March 07 2018

Future Music with Salt Cathedral

New York-Standard Sounds
If they’re not already on your radar, go ahead and put Colombia-born, Brooklyn based musicians Juliana Ronderos and Nicolas Losada, aka Salt Cathedral, right on it. They were just signed to Sony Ultra, and if the singles they’ve been dropping in the past year with artists like Matisyahu and Assassin are any indication of what’s to come, their future’s bright.

They also know their shit. They met studying jazz at Berklee (even though they coincidentally grew up in the same Bogotá neighborhood), and grew to be talented writers and producers, well-versed in a huge array of musical genres, which they synthesize to create an infectious sound.
 
We caught up with Juli and Nico before they played The Standard, East Village for The Annie O Music Series.
 
Juli and Nico.

Juli and Nico.

THE STANDARD: You've been releasing some great singles leading up to your album. When can we expect it?
NICO: We just recently signed a deal with Sony Ultra, so because of that, everything changed. We're going to release a couple of singles, but we still don’t have a specific date for the record.
 
JULI: Our next single is coming out March 9th and the album probably won’t be any later than June.
 
What else do you have coming up?
NICO: Tomorrow we’re going to Peru to play a small show there, then we’re going to play a festival in the Dominican Republic. We’re also playing SxSW.
 
JULI: And we’re doing some writing in LA.
 
Writing for Salt Cathedral?
NICO: Besides the band, we write and produce. We like to collaborate with other people. It's kind of what we are, our identity. That’s where our sound and our style comes from. So, it's really nice to just work with other people and see how we collaborate.
 
JULI: We’re just such lovers of music, so when we collaborate with other people, we’re constantly creating new music. We had already finished our record and then we signed a deal, so now we’re ahead of this music. We’re trying to create new music and push everything forward.
 
That record was a very specific a sound. We were bringing together all these influences. We grew up in Colombia dancing to a lot of reggaeton, salsa, and Caribbean music. We live in a neighborhood [in Brooklyn] that’s super Jamaican. All of this moved us toward a more tropical sound. Now we’re doing other types of stuff.
 
Like what?
NICO: Brazilian, Nigerian, and New Orleans bounce.
 
JULI: We’re working on a track with Big Freedia.
 
That's amazing. When’s that coming out?
NICO: For Big Freedia, we need something visually incredible, so unless we have a pink Maserati driving her around in New Orleans, we're not going to release that song.
The Standard

You work with artists like Matisyahu, Assassin, and now Big Freedia. How do all these collaborations come about?
NICO: It’s the power of the internet. It's just me emailing people and them saying “Oh yeah, I really like this. Let’s do it.” It resonated with Assassin, it resonated with Matisyahu, same with Big Freedia, so it’s an internet phenomenon.
 
What does it feel like to be an up-and-coming band?
NICO: You want the real answer?
 
Obviously.
NICO: Once you do a record, you want to release it because of that excitement. And once you get into the process of marketing and you have a bigger team—which is amazing, it's great—but it cuts a little bit of that excitement. You just have to be mature enough to say, “OK, forget about it.” And also, it's really exciting to have a group of people helping us. It's exciting to release this music, and it’s exciting to see how people react. Honestly, I'm waiting for their reaction. If they don't like it, I'm waiting for that reaction as well.
 
What’s it like to be artists in this current political climate?
NICO: It's very difficult. We're Latinos, we're immigrants here in New York. It could be like, “Let's take advantage of this” because it’s now fashionable to be political. I think that’s stupid, but I think it's better than not doing anything. It's better for someone to use social media to express themselves and be active even if it's fashionable or cool.
 
Do you feel pressured to talk about political issues when you don’t want to?
JULI: It’s a responsibility. If you had a platform, let’s say for touring, why wouldn’t you push every single one of your promoters to do something that's environmentally sustainable? If you have a platform to create change for a better world, you should be doing it. So, no, it's never unwelcome. Our next single is literally about how we're all made out of the same things, which is bodies.
 
I mean, we're immigrants. We’re up for renewing our visas and if we don't get them because the administration’s not issuing visas, then we can’t live here, play here, or work here anymore.
 
Your newest releases are pretty joyful and celebratory, which is a big difference from your earlier stuff. Did something happen that caused this change?
NICO: I wanted a change of direction.
 
JULI: I think it's a live thing. We used to play shows and be kind of bummed by the energy of the whole thing. Nico comes from a hardcore punk background, and we’d play these slow, headphone songs live with so much energy, but we realized people wouldn’t dance or move. And we realized that comes with rhythms, from cultures that are associated with that. We want to have a really fun live show. 
 
You’ve mentioned that in Colombia “people dance first with their bodies and then intellectually,” and for Americans it's the opposite.
NICO: Yes, because Colombia’s a dance culture. Songwriters or people that make music there in Colombia, they're thinking about dancers. They’re not thinking about the guy who sings. Yeah, you sing, but the first thing is “How can I make that guy dance?”
 
Is that what you’re trying to do with your new music?
NICO: Totally. It’s about dancing and having a good time and feeling that energy back.
Writer
Elena Feldman
Photos
Zak Krevitt