Component is a section of Aux.Out. for one-off pieces, special editorials, and lost orphans of the music discussion. Today, Zachary Lipez introduces us to Mexican punk label Cintas Pepe, which Lipez considers one of the most exciting in the world.
Americans’ interest in other countries, their cultures, and their tragedies is intermittent. That’s not to say that solipsism is an exclusively American trait, but as an American, M. Night Shyamalan twist, being snide solely about American solipsism is my only justifiable lookout. While not entirely self-involved, we tend to bop around as political dilettantes at others’ crises and fill our iTunes as collectors of international music. One day we’re Charlie, and the next we’re into highlife. Our passions are facile and fleeting.
I say all this not to place myself on some sort of higher moral plane than my fellow Ross and Rachel archetypes (I’m not; I’m deep as a puddle at high noon) but rather to express in the starkest terms that when I say Mexico City punk label Cintas Pepe is one of the most exciting labels in the world, I don’t mean the world besides London, Los Angeles, and New York. I mean the world. And when I say that emotional investment in Cintas Pepe is rewarding, I mean long term, like Sub Pop Singles Club long term. The label has only existed as a physical reality since 2010, and yet I wait for every release like a credulous child waiting for his Sea Monkeys to hatch.
What makes Cintas Pepe so compelling is their curating. The label, a two-man operation of Yecatl Pena and Luis Villarreal, aka Kuble, put out the already famous (within the confines of punk) compilation Brutales Matanzas, which introduced the English-speaking world to such essential bands as Mexico’s Inservibles (whose take on hardcore makes it almost impossible to discern the songs from the feedback until a violent, nihilistic soundscape emerges), Los Monjo (Stooges/MC5-worshiping brothers from Guadalajara), Crimen (whose 2014 Discos MMM album, El Problema eres Tu, was a bracing combination of street punk and death rock, and one of the year’s best), and Peru’s snotty, smart primitivists Morbo.
The comp also included the already canonical (to my mind) Ratas Del Vaticano, whose Dave Rata plays in Tercer Mundo and looms large in the post-punk/hardcore/psych world of the Americas. They continued to go strength to strength with 7-inches and albums by beloved fucker uppers Tercer Mundo and pure weirdo pop for impure weirdos by Cremalleras. Being properly self-loathing punx, the two men would probably recoil at such hyperbole, but that’s their problem. This shit is essential to everyone who cares about rock in the 21st century, though I’ll concede that the notion of “essential” is definitely not punk.
Yecatl and Kuble, both in their late 20s, met eight years ago and bonded over a shared love of goth (they both wrote for an online goth forum) and “noise, tacos, and a good night of drinking Anis del Mico.” Both their fathers are engineers; Yecatl’s mother works with troubled teenagers, and Kuble’s is a schoolteacher. “We got into punk thanks to things like Marilyn Manson and Lacrimosa,” says Kuble. “One thing leads to another; one day you’re a 12-year-old with a Dragon Ball Z T-shirt playing Age of Empires II, and the next you’re ragingly beating the drums in a hardcore punk band. It’s just life, dude.”
They formed the label in 2009, and it took a year to raise the money for their first release. “We’re both from Mexico City, although we live at opposite sides of the city,” says Kuble of his relationship with Yecatl. “It takes about an hour and a half to reach each other’s homes, but somehow we manage to get things done. At this shithole, traveling these kind of distances is common. Yecatl studied biological anthropology, but he realized it sucks, and now he’s into illustration and graphics. He’s great at it … I’m a biologist, but no one needs such a thing in this country, so I’m unemployed. We’re currently seeking some way to avoid poverty and guarantee ourselves a future with dignity, because things here are getting harder every day.”
The success of Brutales Matanzas came as a shock. The review in Maximumrocknroll (still in print and still the closest thing to the Bible that secular punk is likely to embrace) was euphoric and echoed by practically everyone on the Terminal Boredom message board. The comp’s limited run sold out almost immediately. This was no small matter, as there was limited distribution, and you had to order directly from the label and deal with the vagaries of the Mexican postal service (I had two copies lost en route). “We were indeed surprised about it,” says Kuble. “We couldn’t believe that 300 copies with awful hand-screenprinted covers in a terrible paper caused such a fuss, although deep inside we knew the comp was amazing. We all loved the bands in there. We were glad people out of Mexico had a chance to listen to them. Down here in Mexico, just like every release, no one gave a fuck.”
The compilation served as a mission statement for what would follow, the documentation of what the label considered important: the best friends in the best bands. Or maybe the friendship came first, and they’re just lucky that they’ve collected such a sick crew. “Most of the bands,” says Kuble, “are friends from Mexico City and other cities in Mexico like Puebla and Monterrey. We all knew each other and had gigs together in the past here and there. We’ve grown distant with some of them for diverse reasons, but it’s cool to hang out with them every now and then. We heard the Peruvian bands before and liked them a lot, so we got bold and thought, ‘Fuck it, let’s ask ’em.’ They were happy to be part of this!”