Operation Automatic

Pablo Lopez must have been in a hurry to re-string his guitar, because it looked like half of a long-legged wire spider was trying to escape off the end of it.

Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete
Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete

“We like to do things fast,” Lopez commented on the fact that his newly-formed Santiago band, The Automatics, had already been featured on Chile’s cable TV show, “Sin Dios, Ni Late,” only one month after they had formed.

Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete
Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete

Only a few months old, the band is made up of Juan Pablo Lopez, lead vocals and guitar and drummer J.P. Olivares; bass player Claudio Vera and Paula Rojas rounding out the quartet on keyboards.

Despite their newbie status, they have wasted no time in getting to the recording studio.

“We want to record three songs this month—‘Somos Tiempo’; ‘Sin Hablar’ and ‘Patio de Comidas’,” Lopez said. “We don’t have a MySpace page now because we don’t have songs recorded yet.”

A pared-down instrumental version of the Automatics' first expected single, “Sin Hablar,” has been featured in Cesar Caro’s new movie, “Tercer Mundo” (Third World) to be released next year. Lopez is a featured actor in this quirky trilogy, which chronicles three people’s search for the meaning of life, as they bumble through the theme of extraterrestrials.

“It’s been like a reality show […] because things are just moving so fast,” Vera said. “We keep it simple. Less is more.” Vera chimed in with a smile.

At their rehearsal space, instruments and amps surround a web of electrical cords that lay in random dark piles atop a frayed burlap floor mat.

Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete
Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete

“Ok, entonces. So, Fa, Mi, La, Do, Mi,…E minor?” Vera works out the chords to a new song. To an English-speaking ear accustomed to hearing chords only of D, C and E, listening to the guys work out the notes in Spanish is like listening to a surreal, out-of-order, staccato version of the “Sound of Music’s” tree-climbing scene.

The songs are Lopez’s creations, re-invented by the group and tweaked into tight, pulsating, edgy, yet clean, songs that have the feel of a bouncy B52s’ “Rock Lobster” or a surf music-playing Ramones. A fan of Bukowski, Lopez’s songs tend to be cutting and critical with a thrashy beat to match.

Like many Chileans bands, The Automatics have hopes of finding their way into the worldwide market. “Our sound isn’t popular with most Chileans,” said Lopez, “so we hope to find listeners that think of us as the group FROM Chile. Thus the name Automatics, more geared toward an international market.”

But even in The Automatics’ world where less is more and life is like a reality show, practice still makes perfect. At present, they are practicing for their next gig at Club Mist, (Suecia 0152 near Metro Los Leones), on Saturday, November 21 at 9 pm. Entrance fee is CP$2,000.

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