La Vieja Escuela: From Doing Covers to Recording their First Album

By Irina Pino

 El bateria Rolando, Steinard, su director, y el bajista José Zárate

El bateria Rolando, Steinard, su director, y el bajista José Zárate

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban rock band, La Vieja Escuela (The old school), which according to Roberto, Anima Mundi’s lead guitarist, has a clean, balanced sound, like you were listening to a well-made CD.

They play covers by Led Zepellin, Nirvana, ZZTop and other famous bands. They’re all over 40 but their energy is the same as that of any 20 year old. They pack places like Submarino Amarillo, Casa de la Amistad and they hope to win over more fans on Fridays at the Bertolt Brecht theater.

The band is a crazy mix of foreign and Cuban musicians: Steinar Seland (Norwegian, director, guitar), Ove Brun (Norwegian, dobro, mandolin and lap steel guitar) and Jose Zarate (Spanish, bass). Joining these musicians are the locals: Alain Garcia (keyboard), Rolando Fernandez (drums), Roberto Diaz (guitar) and Virgilio Torres (singer).

HT: Why are you making original music now?

Steinar: Because we had a project beforehand: Habana-Blues, and we’d recorded half an album before we left it.

HT: Have you played these original songs? Are the fans hooked?

Steinar: We’ve played 5 or 6 that already work. We’re taking it slow, Mujeres de Arena, Lose My Cool, Mad Love and Mulata. They sound like covers, and people ask us to play them.

HT: What’s the name of the album? What music genres does it incorporate?

Steinar: It’s called: Class #1. There’s rock and roll, blues, white reggae and Latin rock. They all have the same warmth thanks to the very special timbres of country, blues, guitars, lap steel guitars at their most eclectic, and the Hawaiian acoustic dobro guitar. The songs are very different in their arrangements, and the singer has a very unique signature voice, he’s been a street rocker since he was 17 years old. Rolando, our drum player, used to play with the rock band Extrano Corazon.

La Vieja Escuela and some fans.

HT: Tell me a little bit about how you made your album, where it was recorded and when it’ll be released.

Zarate: It was recorded in a private studio, it’s now being mixed at El Cerrito Studios in San Francisco, California, that belongs to a Cuban couple. I went to San Francisco for a gig and I got to know them and that’s when I presented them with the project. The recording sessions were very difficult because we’re all over 40 years old. We had to record Virgilio two times. The interesting thing was that they asked us to record the tracks in Spanish but here, we sing them in English, except for Mujeres de Arena. The album will come out at the end of the year.

HT: In such a competitive market like rock, how do you plan on establishing yourselves in this market?

Zarate: Over there, the album will be sent to radio stations and of course it’ll be entered into competitions.

HT: What influences are there on the album?

Steinar: It has a wide range of influences: blues and country from the ‘30s, rock and roll from the ‘50s, the British invasion in the ‘60s, Neill Young, Bob Dylan…

HT: It will be up to the Cuban Rock Agency to promote the album and organize tours, of course.

Steinar: We’re looking for promo concerts, to play maybe in Old Havana. Our dream is the unexpected moment, we do it for fun. It isn’t an analytic project of the market, and even though it features classical styles, it’s not a repetition. History is evident, but the music is new.

Thank you and best of luck with La Vieja Escuela!


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