Last week Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation called us from Puerto Rico to discuss all things music and food. Make sure to catch their headlining set at the Oyster Festival next month. Tickets available here
SF Culture Shock: You’ve released 9 studio albums, opened for Paul McCartney, and feature vocals in eight different languages on your albums. With so many noteworthy accomplishments, what would you say has been the biggest so far? What would you say is the biggest accomplishment for the band?
Rob Garza: I would say the biggest accomplishment is the fact that we’ve been together 20 years now, next month.
SFCS: Wow! Congratulations.
RG: Yeah, it’s a big accomplishment. A lot of bands very rarely make it this far, so the fact that we’re still going strong and still traveling the world and putting out records, for me is the best thing of all of it.
SFCS: Well who doesn’t want to travel the world with their best friend? On that note, in all of your travels have there been any locations that really stand out in your memory?
RG: Well I love South America — right now I’m talking to you from San Juan, Puerto Rico and it’s the first time I’ve been here – but the beauty of what we do is getting to experience all these places and having a connection in these different countries with our music. All of the places are beautiful — I love Brazil, Greece, Thailand — I could just go on and on really.
SFCS: So like you said, you’re going out and connecting with all these different types of people through your music, and it makes sense that your music falls into all these different categories: reggae, jazz, dub, Brazilian… but if you had to create a single genre that perfectly describes your music, using only three words, what would it be?
RG: Well I like to think it has a timeless element of it. Universal. Trippy. The three things that I would say: dubby, trippy, and timeless.
SFCS: On your Facebook bio, you’re listed as an electronic band. Who, of your peers in the electronic genre, are pushing this genre in a new direction? Who do you think is working alongside you to really explore the boundaries of this genre?
RG: Wow. I’d really have to think about that. Can we come back to that one?
SFCS: Yeah of course! On to the next question.
RG: Yeah, [laughs] I’ve had a long night in San Juan and it’s taking me a minute to think of other artists.
SFCS: Who are some of your musical influences, the artists that really helped to shape how you create your music?
RG: People like Antonio Carlos Jobim, the Brazilian composer, someone who I think that both Eric and I are really influenced by. Bands like The Clash, we love everything that they’re about musically and the political and social elements to their music. Those are the main two off the top of my head.
SFCS: Very different, but very solid influences. What do you look to for inspiration when you are sitting down to make new tracks?
RG: I think what inspires us is our record collection. It’s very broad in terms of influences. We’ve got music from different eras and different parts of the world. And we’re trying to create this sense of transcending whatever space you’re in through music. So our records, because listening to music is one of those things that takes you out of your reality and environment and has a kind of ‘drug-like’ quality.
SFCS: For people not familiar with your music, what three songs would you suggest they listen to get a good feel of who you are?
RG: Let’s see… Probably “Amerimacka” would be one. “Lebanese Blonde” would be another. And something like “Sweet Tides” maybe.
SFCS: What’s on your go-to playlist?
RG: It’s so random. I listen to a lot of older music. You’ll find a lot of older Brazilian stuff, like Jorge Ben [Jor], on there. I’d actually have to look at my phone, hold on. [Takes out phone to look at Recently Played playlist] It’s just super random stuff. I’ve got Arvo Pärt, a classical composer, and Labão, another Brazilian artist.
SFCS: Well, if you could take credit for any of these songs, or actually any song at all, and claim it as your own, which one would it be?
RG: “Aguas de Marco” by Antonio Carlos Jabim.
SFCS: Why that one in particular?
RG: It’s just one of my favorite songs of all time and it’s just a magical piece of music. And to be honest, I would never want to claim it as my own because it’s just a testament to the genius and beauty of Antonio Carlos Jabim. If I could’ve just been in the room while they made that song I’d be happy [laughs].
SFCS: I’ve got a couple more questions that go back to SF Oysterfest. You’re going to be in the Bay Area, in San Francisco, but you’ve been able to travel all over the world for your music. And what we want to know is where have you found the best oysters?
RG: [laughs] The best oysters? I do like Japan for oysters, seafood in general actually. So for oysters, I’d say Japan and the Northwest, like up in Vancouver, I’ve had some great oysters. And San Francisco, obviously.
SFCS: Well, San Francisco does have great seafood. On the note of San Francisco, what are a couple places that you’d like to check out before you hit the road again?
RG: I like just being out near — it’s just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, not Crissy Field, but up there — Land’s End. Yeah it’s beautiful, that part of the city. And let’s see, where else? I just love the city in general, all over San Francisco really.
SFCS: Ok, so one last question for you. If you could be any kitchen utensil, what would you be?
RG: [Laughs] Wow. I’ve never thought of that before.
SFCS: It would be strange if you had [laughs]. Well, we’ve gotten the entire range, from whisks to dish scrubbers, so the sky’s the limit. Take your pick.
RG: The sky is the limit on utensils? Alright, I need to even think of kitchen utensils.
Manager [in the background]: Like a blender?
RG: [Laughs] Did you hear him? My manager over here is saying that I’d probably be a blender. That’s probably pretty accurate.
SFCS: And why’s that?
RG: Just mixing up so many different things, trying to make something really tasty out of all of it.
SFCS: That’s a really good one. You asked me to come back to one of my earlier questions, the one about pushing the boundaries of the electronic genre. Have you gotten to think about that one a little bit?
RG: I haven’t. I’ve been thinking about kitchen utensils and, you know, blending, but someone who I really like is Bonobo. I think that what he’s doing, incorporating live elements with electronic and just pushing it further. And he’s DJ’ing as well. It’s somebody that I think is well, seeing what electronic music can do.
Photo courtesy ESL Music