Drawing from diverse musical backgrounds, Austin’s Cilantro Boombox creates an energetic, positive vibe that flows from the dance floor through your body and soul. The group was founded over a decade ago by bassist Félix Pacheco and saxophonist/flautist Joe Woullard, and quickly evolved into a tight knit unit adding the songwriting abilities of Christopher “Zumbi” Richards (Trombone, Vocals), Andres Villegas (Guitar, vocals), Joshua Thomson (alto sax), Micah Shalom (trumpet), and Gustavo Hernandez (drums). Each member brings their own unique style into the mix sparking MTV (Iggy) to boast, “Cilantro is one of the liveliest and most aromatic garnishes. Austin’s Cilantro Boombox doles out Latin-Caribbean-Texan freshness the same way the herb does,” while Austin360 adds, “Drawing from influences that run the gamut from dancehall to salsa, party jams to punk rock, the seven-piece ensemble throws down a stellar selection of grooves to make you move.” They have also garnered strong national press accolades from NPR Music, PopMatters, Huffington Post, and Medium as they continue to rise.
Their lively energy and unique fusion of brass instrumentation, electronic music, and Latin and Pan-African sounds have earned them a strong following both locally and nationally, playing notable festivals including SXSW, Austin Reggae Fest, KUTX’s Summer Jam, and Musikfest. Their momentum continues by winning a grant from the prestigious Black Fret organization in 2019 and again nominated for 2020.
Cilantro Boombox’s two new tracks, produced by Pacheco and mastered by Claudio Ramirez, find a balance between the synth-heavy sound of their self-titled first album, and the more stripped back, live sound of their sophomore album, Shine.
Cilantro Boombox’s first single “Wahoo” was first meant to evoke the “child-like frustration over not having much more to say in an argument,” but as time passed and the song began to take shape, it came to mean much more. Félix explains, “As the song was being mixed and mastered in June of 2020, the irreverence became a mantra to deal with the frustration of arguing with deaf ears over issues of equality. Issues we shouldn’t even have to debate in the first place. That also inspired the music video.” Félix adds, “The contrast of just wanting to dance, shake things up and scream, juxtaposed with images of Black Lives Matter protests in Austin was a way to tie it all together and tip our hats to all of those that continue to fight for a better and more fair future.” Check out the video here.
The band will be donating proceeds of merchandise sales for the months of August and September to the DAWA Fund (https://www.dawaheals.org), which provides emergency financial aid to people of color who are musicians, artists, social workers, teachers, healing practioners, and service industry workers in the Austin community.
Cilantro Boombox’s second single “Y O U,” which is out today, is an ode to the ocean and the Caribbean Sea, a place that is a constant inspiration for the band and “a diaspora center where a lot of [their] musical influences converge.” The beachy, reggae-influenced sound and catchy hook evoke “that feeling of sitting by the ocean watching the sunset. The breeze, the smells. Next to somebody important. Finding love and wanting that moment to last forever.”
Because of COVID-19 and the difficulties with recording a full band during a pandemic, “Wahoo” and “Y O U” were pieced together remotely. Some parts of the songs were recorded pre-COVID, some parts were done via email, and some elements were even recorded onto cellphones. In the end, Cilantro Boombox is proud of returning to their DIY roots. Félix concludes, “We haven’t released new music in a bit and challenges have come up, but being able to share this material with the world is pretty special to us.”