Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /homepages/14/d426594527/htdocs/wp-content/themes/editorial/functions/admin-hooks.php on line 160

Always expanding his interests, Brian Lopez is a guitarist who embraces styles as diverse as classical, mambo, indie rock, cumbia, pop and folk.

That restlessness reflects a broad and unusually varied musical education, all of which Lopez brings to bear on his first full-length solo album, “Ultra,” out March 6 in the United States on Tucson’s Funzalo Records.

“I like to have my hand in a lot of places to soak up the knowledge of a lot of different genres and then I put it back into my own melting pot,” Lopez says. “This is the first chance I’ve ever had to be myself and write stuff that comes straight from my heart.”

There’s a cinematic drama running through the songs on “Ultra,” with melodies that float and twist amid rich instrumentation – violin, cello, accordion, upright bass and lap steel guitar – that creates a timeless and entirely unique blend of the styles Lopez has soaked up as a musician. But it’s Lopez’s high-register vocals – supple with a hint of elusiveness – that are the album’s most alluring draw.

Lopez, who studied classical guitar and has a BFA in music, builds his songs around vocal melodies, a process he compares to a composer writing a classical music piece around a first violin melody.

“I know what kind of music my vocals work best with and I write music that fits a melody,” he says. “I seem to have some knack for the dramatics, that’s easy for me to do. I take pride in throwing weird music school nerd chords into things people think are pop songs. ‘Montjuic’ has a lot of weird things, but it just flows.”

While still fronting Mostly Bears, Lopez began playing solo a couple years ago as a way to move away from the fad chasing of indie rock and make music that could be more timeless. The solo act quickly grew to a full band, all while Lopez was playing mambo with Sergio Mendoza Y La Orkesta and chamber pop in Marianne Dissard’s band.

“I went in completely different directions with every musical endeavor I could get my hands on,” he says. “I’m only interested in things that will broaden my musical scope.”
Stepping beyond indie rock, Lopez says he felt his schooling come into play a lot more, with all the tedious early morning hours of practicing scales providing a rich foundation for writing and playing his own music.

“Ultra” came together over time, with recording and mixing sessions at Loveland, WaveLab and Waterworks studios. Though it’s a new record stateside, it was released last fall in Europe, earning Lopez a feature in the German version of Rolling Stone and a 4.5 out of 5 star rating in Germany’s Musik Express.

Now 29, Lopez looks forward to a heavy touring schedule in 2012, with 13 Western shows opening for the Heartless Bastards and nine European shows, all in a month. He’s also joined the new larger version of Howe Gelb’s Giant Sand, with a new record underway and festival and European performances.

Gelb in particular is a mentor to Lopez, a longtime do-it-yourself artist who’s proven that staying power can come through hard work, dedication and musical restlessness. Busting his ass in music school, soaking in diverse styles and chipping away at the business end of music for nearly a decade, Lopez feels he’s finally breaking through.

“It’s getting a lot more real. It’s a career now for me and it feels good to be at this level. I want to be doing this when I’m 50, to stick out and remain relevant,” he says. “You got to keep moving and growing and you got to stay interested. There have to be fresh, new ideas and you have to offer something different every time.”

Published March 1, 2012 in Zócalo. 

Tags: , , ,

Eric Swedlund is a writer, photographer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. His music writing has appeared regularly in the Tucson Weekly, Phoenix New Times, East Bay Express, The Rumpus and Souciant Magazine.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.