By Jackie Tortorello and Oralis Moreno
They call themselves You Are Here and with an impulsive union of musical experience and progressive tendency, the three Latinos from Chicago embody an oddball sound. It’s divergent and stems from the desire to make a change.
“We’re very diverse and multi-talented,” drummer Richard Contreras said. “We’re trying to empower not only ourselves but the Latino community.”
Contreras, 23, along with lead vocalist and guitarist Leonardo Prado, and bass and synthesizer player Julian Jeronimo, mirror the individuality of their Mexican roots. Within their songs, they expand on the experiences of one another as well as the experiences of the listener.
“We want to unify all those things that make us who we are and I think we can do that. Not only Latinos but all different backgrounds will be able to identify with our music,” Jeronimo said.
23-year-old Brighton Park resident, Jeronimo had previously played alongside Prado, but their project was short-lived in the absence of a drummer. After a serendipitous run in with Contreras, a resident of Pilsen, the group was formed.
“Once we actually started making music, though, there was like an instant connection,” Contreras said.
For Prado, the at-home jam sessions of an older brother created a taste for live music. They often consisted of trumpets as well as guitar. At the age of twelve the West Lawn resident was given his first guitar and began playing on a regular basis. Overall, the band takes solace in 1970’s rock music like Pink Floyd, Mexican artists like Café Tacuba, and indie bands like Twin Shadow and Radiohead.
“Seeing a band being able to arouse the emotions of 5,000, 8,000 people at the same time I just think it’s something that’s very magical,” Jeronimo said.
With hopes of playing crowds just like the band that inspired them, You Are Here, designed their name around an acknowledgment of an isolated modern culture. Jeronimo,a self-proclaimed music junkie, browsed his Facebook newsfeed and realized a vast separation within online communities.
“I started thinking, man all theses people are on Facebook but they’re not really here,” Jeronimo said.
“It’s a reference to where we are at this point in our life because all three of us come from different bands,” Prado, 22, said, “and up until this point I think this is more serious than any other band.”
The members of You Are Here reflect the evolution and challenges faced by contemporary Latino musicians in America. Two of the members, Jeronimo and Prado emigrated from Mexico to Chicago as children. As they attempt to stick to their heritage while creating music that evokes the nuances of urban sound, their progressive state of creation often endures the critical analysis of traditional Latinos.
“There’s a big following of Latinos that listen to this kind of music,” Contreras said, “and I feel, like, we can be almost like the pinnacle of how far someone is willing to take it.”
While retaining a strong Mexican identity they are also forced to endure the ethnic and socioeconomic sanctions of Chicago. Each neighborhood imposes stereotypes that standardize misinformed expectations of the listener.
“If you stay stuck in one place, you never go anywhere. You’re never going to see change or progression,” Prado said.
Such expectations, according to the band, have left many Latino music listeners and makers underrepresented.
“You know, when you go see a show or when there’s a big name in radio, Latinos are a very big population in the city but we’re not as shown,” Contreras said, “we’re not really in the limelight.”
The band aspires to promote the musical capabilities of local Latinos by performing in neighborhoods populated with those willing to sample their sound. Friday Nov. 9 marks the group’s first chance to transcend the Chicago music scene and create a fan base in Milwaukee. At Las Palmas, they will be opening for Melanismo, a Mexican rock cover band.
“I feel that we can at least open the doors for other Latinos in city to step it up and show that there is a presence there,” they said collectively.
To hear the band practice the song”Via Lactea” by Mexican Cover band Zoe click here.