Lorelle Meets The Obsolete on the inequalities of lockdown life in Mexico

When SXSW was cancelled on March 6, the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic hit home in the music world. Three months on, and the prospect of going to gigs for the foreseeable future seems far-fetched and our already endangered musical ecosystem is teetering on the very edge of extinction, with labels, record shops and music magazines all falling victim to the virus.

Unable to get out on the road and make a living, bands are suffering, too. When the news about SXSW first broke, Lorelle Meets The Obsolete were eight dates into a North American tour that they were co-headlining with The Underground Youth, wending their way to Austin and beyond. They ended up stranded in upstate New York, the lost gig fees and lack of merch sales meaning that the five members of the live band just didn’t have the money to get back to their respective homes in Mexico and Italy. “We are true warriors,” they wrote at the time as they reluctantly launched a GoFundMe campaign, “but this is beyond our reach.”

They were overwhelmed by the response and have now exceeded their target of covering the lost income and additional expenses they faced. After an epic drive, Lorelle Meets The Obsolete’s core duo of Alberto González and Lorena Quintantilla finally arrived back in their home city of Ensenada on March 19 and have been there ever since, watching as the pandemic has slowly tightened its grip on their country.

With the number of new infections and deaths still increasing daily, the reaction to it has revealed the deep divisions within Mexican society. Just last week (June 4) following the police killing of George Floyd in the US, footage emerged of Mexican police beating Giovanni López, a 30-year-old construction worker, after arresting him for not wearing a protective mask in public. He was found dead a few hours later. Protests have been ongoing ever since, and Lorelle Meets The Obsolete donated the proceeds from Bandcamp Friday to the #justiciaparagiovanni campaign.

Before this, we caught up with them to find out what life is like under lockdown in Mexico, and what they have been filling their time with.

Alberto González at home in Ensenada, June 2020

Alberto: “As of today, we’re doing fine. Our friends and family are safe and we’ve been under lockdown since March 19. We’re the lucky ones. Our routine hasn’t changed much as we’ve been working from home for the last seven years. It’s been strange, for sure, and as musicians we’re completely in the dark about what our future will hold, but we’ve been trying to step aside from ourselves in order to stay objective and sane. I’m particularly fed up with the disgusting Netflix simplistic and homogenising type of content, so I dug into other streaming platforms in desperate need of healing my deep-fried brain.

“Luckily enough there’s plenty of stuff online and we’ve been watching documentaries from the excellent Mexican directors Nicolás Echevarría and Eugenio Polgovsky. By doing this we’ve received constant cold slaps in our faces so we don’t ever dare to complain about what we’re going through. Broadly, the first is a master at depicting the result of Catholic dominance over pre-Hispanic traditions and the latter brilliantly exposes the struggle in rural Mexico. Great directors that keep our heads outside our asses. Not that I want to minimise our personal battles but, you know, it’s easy to get carried away with the ‘me me me’ selfishness. If you feel curious, I would suggest to look out for María Sabina, Mujer Espíritu by Echevarría and Los Herederos by Polgovsky. And while I’m at it, I’d also add Somos Mari Pepa by Samuel Kishi to the suggestion list. It’s a beautiful coming-of-age film about a young fictional band in Guadalajara dealing with the cold oppressing stomp of privilege. A personal favourite.”

Lorena Quintanilla at home in Ensenada, June 2020

Lorena: “Living in México is living inside a bubble of inequality. The social and economic gaps between people are so great, that living in here feels like living in a million different countries at the same time. The lockdown has underlined this. It’s crazy how we are all living this moment so differently and how the complaints are also so dissonant. You can listen somebody complaining about not having alcohol or high-speed internet, while some other people are swapping their personal belongings for food. Some weeks ago the daughter of a federal senator had a big baby shower on a private beach here in Ensenada – a helicopter was spreading pink dust over the party people to announce the sex of the baby. This was happening at the same time as some relatives of mine were struggling to buy their medicine as they had lost their jobs because of the pandemic. At this moment, Alberto and I are part of the lucky ones and we’ve been working at home as usual.

“I love music and music is my life, but sometimes as a musician I feel useless. And that feeling has been growing during this time. I don’t mind about not touring this year, as this is beyond us. I just want this to be over so people can stop being at risk, because the rain is going to come harder for those who are disadvantaged. As the time passes, I overcome these feelings by writing more music, accepting it is the only thing I love to do. But I’m aware and I’ll never forget how lucky I am right now.”