we all have children, we’re married some of us. We started writing about what was going on with us, and these past two years have been pretty life-changing. We’ve gone through a lot of change and we’ve also gone through a lot of loss. We’ve been together 12 years and that’s a long time for a band, but we’ve been through some shit.
I feel like these songs are very personal, very much about feeling like you’re being chewed and spit out by life at the same time. And how you manage to find the light, the reason. And of course the reason is love: love that we have for our dreams, love that we have for our music, love that we have for our families. So I think, overall, this album is a lot about that, but every song has to do with something that we’ve gone through.
What were some of your influences or inspirations as you were writing the songs?
In less than 12 months, three of us lost our fathers. It’s something I can’t explain, I still don’t understand it, and I’m trying to process losing my father. It was in February when he passed and it was sudden. But I’m grateful that this huge loss that we went through only united us, and I don’t think I would’ve been able to go through all of this without my bandmates. So there’s a lot of that. It’s really personal. We wrote a song called “I’ve Been Thinking,” which is about losing someone, and I’m sure a lot of people can relate to the feeling of losing someone at some point, whether it’s your loved one, or a breakup, or a heartache.
Absolutely. I’m really sorry to hear about your father. Losing a parent is never easy.
Never, but music is what heals me, and writing songs is a way for us to let go of these feelings: let them out, express them, and accept them.
It sounds like you’re in a place of healing and peace—is that correct?
I’m trying. Every day it comes in waves and it’s okay. Sometimes you break down and then you get back up again. There’s another song like that on our album [“Thousand Times”]—you feel like everything’s going to shit all over again but you know, we have to fall to get up again, right?
That’s the song your daughter likes, right?
“Thousand Times.”Yeah. [Laughs]
Your song “Winning” is so interesting because the subject-matter is so relevant today. You have a line that says, “I can’t find no inspiration, never-ending information.” What was going through your mind when you were writing that song?
That song was our commentary on what we’re seeing and what we’re living, which is an addiction to social media. And as a band, social media is a big, important tool to connect with others. But I feel like sometimes a lot of us, starting with myself, will be obsessed with that world. I remember being a teenager and there wasn’t any phones, there wasn’t any of that, so you could actually be bored and look into space and create some kind of thought or idea. [That song] was a fun way for us to express what we think about that: we love it, but we hate it.
It’s October and we’re coming up on a lot of major holidays. Do you have any plans for Día de los Muertos? Will you or the band be doing anything special for the occasion?
We’re playing November 1st and November 3rd, but I’m also gonna be setting up before those days—the altar, right here on Olvera Street, for my family. There’s beautiful celebrations here [in LA] before Día de los Muertos; they do the novenario [a nine day prayer for people who pass away]. There’s processions and it’s beautiful, and everyone is welcome to come.
Do you do an altar on Olvera Street every year or is this a first?
This will be the first year that I have to put it up with my family, because my father used to do it.
So, besides the tour and album, what’s next for La Santa Cecilia? Is there anything in particular you would like to announce for fans?
We’re already working on another record, so expect new music soon.
Is there anything you can tell us about this new record you’re working on?
I can’t. But we’re on it, you know? [Laughs.]