El Vacio is the title of the new album recorded by Latinx-alternative rock band Rai who is based in Chicago. This is the band’s first full-length album and debuts officially on November 4, but, along with friends French Police and Division Point, they’re commemorating the album’s release a few days early to coincide with the celebration of Día de los Muertos.
“Día de los Muertos is a very important day in our culture because we honor our family and friends that are no longer with us,” bass player Miguel Gama says of el 2 de noviembre. “As a band, we have thrown a Noche de los Muertos party almost every year to celebrate life and have a good time with our friends. We chose this day to release our first album as a way to honor friends who supported us as a band and are no longer with us. My dad is a panadero and makes pan de muerto every year ever since he was a teenager. So it’s a holiday that is deeply rooted in our way of life.”
Rai was formed in 2015 and includes musicians Gama on bass, Eddie Torres on drums, Isaac Gonzalez on vocals, and Alejandro Ortiz and Danny Garcia on guitars. The band debuted in 2016 with the EP Sin Color.
A year later, Rai released Luz y Sombra, an EP they describe as reflecting “the influence of the emerging retro rock movement in Mexico and Latin America. The music contrasts the duality of love and suffering and introduces an ambient and melodic sound.” The album does present more mellifluous compositions.
Rai’s music exudes a subtle Midwest charm—think Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity—and circulates through melodic and post-punk rock. The band’s contemporary style of rock en español alludes to their numerous inspirations and their multicultural backgrounds. Verses reflect their combined perspectives on love, issues related to their latinidad, and life lived in a big city.
Their music also feels comfortable in its familiarity. You’ll recognize the sound when you hear it, as the genre is ubiquitous in Chicago, a prevalent style of rock en español that continues to captivate. In this category, Rai is top tier.
Rai’s new album El Vacio is vulnerable, strong, and complex. They explain that the album provides “an existential perspective of life inspired by relationships, psychedelic experiences, and urban culture.”
Eh, psychedelic experiences?
“We have experimented with altered states of mind during our songwriting process using stimulants like THC/psychedelics,” Miguel explains. “We have performed on stage under altered states of mind as well although we have moved away from that over time. The influence this experience has had on us has been a shift in life perspectives and a stronger connection among us that reflects in our songs.”
This is reflected in El Vacio as Rai’s sound overall is sharper, commanding, and well-structured while the vocals are assertive and in full bloom.
As Miguel mentions, some of the motivating force for the album is also based on social relations.
“The relationships that influence our songs are literally all of them,” he says. “From temporary romantic relationships to friendships that have lasted over a decade. We have had rough patches internally as a band and have had to work through getting along despite our differences. I think that has been the biggest influence in our songs, the constant exchange of different ideas eventually meets the common ground and that ends up reflecting in our art.”
Chicago has also played a huge role in the band’s creativity. “Chicago culture is a very diverse culture, but like many big cities, it is full of violence,” Miguel explains. “Growing up in cities where shootings and death are common occurrences creates mental health problems, and it is a very common thing among young people here. Mental conditions like anxiety, depression, and drug addiction have at one point or another affected each one of our members, and art has always been an escape to us. Our lyrics reflect emotions of frustration and depression as much as they reflect romance and love.”
El Vacio will be available on all platforms, including Bandcamp, on the first Friday in November. Pre-sale here.
For more information, visit RaiMusica.com.
Featured image: Cover art for the album ‘El Vacio’ by Rai