Seaside Sounds: Q&A with Chilean band Mantarraya

Concepción-based Mantarraya (which translates to "Stingray") have certainly been making waves. Currently, the pop progressive band is busy traveling around Chile breaking into the indie scene, especially here in Santiago. And with a name like Mantarraya, it's only fitting that the songs on debut LP Costa Esqueleto (or "Skeleton Coast") invoke images of the sea. Band members Bastián Grañas, Nicolás Vidal, Rodrigo Droguett and Nicolás Ferrada sat down to discuss all things vital to the music-making process, including (but not limited to) trading favorite tunes, goofing around, and dancing to Backstreet Boys in Ferrada's kitchen.

Bastián Grañada, lead vocals and guitar
Bastián Grañada, lead vocals and guitar

Revolver: So what's the story behind the name "Mantarraya?"

Bastián Grañas: We formed our name after we had already joined as a group, and Nicolas started to look for one and found a great list of names associated with the sea. When we were looking for a name, we just cared that it was striking and original - it wasn't so much about our background. When we found the name "Mantarraya" and proposed it to the rest of the group, we agreed on it right away. At first, we were deciding between two names: Mantarraya and Pez Espada [Swordfish], but eventually chose Mantarraya.

Rodrigo Droguett, bass guitar and vocals
Rodrigo Droguett, bass guitar and vocals

Nicolás Vidal: That was the beginning of the band, but now we pay attention to the entire concept of the name. At first, it was just because we liked how it sounded, but now it has a more explicit connection with the music we make.

Revolver: How did you meet and decide to start the band?

Nicolás Ferrada: Before starting Mantarraya, we all knew each other from previous bands. We had been each playing instruments since we were young, and have been playing together for a long time.

Nicolás V: We're equally a product of the same scene from Concepción, which is small, so all the good groups know each other.

Bastián: The group formed spontaneously. I had a few songs and slowly we integrated Rodrigo, Nicolás, and suddenly all five of us were making songs in a rehearsal room and realized we had material to start a group.

Nicolás Vidal, guitar and vocals
Nicolás Vidal, guitar and vocals

Revolver: Speaking of how you started in Concepción, how's the music scene there?

Bastián: In Concepción, there are groups that make super good music. Many bands that have come out lately have started trends in the city, like Niño Cohete. Also, there are other groups that have a different sound than what you will find in Santiago, but still have the same level of quality. And that shows when you go to concerts there in Concepción.

Nicolás V: And also the public is an important part because performing is quite demanding and makes us feel the pressure of having to do things in a professional manner. When you do something good, the public values it; and if not, they can be very critical at times.

Rodrigo Droguett: Yeah, they don't have a problem with leaving the concert, no problem at all with that.

Nicolás F: Concepción is considered the "rock capital of Chile". So it has a sick music culture in that sense. If people like a band, they have to be really good. If not, there are many bands that fall by the wayside. Many of the most famous Chilean bands came from Concepción, for example, Los Bunkers and Los Tres.

Luciano Rosales, percussion
Luciano Rosales, percussion

Revolver: Are there any specific artists who inspire what you do?

Bastián: There are many. We love music, so we're always listening to and exchanging different music. We're intuitively picking up the characteristics of the different music we listen to, hoping to evolve that way.

Rodrigo: We can't choose one artist because there are a variety of musicians who we listen to. Sometimes you'd be surprised.

Nicolás F: One time, we ended up dancing and singing to Backstreet Boys in my kitchen. But this is our little secret. For us, it's all types of music all the time.

Nicolás Ferrada, keyboards and synthesizers
Nicolás Ferrada, keyboards and synthesizers

Revolver: Your first album, Costa Esqueleto, premiered this past October. What was the main influence for this album?

Nicolás F: The conceptual inspiration for the album - both lyrically and visually - was the ocean. This album tells a story; each song is part of a story that makes a full disc. The lyrics contain metaphors that are not what they seem, carrying a deeper meaning. Concepción is full of beaches and harbors, and the name naturally guided us to the coast.

Revolver: What is the best environment for forming ideas for your songs? And is the writing process collective?

Bastián: I write all the lyrics, mainly in my room. But I really like Concepción because it's always cloudy, and whenever it rains, the weather is very bad. Everything is always gray and wet, which ends up being very inspiring, very melancholy, but I also love Chiloé. My dad lives there and I'm always traveling to Chiloé every three months, which is a place that's very beautiful and inspiring for me.

Revolver: A few months ago, you won a Cere [an arts award for Chile's Bío Bío region] for Costa Esqueleto as the best pop-rock album of the year. How did it feel to receive this recognition for your work?

Rodrigo: It's always gratifying to be recognized for the work you do, especially with many really good bands up against each other. It was unexpected for us to win this award as well. We didn't think we were a favorite or even close to winning. We were with Bastian in the casino hall where the awards ceremony was, and when they called our name, it was such a surprise. I jumped up and ran on stage to receive the award. It was super satisfying that we have concrete recognition for all the work we have done. It's super symbolic.

Revolver: What are your future goals for your music?

Nicolás V: We would like to dedicate ourselves full time, but we are currently in college, studying and working. We're also in the process of coming to live here in Santiago because we are [a band of] five and two [of us] are living in Concepción. We want to come here with the main goal of devoting ourselves fully to music. We want to continue recording, making more videos, and become better-known in other areas; and hopefully some day our music will reach the U.S.

Revolver: Do you have any other news you'd like to share?

Nicolás F: We are planning to record a video for our new single, "Darwin", soon. And we're also preparing new material for next year.

You can buy Mantarraya's latest album here.

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