Neil Reedy and Brian Falkowski at Flanagans Harp and Fiddle. photo courtesy of Mike Landsman
I was lucky to catch up with Neil Reedy of La Única (\lä, oo’-nee-kä\) who submitted the responses of five band members. Based out of Washington, DC, the band is representing the beautiful blend of Irish and Latin music. They are in the middle of promoting their self- titled album. Members of the band give us a close look at what makes La Única unique, exciting and definitely worth checking out.
1. With the release of your self-titled album, what are you expecting in terms of the listener’s reaction to this project?
La Única: We’re hoping our listeners, upon hearing our songs, will begin to … well, we’re not sure how to answer this question that doesn’t end up in ownership of a private island. But the most common response we get from people who have just heard our music is, “Wow, at first I didn’t get it, but it really works.” We expect similar reactions of surprise and embrace. But overall, we hope our listeners listen with an open mind and discover our new, fun sound.
2. There are five core members and a total of nine musicians who worked on the tracks. How was the recording experience so far?
We are very lucky to be located in the Washington, DC area where each of us has played with phenomenal musicians from very different backgrounds, and we love having them join us occasionally for gigs to add a nice, fat sound. The recording itself was a beast! The album was completely independently produced and funded. We even had a situation in which one of us temporarily lived in Miami and had to commute for recording sessions! We looked at the project from a standpoint of first recording the ideas and thought of the 5 core members and then conspiring with these additional musicians to add elements that add value to the complete vision of the album as a whole. But thanks in no small part to our bass player, who produced the entire album — including all those strange scheduling challenges — we were able to put out a great product.
National Cherry Blossom Festival.
3. The Spanish and Irish connection really work! Tell me about the musical connection of Ireland to Spain.
Our Venezuelan lead singer knew about the Irish migration to Argentina, and taught the rest of us about Celtic regions of nations not named Ireland that have their own, distinct Celtic culture like Galicia in Spain, Brittany in France to name a few. He also turned us onto some artists doing this, notably Gaelica (based out of Venezuela), Salsa Celtica, a few Ruben Blades songs and the Chieftains tried something similar on their San Patricio album. As a shout out to all of these guys, our live shows include two Gaelica covers and one from the San Patricio album. Musically, you can hear when the traditional Irish rhythms contain roots in the fundamental rhythms that are shared by many styles of music. 3/4 and 6/8 rhythms are understood by the Latin side of our band and that is where the fusing of styles begins. Then we add styles we’ve acquired from our various experiences and you have La Unica.
4. Contigo O Sin Ti (With Or Without You) is a pleasant surprise. Tell me about the decision to record this track.
La Única : Pure energy.
Our bass player is partial to U2’s guitar player, The Edge. We brought in “With or Without You,” which–I guess you can say–is “Irish,” but more to demonstrate that we can apply our style to popular music as well. We want to show that our style doesn’t just have to be so eclectic that only a few people “get it”—in fact, at our live shows, we get great crowd responses from cover songs of popular music that we’ve “La Unicized.” With or Without You has a nice chord structure, a pleasing melody throughout, and a climax (which is interpreted here as a salsa). Bachata throughout is a very dance friendly feel, and goes perfect with the violin and tin whistle. Hopefully, people may come across our version when looking for U2’s With or Without You and perhaps be interested in checking out more of our stuff.
5. All of the tracks I’ve heard are amazing. How do you work on polishing and making them sound the way we hear them now.
The musicianship of our members is really impressive both in terms of technical ability as well as creativity. We see examples of it all the time at our rehearsals when we come up with more and more ideas for songs we’ve played a lot (and we get incredibly frustrated when we forget to press record!). It stems from persistent practice, and playing many shows live. Sometimes new ideas sprout up even a year after a song is technically completed. Those ideas are then incorporated in the recording process, and additional elements are discussed and our bass player executed those ideas with supreme production skills. He added elements to these tracks that really make them a pleasure to listen to like the short hip hop beat in Dame Sabor, the ambient sounds in Silver Spear, and the background voices in Walk.
6. Where can listeners purchase the album?
Everywhere. But make sure to come to a live show to get a signed copy of our music. You can find out site and store at launicamusic.com
7. What’s your message to other Celtic fusion artists out there?
Contact us! We love hearing from bands and are always looking for new ideas or bands to partner with for live shows. All five of us agree that after having played in scores of bands, this project is by far our most successful and most fun; we think a large part of it is the merging of so many distinct styles and producing a truly unique sound. So if you’re a group out there doing that, keep at it and we’d love to hear it!
8. Please invite your readers to buy the new album.
Buy our new album …how’s that for persuasion? If you really want to hear something different, something that’s very likely not on any of your playlists, and will put you in a good mood, have a listen and give us your support!
9. How do you unwind after a great gig or recording?
Honestly, after our gigs we are absolutely exhausted, so sleep is our go-to for now. Yep, not too exciting an answer. We occasionally hang out with the owner and staff at Rumba Café in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of DC—they’ve been very good to us. Oh, if anyone would like to be a roadie for us, yeah, we’ll take that.
10. Top 5 albums you are listening to right now?
“Valtari” from Sigur Rós
“Random Access Memories” from Daft Punk
“Secret People” from Capercaille
“Muy Divertido” from Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos
“La Revancha del Tango” from Gotan Proeject
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