In 2020 it’s easy to think that everything has already been done. After all, everything is cyclical and few things are really new. Flor de Toloache breaks with this sentiment by being the first all female mariachi band. The unique group will perform Sunday, February 16 at the House of Blues in the Bronze Peacock room.
Flor de Toloache beautifully weave traditional mariachi music with more modern influences of rock, pop and R&B producing a powerful sound that has gained them three Latin Grammy nominations, with one win. They made history by being the first all female group to take home a Latin Grammy for best Ranchero/Mariachi album in 2017.
Ironically, it was last year's release, Indestructible which features almost all Spanish language songs which led them to be guests and nominees at the English Grammys in Los Angeles. “It's a time where people are receptive and excited about women doing their thing and seeing an all woman group walk on the red carpet I think is really powerful for people,” says co-founder Shae Fiol.
When comparing the Latin Grammys to the Grammys, founders Fiol and Mireya I. Ramos explain that they are happy to be included at either award show but the difference is in the vibe. “For some reason the Latin one feels a little crazier and a lot more intense, I don't know if it’s Vegas or cause we love to party as Latin people,” laughs Ramos.
Though it was their first year at the ceremony, they never felt out of place. “We had some huge collaborations on this album so when people know who you’re associated with it makes people more willing and comfortable to talk to you about music that they really don't know about necessarily,” says Fiol.
For Indestructible they teamed up with power house producer, Rafe Sardina and include some impressive guest stars like John Legend, Alex Cuba and Miguel. For the song “Quisiera” the band knew they wanted a male vocalist to add to the track and when Sardina asked them to name some names they quickly said John Legend, not fully expecting the star to agree to sing in Spanish.
Indestructible also saw the band making their own arrangements on the spot for the first time. Where on previous albums they had a long time to finalize their songs and a short time in the studio, this project allowed them six months with studio time to get their vision out.
“The experience for us was cool because everybody got to express themselves and put their own touch in the song and that's what came out. It was a beautiful collaboration,” says Ramos of the experience.
Flor de Toloache is a breath of fresh air in an often cookie cutter mainstream music scene. For Latina women around the world, and especially in the United States, it is very empowering to see them represent two often marginalized groups.
“I don't feel pressure but I feel inspired,” says Fiol. “I definitely feel like it's a responsibility but it’s a dream come true to be able to connect, inspire and empower other people through our music, doing what we love to do. We’re just expressing something that's genuine and that’s true to ourselves,” she adds.
Fiol and Ramos met through a mutual friend in New York and the two hit it off. Ramos was playing in an otherwise all male mariachi band but decided to go rogue and start an all female group. She immediately thought of Fiol. Though Fiol wasn’t very familiar with the genre, she went for it.
“It's a lot more work than what we thought it was going to be,” says Ramos. “It was just me and Shae trying to push the project, playing in subways, trying to get the word out, trying to build a repertoire and meeting other women. It took a long time to get established.”
The two have been pushing through since 2008 with their band which includes members from all over the globe, adding to their melting pot of a sound. They were featured in rock super group, The Arcs debut album Yours, Dreamily and later joined the band on tour.
Mireya describes the experience, “They needed a mariachi band for a song and the band assumed he was going to bring in an all male mariachi band. When they saw us they were like ‘Oh!’ and then they asked us if we could sing. It was an amazing and very memorable experience that exposed us to a completely different market that had never seen mariachi before.”
From busking in the New York subway stations to performing at the 2019 Kennedy Center Honor Ceremony honoring Linda Ronstadt, Fiol and Ramos have been each others biggest supporters and their enthusiasm on and off the stage has not worn out. “It's amazing that we found each other. It's weird, we have very different voices but at the same time, it’s very similar,” says Ramos.
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“At the same time, we have very different influences. She has more of the R&B, which is so amazing because she adds that flavor to this genre, which not a lot of people have been able to do.”
“Her vocals are just so ridiculously polished and solid,” says Fiol of her band mate. “Every time I sing with her I’m like how did this happen? How did I get so lucky? She adds the authentic ranchera vocals, I don’t think anyone would buy it if it wasn’t for her voice, that really classic mariachi sound authenticating what we do essentially.”
Flor de Toloache will perform Sunday, February 16 at The House of Blues Bronze Peacock Room, 1204 Caroline, Doors open at 7 p.m. $18.