The songs off Salt Cathedral’s latest, Oom Velt, are richly dense and often futuristic affairs. The instrumentation on the EP is vast in the way of electron clouds. Made up of many swirling but intertwined parts, the music creates something seemingly impenetrable, a gorgeous and shimmering base layer, which on closer inspection reveals an astonishing openness and symmetry. At each song’s nucleus are the vocals of Juliana Ronderos, which are breathy and transcendent, and which give the EP its elemental essence. That essence being something shape shifting and often mesmerizing; otherworldly, but also incredibly solid.
Salt Cathedral rose from what il abanico was, but the difference between bands seems not to be just the name, but something genetic. Do you think of Salt Cathedral as the logical continuation of your work in il abanico, or something else entirely? Do you think Om Velt would have been the same album if you’d retained the name il abanico?
Your are right, it definitely hold’s something genetic. We are where we come from and what we have lived, and all those experiences amount to how we sound. Il abanico was part of that and we can’t detach ourselves from it because, in a way, it has nurtured what Salt Cathedral and OOM VELT became. It’s hard to say if it would’ve been the same album, but probably not because of the format, and the players and the way of thinking and approaching music. Then again, maybe il abanico’s end was inevitable so we could morph into Salt Cathedral.
How have your travels, as a band and individually, affected your perspective? You music seems universal in it’s inclusiveness, and I know you’re toured Japan recently. Has your physical exploration of the world influenced your musical exploration?
Yes, definitely. I think having grown up in a city like Bogota (unlike many other cities in Colombia), that is not permeated with it’s own strong culture but rather acquires things from other places, has given us this attitude of cultural exploration and need. We grew up wearing American clothes and listening to some local music like vallenatos but also a lot of American music on the radio and there was even an underground metal scene influenced by Swedish metal bands. I think the moment we leave the country and start to discover a world so full of diversity we kind of feel the right to take on what we like and make it part of who we are. It happens with music and style and eating habits. We like exploration, we are very easily soaked by what we see/hear. Not to go very far, we live in a neighborhood where all you hear on the streets is hip-hop.
Nicolas and Juliana hail from Bogota. Having a Mexican mother, I know that Catholicism is a not just religion, but a huge part of the culture in Latin America. Does religion or its imagery have an influence on the music you make?
Yes, Catholicism is very important in Colombia and even those who now claim to be non-practicants, I would say I live a life based on Catholic values, because it’s so much a part of our culture. We see images constantly and most towns in Colombia are set up like old Spanish towns, centered around a square that holds the church and the city government. Religion plays an important role in our music because we realize (also through our travels) that the most beautiful art an architecture and music, Bach for example, has been made in the name of God. Spirituality and music are deeply connected – from African tribes to Indian ragas to European Gregorian Chants.
Your sound has evolved considerably, and now incorporates a lot more electronic instruments and samplers. How has this changed your stage setup? What are the biggest challenges of translating your sound to the stage?
Our setup changed from a five-piece band (two guitars, bass drums and vocals) to a three-piece with the addition of electronic instruments. The biggest challenge has been finding the balance between what is recorded and what sounds live. Our recordings have a lot of details that may be lost in a live setting, so we have to approach them as different animals and understand that live music is about the energy and the music and the vibe and sometimes not the little click clacks that can be heard on headphones.
Imagine a scenario where you can, from now on, only put out recorded music or play live shows. Which would you choose, and what is the importance of each medium to your band?
I think we would choose putting out recorded music over playing live shows because even though it’s a much harder process – to imagine, write and record music, it’s so rewarding when you can get to something you are happy with. I mean, it’s self-indulgent of course but creating something from nothing is pretty magical.
Both mediums are super important for us. For our live show we just did a light set up where we have some panels that look like giant moons and they have lights projecting through them. These lights are programmed to the music and the intention is to create an experience for people. When people listen to your recorded music, you have no control over the experience – some listen on headphones and others on laptop speakers, some play it as background music and others blast it. But the magic of a live show is that we get the opportunity to create an experience – we choose the lighting and the dynamics and the set list. It sometimes feels like different ‘craft’ entirely and we really want to embrace that.