NYC’s Outernational: ‘Todos Somos Ilegales’23 April, 2012
Why would a New York City-based “futurerock” band, made up of five non-Latinos, embark on a tour of the Southwestern United States to proclaim, “We Are All Illegal?”
I asked myself the very same question.
Outernational is a band I saw for the first time last October during the CMJ Music Marathon. Their style of music includes hard rock, hip hop, cumbia, corridos, gypsy punk, spaghetti westerns, chicha and vintage soul. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard them singing in Spanish.
The song was “Que Queremos”, and it is about immigrants who risk death only to come here to slave away for paltry wages. Needless to say, as a daughter of immigrants, I became an instant fan.
Turns out, “Que Queremos” is one of the band’s first songs, inspired by things they saw happening around the country. As guitarist Leo Mintek explained in the band’s blog, a couple of pieces of legislation passed in Arizona would inspire them to create something much bigger.
“In 2010, when Arizona passed the racist immigration Law SB1070, we travelled to the state to perform at the Alto Arizona protests and released our version of Woody Guthrie’s “Deportees” with Tom Morello (of Rage Against The Machine and The Nightwatchman) as a music video from Cuéntame. In 2011, after Arizona passed HB2281 and launched other attacks on ethnic studies programs we travelled with The Sound Strike to Tuscon to meet with student activists.
“These trips were some of the inspiration for Todos Somos Illegales, our new concept record about the border,” Mintek wrote.
This past December, the band released an 18-track album about the U.S./Mexico border and the system that exploits immigrants. A name-your-own-price album, Todos Somos Ilegales/We Are All Illegals, was produced by Tom Morello. It also features Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Residente (Rene) from the nine-time Latin Grammy-winning hip-hop duo Calle 13 on the title track.
Morello, perhaps one of rock’s best known activists, is on board to produce the band’s next album.
On April 4th, Outernational kicked off their tour of the Southwest with a press conference and performance 100 miles from the border of the U.S. and Mexico. It’s a tour so significant that the Pulitzer Prize-winning Huffington Post is publishing a tour diary by Mintek in conjunction with Voto Latino.
They’ve performed in Texas and Arizona, where their songs about immigration and a borderless nation once caused a near-riot at a punk rock show shortly after SB1070 was passed. They have moved on to California. The tour will then roll back through Texas, Arizona and other stops before culminating where it all started: New York City on May 24th.
The topic of immigration is certainly not restricted to the United States. Europe and Latin America are also dealing with changing populations. And this is why Todos Somos Ilegales/We Are All Illegals may very well be an unprecedented global album of our time.
Below is Outernational’s tour schedule and the video for the first single off the album, “The Beginning Is Here”
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