On the verge of releasing their third album, I caught up with the hit-making songwriter-producer brothers Manuel and Félix Lara, who together form Lara Project. Their upcoming release highlights 70s-era sounds along with the duo’s determination to “protest against conformism.”
I recently connected with Manuel and Félix via Zoom to discuss their upcoming album and their latest single, “Control.” We also went back in time a little as they shared the first song that sparked their creative spirit. Knowing the roots of the music artists give life to is always a wondrous experience. We also discussed the idea of creating superhero music, or music that helps combat negative attitudes in music, which is another of Lara Project’s aspirations.
Manuel Lara is known as a hit-making songwriter, producer, and engineer who has worked with artists like Álvaro Díaz and Julieta Venegas. He produced hit singles like Kali Uchis’ “Telepatía” and co-wrote and produced “Antes Que Se Acabe” from El Último Tour Del Mundo by Bad Bunny, which became the first full Spanish-language album to reach #1 on the Billboard 200.
Félix, in addition to singing and composing, takes the lead on creative concepts and visuals for Lara Project. As a producer, he also has credits for work with Bad Bunny and Álvaro Díaz, among others.
Both brothers have been involved in music since their childhood, learning to play some instruments like the drums. They grew up in a family of artists—their mother was a professional ballerina, while their father was a jazz saxophone player. The brothers’ passion for music never faltered, and in 2009, beyond making hits for others, they formed the Lara Project and have since released two previous albums: Una Semana Antes del Paraíso and La Muerte de Zacarías.
Lara Project is known for their synthy, new wave, and ’80s sounds. They have recently been working on new material, and although it’s still retro, it went in a slightly new direction.
Influenced by the documentary Studio 54, Lara Project dug into disco-era music, reflecting their love of retro sounds and instrumentation. And rather than dip into the river of popular music, they are intent on keeping their music fresh. They are also advocates of sounds from yesteryear and prefer playing with analog synths and live instruments, versus any type of digital playback.
Their latest single, “Control,” deals with the theme of addiction and getting caught in a trap of addictive behaviors, an idea touched on throughout the album. As Félix explains, “’Control’ recounts how difficult it is to return to a normal life when vices take hold of you and being aware of the situation, you can only hope that everything will be as before.”
The song features Daniel Briceño on bass and Julian Bernal on synth and guitars.
I asked about the disco-era focus, and Félix explains, “Usually, when people do something representative of this era, they tend to acquire the clothing with flowers and afros and it’s all as if they were happy, you know, the commercial side of the era. The reality, before it was called disco music, was something quite dark … So we are emphasizing that dark side of disco music.”
Having not seen the documentary they’re referring to, I asked if the film goes into Disco Demolition Night, that (racist) Chicago incident at Wrigley Field with Steve Dahl and the disastrous destruction of vinyl. They confirm that it does.
“The thing is that it wasn’t really just about disco music. It was targeting Black people,” Manuel said. “It wasn’t just disco. It was neo-soul, R&B… It was a disaster.
“I feel that African-American music has always been protest music, so obviously when you include the protest itself, the other side always wants to cover everything up. And obviously, from the beginning, since the beginning of the universe, from Africa, all the tribes communicated by music, messages by music, war signals, alarms, everything comes through music.”
The full interview was broadcast on Lumpen Radio’s Comunidades Amplificadas and will be streamed on Mixcloud.
Featured image courtesy of Lara Project