Now this is a collaboration that both C-Squad fans and Barbz have been waiting for…
- Posted on Mar 25th 2011 12:45PM by Arielle Castillo
The guy-girl duo of producer Tony "Smurphio" Laurencio and frontwoman Cuci Amador melds bubbling electro-house with pop song structure and a bit of retro nostalgia. Since playing Ultra for the first time in 2009, Afrobeta's gone on to wow crowds worldwide at massive festivals like Ultra Brazil, Burning Man and even Glastonbury. This year, the duo will play Ultra in Miami not once, but twice -- a Saturday afternoon set and a slot headlining the festival's live stage on Sunday night. Spinner recently caught up with Afrobeta to chat about the band's beginnings and future, as well as the influence of Miami and Ultra itself on its success so far.
Tony Laurencio: We've been together for four years and five months now. We count August 2006 as the official start date, which was our first show.
Cuci Amador: We met through mutual friends, but we didn't really become the best of friends right away. I was a big fan of his old band, Suenalo, and I would go see them play and dance. One day after one of their shows, I got the courage to go up to them.
TL: Suenalo was more of a funk, Afro-beat, Latin jam band. I played keyboards and I sang.
CA: Meanwhile, I sang in a band called organicArma, which was like an arty electronic band. At first, we both tried to get each other in each other's bands, until we started writing together and figured we might as well do our own thing.
Tony, you were also rapper Pitbull's touring keyboardist for a while, right?
TL: Yeah, I toured with him for about a year and a half. I had to quit because I had to make up my mind. He was about to blow up globally, meaning I wasn't going to be home, and that would have been the death of Afrobeta, so I took a big gamble. I had to move from where I was living to a little cottage, but it paid off 10 times more than if I was still playing with him.
What gave you the courage to take that leap of faith?
CA: I was really stubborn and I cried a lot!
TL: It was her faith -- nothing else! Everything else was telling me, "Are you crazy? You don't turn down a gig like this in the music industry!" It was a leap of faith, and I took it.
At this point, do you have day jobs other than music?
CA: I still kind of have a little bit of a day job by choice. I'm an actress, I go to a bunch of castings and do commercials, and I've done a couple things in Spanish here and there for Wendy's, McDonald's, Wal-Mart. But I stopped doing that so much because we started to go out of town a lot last year. It's OK right now because it's not really recognizable, but if you're "the singer of the band Afrobeta" and then you're trying to sell Wendy's on TV, it's not that cool anymore. Maybe I'll get a disguise.
It seems like you've always wanted to be an entertainer. When did you know you wanted to focus more on music than on acting?
CA: That's a good question. I asked the spirits above for a long time that question myself, because I didn't really know. I always thought that whatever I really put my energy into would start blossoming, so I made a conscious decision to start putting my energy more into music because I was getting a great response from it, and I was feeling really good.
It's really great to work on a film or a play with other people and be creative, but writing music with Tony, that was our own movie. We could write the script and the songs and perform them, and there was more creative control. So that's what inspired me to focus more on that.
TL: She brings her theater and performance skills to music, which is something a lot of people don't have. She's killing two birds with one stone, because she's not just a musician, she's a performer. I think that's what separates us from a lot of local bands.
You're known for your personal style as well. Was that important for the presentation of the band from the beginning?
CA: It's something that I find joy in. It's another way to express yourself. Your clothing can be funny or humorous or outlandish, and stuff that people wouldn't wear normally on the street. I like the idea of being able to bring that heightened dramatic, costumed side to a show.
I know that there are other people who don't think it's necessary, and I respect that too; I guess it started in the '60s with the whole folk thing where you'd wear jeans and a T-shirt onstage. That's cool, too, but I like the theatrics of it. In Miami, I love to work with Mila Gonzalez, who I met on a film set years ago and who became my stylist. And as far as local designers, I love Kayce Armstrong from Art of Shade, and Karelle Levy of KRELWear.
How much of the electronic influence in your sound comes from growing up in Miami?
TL: All of it. One hundred percent! Cuci's a music festival fiend. She was a little more broad in her tastes, she liked electronic groups but a lot of indie groups.
How instrumental do you think your exposure at Ultra has been in your success to date?
CA: I think it's been massive, but it's something you can only see in hindsight. When we played the festival for the first time, in 2009, it was at 1PM for about 100 people. Then we found out later that there were a bunch of photos taken, and the only photos they had of a band playing were of us. Then last year at Ultra, one of the production managers for Glastonbury saw the show and got it approved for us to play. Also because of Ultra, we'll be playing Camp Bisco this year, which is the Disco Biscuits' festival.
TL: Our album comes out this summer, and the first single, 'Play House,' has a video coming out and is already charting on BPM and Area on XM Radio. The next step is to get a booking agent and go on tour. We want to be on tour -- we're ready!