5 questions for Panamanian band Señor Loop

September 30, 2017

Having no expectations while creating music, and simply enjoying the creative process of exploring sounds: that’s the essence of Panamanian band Señor Loop. For almost 20 years, the band, known for its contagious and rhythmic Latin alternative rock music, has seen musical composition as a process that should happen naturally.

“Señor Loop’s story is a story about the [band’s] evolution. About learning. A family’s story over almost 20 years,”  vocalist Lilo Sánchez told The Tico Times. “[It’s about] a movement in Panama that did not exist before, and unleashed other things within the younger generations. It’s a cultural phenomenon.”

Since the beginning of their journey as band, they’ve released four different albums: Señor Loop Vol. 1 (2000), Madretambor (2004), MCMLXXXII (2008) and Vikorg (2013). The foursome – made up of Lilo Sánchez (vocals and guitar), Iñaki Iriberri (guitar, keyboard  and vocals), Carlos Ucar (bass) and Chale Icaza (drums) – has traveled to Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States.

During the Costa Rican visit they’ve just concluded, they played an electro acoustic session at El Steinvorth in downtown San José, and two concerts at Jazz Café Escazú and Jazz Café San Pedro. On a warm morning at Hotel Presidente in the city center, The Tico Times sat down and spoke with the group members about their life and work. Excerpts follow.

Why did you name the band Señor Loop?

LS: That was something that happened without us noticing it.

II: We were called to play at a concert…

LS: And we had no name yet. Señor Loop was this relaxing thing we had, a sort of imaginary boss because we didn’t have a boss. We worked together. Iñaki had a company with another associate called Loop Audio, so we didn’t really have [anyone to answer to]. We were young and we only wanted to go to the beach.

Señor Loop was a way to control ourselves and try to work. When we were invited to play it was like: ok, Señor Loop presents… then Señor Loop became a group. We realized, 12 years later, that we couldn’t change the name. When you’re Tom Cruise, you’re already Tom Cruise. You can’t do anything about it. It’s another story that it simply happened and became a monster without us having control over it.

What does music represent for you?

LS: For me it represents everything: where I’ve been able to get in life and the places I’ve gone to. All of the people I’ve met. All the great moments. Work. Learning. Without music there wouldn’t be life for me.

CU: Even though professionally I work on something else, for me music is the most important thing. It’s my passion, and I think about it 24 hours a day.

II: For me, music is life. From the moment I wake up, I’m recording and making music of all sorts. It may be recording, commercial things, television or whatever. My work is about music all day long.

CI: Music is a great gift because not everyone has it, so because you have this special thing, you have to do it responsibly. Duke Ellington would say that he received a calling… It’s mysterious. Not everyone can do it.

Señor Loop
Señor Loop during its concert at Jazz Café Escazú on Sept. 29. (Courtesy of Pablo Cambronero)

What’s the creative process for your albums?

LS: Ahhhh. For every album there are different processes. Complicated processes of logistics, but mostly, they’re processes in search of something. Each of us seeks different things.

For example, Iñaki records and mixes the albums. He’s looking for the album to sound great, but I’m seeking to sing in the best way possible as well as making the guitar sound as I want it to. That also applies for the bass and drums. Everyone is trying to do their best in the moment.

II: We also need to escape our jobs and the city. We always go to a friend’s house in the mountains. It’s a super nice place like Monteverde, but not as pretty. We go to Cerro Punto and stay there with no worries. We always try to look for that.

LS: The albums have never been recorded in a studio. For example, we go for dinner at Carlos’s in-laws house, go in the living room and say: wow, this living room is great. Suddenly, we ask if we can record there. Maybe the guitars or the drums were recorded [in a house] at the beach.

This happens because in those places there are no studios, or we had no money for studios and no one will do the job as well as Iñaki.

II: There’s also communication.

LS: With low ego levels.

How did you create the song El Mono y la Culebra (The Monkey and the Snake)?

LS: Very interesting question. [Our collaborator] Jonathan Harker comes into this process. This song was ready: we thought about it, but we had no words for it. We couldn’t do it… Jonathan appeared one day, imagined the story, and wrote it down with Iñaki. I came by the next day, read the story and was like: what? It was incredible. We just went on with it.

II: The album was ready and everything was very organic and simple… I wanted to make a loop out of something with a piano, and it came out. We put a beat to it, recorded it, and there was the snake’s mode from beginning to end.

LS: This song is a hit with children. It’s incredible. All the kids go crazy. In ten or fifteen years we’ll do a reunion just to play for the kids and their parents.

Listen to Señor Loop’s El Mono y la Culebra

Why do you like coming to Costa Rica so much?

LS: First, because there’s love and an energy that attracts us. The first trips I did were to Costa Rica because we live next to each other and we could afford it. Afterwards, Señor Loop started and there’s a big love between Señor Loop and Costa Rica. You also have great coffee.

Our “Weekend Arts Spotlight” presents Sunday interviews with artists who are from, working in, or inspired by Costa Rica, ranging from writers and actors to dancers and musicians. Do you know of an artist we should consider, whether a long-time favorite or an up-and-comer? Email us at kstanley@ticotimes.net.

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