Adrian Quesada Talks Collaborative 20-Person Austin City Limits Taping and Fest Performance

“A pretty massive undertaking in a span of a few days”

Photo by Gary Miller

After marshaling a mini-United-Nations’ worth of international singers into Austin last weekend for two performances showcasing remote-collaboration-on-steroids June album Boleros Psicodélicos, Adrian Quesada admits he should be taking a breather.

Instead, the workaholic sound-sculptor used the days after his back-to-back sets at ACL Fest and for the titular Austin City Limits television series to record some new music with “Ídolo” singer Angelica Garcia. Though he’ll spend some of the coming months promoting his upcoming hip-hop-flavored album Jaguar Sound, out November 18, Quesada swears he’ll do his best to unplug. That promise may ring hollow.

“I’m actually looking forward to a little tiny bit of downtime, which for me always eventually just leads to creativity and writing,” says the local Grammy-winner. “If I say I'm going to ride my bike for a week, I just end up getting inspired and run to the studio and do something. You have to yank me out of town to really stop.

“[Music] is my favorite thing to do, so when somebody calls to do something, I'm always like, ‘That sounds awesome, let's do it.’”

Mireya Ramos (Photo by Gary Miller)

At Saturday’s Moody Theater taping, the majority-women roster of singers from Boleros Psicodélicos were the stars. Mireya Ramos’ soulful, belting vocals and violin playing grabbed the spotlight on “Tus Tormentas” early on, giving way to the band’s funereal dirge to precede Rudy De Anda’s restrained and confessional turn on “El Leon.” A two-fer appearance from Girl Ultra let her torch-singer stylings lead the way on “Trigal” and “El Payaso,” which also gave spotlights to Paul Deemer on brass and Carolyn Trowbridge on vibraphone.

In all, eight singers joined into the hour-long set – with Garcia, Clemente Castillo, Natalia Clavier, Tita, and iLe all earning claps and hand waves from the audience.

Beyond the bounds of Boleros, one absent vocalist was Quesada collaborator and Black Pumas bandmate Eric Burton. After canceling remaining 2022 tour dates in August, the breakout Austin group remains on indefinite hiatus, which Quesada declined to comment on in press surrounding his ACL weekend. Without imminent plans for touring his solo records, he talked to the Chronicle about the fulfillment that came with what may be the only full-band performances of his Boleros material… at least until his next mammoth collaboration comes out.

Austin Chronicle: We should start with how you managed to pull together 20 musicians, including eight singers from all over the world.

Adrian Quesada: It was quite the undertaking, but man I was pleasantly surprised at how many people could actually make it. I think people were excited at the opportunity to play the TV show and the festival in one weekend, so they made it work. It was pretty damn miraculous all around. I still haven't had time to fully process it.

AC: Since these songs were created as remote collaborations, how did you pull off rehearsals with such a limited window?

AQ: Most of the singers were only in town one day, so we only had one night of rehearsals on Friday. You can imagine my stress levels. We originally booked that rehearsal spot, and then I told my manager, “Can you add an hour to that?” And then I'm like, “We may need two more.” I just kept adding time to it. I don't know what I was thinking.

A band that lives in town rehearsing one night for [ACL Fest] and Austin City Limits TV is [already] a lot to cram in, so imagine a band that's never played together before. I hadn't even met a couple of these people before. The band itself, the musicians, we got to rehearse for two days before, but it was a pretty massive undertaking in a span of a few days.

AC: So, you must’ve had to put together a whole lot of [chord] charts for the musicians.

AQ: For the strings and horns, we definitely did charts. I worked with Brian [Donohoe], who was playing sax and flute on the taping. He lives here in town, so we were able to get together and talk about the direction of each song. I played him a lot of the source material and inspiration, with a lot of discussing how efficiently you can pull this off, sound-wise. In my head, I wanted a 30-piece string section, but I would have been far in debt trying to do that. So, I was like, “How lean can we make this thing and make it sound cool?”

AC: Did getting all these artists together create any sparks for any future collaborations?

AQ: It’s kind of premature to figure out what’s going to happen with all that. I like things to be unique and kind of special, but I am thinking about a part two for this record down the line. There's just so much I wanted to stay with it, and at some point you have to wrap it up. It's like making a movie versus a TV series, where you have 14 episodes to tell a story – That's kind of how I felt with [Boleros Psicodélicos].

I wish I could do a few of these, because there was so much material that didn't make that album. So, at some point I definitely want to. I might start like a “volume two” this year.

Photo by Gary Miller
Photo by Gary Miller

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Adrian Quesada, ACL Fest 2022, Austin City Limits, Moody Theater, Girl Ultra, Angelica Garcia

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