Santa Muerte Puts Houston Flavor Into Latino EDM
DJ Panchitron of Santa Muerte
Photo by Marco Torres
In the short time that DJs Panchitron (Pancho Briones) and Sines (Leroy Bella) have joined forces as the duo called Santa Muerte (stylized as SVNTV MVERTE), their music has already been heard across the country at popular dance parties in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Portland, as well as here in Houston.
With a dark and wild mix of Reggaeton, UK Grime, hip-hop beats, and Dirty South rap, the group is at the forefront of the new sound of Latino-based electronic dance music. Rocks Off spoke to them in anticipation of their guest appearance at Bombón Houston this Saturday night at Fox Hollow.
Rocks Off: The name Santa Muerte translates into "The Holy Death," which is big motif in the Mexican community, which is a combination of a religious and magical figure that serves as a patron saint for many underground movements, and which in many cases is used as inspiration. Why did you choose that name for your group, and what is the motivation behind the concept? Panchitron: The beautiful thing about this is that the concept is open to interpretation. Leroy and I wanted to collaborate for a long time, and one day we just locked ourselves in a room, brainstormed, and produced about five tracks right away. Our music doesn't fit into one exact genre, and we certainly did not want to produce anything mainstream.
In that way, just like Santa Muerte is ambiguous...some people think its good, others think it's evil. It all meshes with the mystic space and mentality that we work in.
His partner, DJ Sines
With the music that you guys have released, there's an extensive mix of different sounds from across the globe. The predominant avenue for your tracks seems to be the remixes, mash-ups, and edits that transform and mesh several beats into entirely new and very danceable tracks. What is the process behind your technique? Sines: Yeah...they are all basically bootlegs and edits. We have a lot of original tracks in the works, but for now we are working with the Latin side of things, and use rap and electronic sounds to flip songs and make them fit into our motif. The element is dark, but still friendly to the dance floor. In our DJ sets, we try to balance the hard sounds with stuff to make the ladies dance.
Panchitron: When we play, we try to bring emotion back to the dance floor. We want people to feel! Not only dance, but we want people to have goosebumps on their arms when the song drops and when a memory comes in.
The way that you guys have gone out and booked gigs across the country and sought out press in some of the major Latino music blogs, there definitely is a hustle mentality at work. Can that be attributed to your Houston roots? Panchitron: It does have to do with the Houston mentality. We are actively making things happen, as opposed to waiting for things to happen for us. We take a lot of inspiration from the rap community. We are focused on bringing our culture to other communities and people. We just gotta keep hustling and pushing the envelope.
For those of us who know DJ Panchitron from the four, almost five years of playing with Bombón, is it difficult to flip the switch from Bombón Pancho into Santa Muerte Pancho? Panchitron: Oh yea man! You know why? Because with Bombón we have a certain format, and it's an amazing format, one that receives high praise from the guest DJ's that we invite to play at our party and from the fans. So when I transform into Santa Muerte, both Leroy and I went through a musical purge and shift in mentality until we could shake off some of our musical habits and be ready to deliver new music.
Growing up in Texas, some of your music has been labeled as "music for border kids." Is that description accurate and fair? Sines: I think that fits well, although we do expand further than the border. We are very much influenced by our heritage. I'm a Mexican-American from Brownsville, Texas, and Pancho was born and grew up in Mexico. So although we are both of Mexican descent, our backgrounds and upbringings are completely different.
We still understand each other, but deep down our culture is different, and we love that because it brings a different flavor to everything that we do.
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When did each of you fall in love with music in general? Panchitron: The first memory I have of music was when my mom bought me a Sony tape deck, and I immediately purchased the following bootleg cassettes: Control Machete, Barry White's Greatest Hits, '70s Disco Hits, Nirvana's In Utero, and Banda Pequeño Musical. That really was the moment when I became obsessed with music.
Sines: I grew up with a musical family. My dad and my uncles had a rock band, and then in school I played the saxophone in the marching band. I also played the drums. Then in the '90s, I began to listen to a lot of Houston rap, then got into drum & bass and techno. So even now with Santa Muerte, we definitely try to bring a Houston flavor into everything we do.
One last question guys... If you were at a party and you only had one record to play, maybe your favorite record at the end of the night, what would it be? Panchitron: Man....that's a tough one. Probably our most recent release called "Cositas Raras x Loyal Edit." Its such a fun track.
Sines: I'd probably drop something crazy, like some R. Kelly or something.
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