Guide To Grupo’s New Album, ‘Problemas

David Greene speaks with Alt.Latino host Felix Contreras about Grupo Fantasma. Its new album, “Problemas,” can be heard in full on our website this week, as part of NPR Music’s “First Listen” feature.


If you’re a fan of ’60s-’70s classic rock, you might recognize this song.


GRUPO FANTASMA: (Singing in Spanish).

GREENE: No, I’m serious. I know it sounds a little different. But listen closely. You might recognize it.


GRUPO FANTASMA: (Singing in Spanish).

GREENE: Got it? Yes? No? OK. Well, this is actually bicultural arrangement of the classic Beatles track “Because.” It comes from the Austin-based band, Grupo Fantasma from their new album called “Problemas.” And this album is currently playing on First Listen at NPR Music. This is the feature where you can hear the entire album just before it’s released. It’s going to be at our website through Thursday. And if you do stream it and you want some guidance for what you’re hearing, we have just the man for that job. Felix Contreras is host of the Alt. Latino podcast. And he’s with me in the studio. Hey, Felix.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Hey. What’s happening?

GREENE: OK. So. Beatles song – beyond taking a Beatles song and putting it in Spanish, what else is happening here?

CONTRERAS: They played it as a bolero. OK. And a bolero is originally from Cuba. But it’s, like, universal all over Latin America. Now imagine, like, a slow blues – right? – the passion, the energy, the intensity of a slow blues. That’s a bolero.



GRUPO FANTASMA: (Singing in Spanish).

GREENE: Well – and you’ve been following this band for a while. This is their fifth album. Are you hearing something different and new here?

CONTRERAS: I’m feeling them becoming a lot more comfortable with who they are. They’re genre busting or genre bending, right? They’re doing Latin and funk and mixing it altogether. It was sort of new. It was experimental. But now, as they’ve been going along, they’re really settled into this whole thing. And it’s very second nature for them. It’s very organic.


GRUPO FANTASMA: (Singing in Spanish).

GREENE: Well, for people who it’s not second nature to, who are just hearing them for the first time, what is the mix of styles that they’re really bringing here?

CONTRERAS: There’s straight ahead salsa. There’s cumbia, Tex-Mex, accordion music, you know? Basically, dance floor hits, dance floor boogies of different styles and genres.

GREENE: Dance floor boogies. I like that. Is there another track on here we should listen to?

CONTRERAS: Yeah. OK. Now we’re going to hear a thing called “Solo Un Sueno.” And it’s a lot more subdued. But there’s a lot of stuff going on. Check it out.


GRUPO FANTASMA: (Singing in Spanish).

GREENE: Is this like some kind of Latin rap or something?

CONTRERAS: It’s definitely Latin rap. OK. What they’ve done is they’ve played this track in a triplet feel – one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three – which is very common in a lot of Latin folk music. It’s the basis for – like, for example, Cuban sanitaria music. But what they’ve done is they’ve layered the electric guitar, the keyboards. And then they’ve throw in this guy in doing some rap on top in a very syncopated style.


GRUPO FANTASMA: (Singing in Spanish).

GREENE: So this album, I mean, why would you tell people it’s worth giving a listen?

CONTRERAS: This band is part of a generation of Latin musicians that are ignoring boundaries. And they are part of a vanguard. They are part of a group of musicians – young musicians, pretty much all under 30, that are ignoring genres, ignoring boundaries and reflecting their lives and what’s going on all across the country, all across Latin America really.

GREENE: All right. The album is called, “Problemas.” It’s from the group Grupo Fantasma, and it’s one of the featured albums at NPR Music’s First Listen stream. You can stream it before it’s released. Felix, thanks a lot.

CONTRERAS: Hey, my pleasure.

GREENE: Felix Contreras. He’s host of NPR Music’s Alt. Latino, a weekly podcast about Latin alternative music.


Tour Dates
 DALLAS we're @treesdallas TONIGHT! Come party with us Doors 7pm Showtime 9pm - - - #grupofantasma #trees #dallas #tx #deepellum #livemusic #cumbia#latingroove #latinfunk #problemas  Please support our affiliates @brownoutband @moneychicha On the road this summer! ・・・ "We're hitting the road out West this June in support of our forthcoming album "Fear of a Brown Planet" a collection of Public Enemy Classics as interpreted by Brownout which will be coming out on the Fat Beats Label. We will be joined on some dates by our affiliates Money Chicha and will even be sprinkling in a few Brownout presents: Brown Sabbath appearances here and there. PLEASE HELP US SPREAD THE WORD! June 2nd Austin, TX Mohawk Austin w/ Superfónicos and Third Root June 14th Phoenix, AZ BROWNOUT at The Rebel Lounge FEAR OF A BROWN PLANET TOUR June 15th San Diego, CA Brownout at The Casbah - San Diego FEAR OF A BROWN PLANET TOUR w/ Money Chicha June 16th Long Beach, CA Alex's Bar FEAR OF A BROWN PLANET TOUR June 17th Ventura, CA Discovery Ventura FEAR OF A BROWN PLANET TOUR JUNE 19TH Morro Bay, CA Brownout at The Siren FEAR OF A BROWN PLANET TOUR June 20th Santa Cruz, CA Moe's Alley, Santa Cruz FEAR OF A BROWN PLANET TOUR June 21st San Jose, CA The Ritz FEAR OF A BROWN PLANET TOUR June 22nd San Francisco, CA Slim's Brown Sabbath / Money Chicha June 23rd Sacramento, CA Holy Diver Brownout presents: Brown Sabbath June 26th Portland, OR Star Theater Portland FEAR OF A BROWN PLANET TOUR June 27th Seattle, WA Tractor Tavern Brownout Presents: Brown Sabbath w/ Money Chicha June 29th Salt Lake City, UT Urban Lounge FEAR OF A BROWN PLANET TOUR w/ Money Chicha July 1st Denver, CO Levitt Pavilion Denver FREE SHOW - FEAR OF A BROWN PLANET TOUR w/ Money Chicha Follow us at: "
 Got Cinco de Mayo plans? Join us May 5th at the Belmont in Austin for the third annual tacos y tequila party! - Tickets now available: - - - #tacosytequila #austin #livemusic #cincodemayo #thebelmont #grupofantasma  We had a good time in the studio recording and filming our rendition of "Dia de mi Suerte" for Fania records. Stay tuned!
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