The New York-based all-female mariachi band Flor de Toloache delight in defying expectations.
Known for their inventive cover arrangements, the group recently released a new album “Indestructible” takes it a step further, in one instance transposing ’90s pop punk – No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” – into a poignant folk ballad.
“We translate it to Spanish. I don’t think anybody has done this particular cover like this,” said Mireya Ramos, the band’s frontwoman. “Most of us are ’80s babies. So we grew up with this band.”
The cover exemplifies the group’s approach toward fusion, which unapologetically blends music from across different cultures and genres and applying them a framework of traditional mariachi instrumentation and compositional flourishes.
Ramos said that she started the band because after playing mariachi in New York City for six years, she started wanting to add her personality and experience into the context of mariachi music. She wanted to write her own songs, not just play the standards.
“I eventually wanted to just do more of my arrangements and my compositions. It was hard because I had to do it with a band wasn’t mine. And then secondly, it was all men. It was very male dominated. And they weren’t open to that,” she said.
That’s when she partnered with Shae Fiol, who had been making solo neo-soul and R&B music in the hip hop scene. When the two discovered how well their voices blended, they started out a mariachi band the traditional way: learning the classics and playing quinceañeras and weddings. Ramos said that for a two-year period they also even played in the subway for a long with the Music Under New York program.
Once the band began to rise and generate media coverage, the originality of their approach to mariachi started to open up doors for them as they started to tour heavily across the country.
“We’ve done a lot of venues that no other mariachi bands have done. And because of that too, we have a booking agent who has routed our touring very well – and we do a lot of festivals, not just Latin festivals, but world music festivals, bluegrass festivals even,” Ramos said.
Toloache’s approach makes mariachi accessible to contemporary listeners, who grew up like Ramos in a pan-cultural environment. Recently group toured with Black Key’s frontman Dan Auerbach for a year after appearing on his solo album.
Ramos said that the process of recording their latest album helped the band grow in new directions. “Indestructible” was produced by grammy magnet Rafa Sadina, features the likes of John Legend, Alex Cuba, Las Migas and Miguel, and involved more studio time, where the band was play with new ideas out as the recordings unfolded.
Ramos said she’s excited to bring the new songs to New York this summer. Toloache will perform in July 12 at the Afro Latino Festival at Albee Square in Brooklyn and that same night with Gabby Moreno as part of the Latin Alternative Music Conference at Prospect Park.
Tickets are available for the Afro Latino Festival at afrolatinofestnyc.com. The LAMC showcase is free.