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With a ‘Degree in Selenomics’ and Her Bilingual Cosmic Sounds, Chrisol Is Finding Her Musical Reality

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Welcome to Taco de Sonido, our new monthly music column presented by Tecate, the official beer of L.A. TACO. Each month we'll bring you the latest up-and-coming artists that are staking a claim to the new sound of Los Ángeles. Read, listen,  share, and don't be afraid to share your comments or suggestions for new artists for us to check out. We've got our ears on the street but we want to hear from YOU.

[dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]rom Chino, California and armed with a lifelong obsession with Selena, Chrisol is making a name for herself as a rising star in L.A.’s indie music scene. 

Chrisol knew she wanted to be an artist since she was five years old, propelled by the strong desire to create and perform out of nowhere as a child. But it wasn't until she discovered the work of a certain Tejana superstar that she realized the full scope of singing and performing for audiences. 

Growing up in Chino, CA, Chrisol became familiar with Selena’s music almost around the same time of her tragic passing. However, no one in her family had the heart to tell her, given she was only five years old at the time. It was only until she watched the breakout 1997 film that she found out at around the age of seven.

Chrisol felt an immediate connection to the singer. Not just to her music but also for the way she looked with a strong resemblance to her older sister and herself. “It was [her] voice; something about the way she sings spoke to me.”Chrisol talks about being drawn to the types of performers who possess a certain amount of quality and character. It was the tonality that imbued itself into her own understanding of musical performance.   

 

Years later, armed with that artistic knowledge and spirit, Chrisol would be the front person of L.A.-based Selena cover band Selenamos, the brainchild of Chicano Batman drummer Gabriel Villa and Twin Seas guitarist, Jose Cruz. At the time, Chrisol was performing music semi-professionally on a part-time basis and working in the marketing department for Rhino Entertainment.

This was early 2015, and Chicano Batman had just begun to earn their buzz from their first record and had landed a spot as the opening act for Jack White’s tour. The band took a long Cruz, leaving Chrisol with the creative reins to fill the rest of the spots for the rest of Selenamos. Armed with the notions of a cosmic musical connection passed along from Cruz and Villa, Chrisol started auditioning musicians who could help her realize the sound she was envisioning. 

Before performing Selena’s music, Chrisol was your typical So-Cal kid, having grown up on KROQ pop-rock styles of Gwen Stefani while dabbling in punk and ska.

When asked to describe what specific sound Chrisol was looking for when assembling Selenamos, she describes a unique cumbia blend. Chrisol relates playing cumbia to reggae, “You can imitate it really well, but you know when it’s really good, you can feel it.” Throughout her studying the genre, she developed what could be described as a “galaxy brain” while delving into the cumbia-verse, even familiarizing herself with the psychedelic-sub genre known as “ chicha,” whose roots trace back to Peru. 

Photo by Yesica Magaña.

Before performing Selena’s music, Chrisol was your typical So-Cal kid, having grown up on KROQ pop-rock styles of Gwen Stefani while dabbling in punk and ska. Talking more about her influences, she mentions how other groups such as the Talking Heads, Dolly Parton, Ella Fitzgerald, The Killers, and even the sounds of Broadway have left an impression on her as a young artist growing up. 

The cumbia sound, which Chrisol and her bandmates helped cultivate, came down to a certain rhythm and percussive way of thinking about the music. “It really helps capture the groove.” To show audiences they were, in fact, the real deal. The group made a conscious decision to o focus on capturing the authenticity of the music instead of putting on just another tribute show. “What really makes it sound good is the percussion and that steady rhythm she attributes to the Tejano sound. 

 “I basically have my masters in Selenomics (laughing),” Chrisol says. To her, Selena has always been a constant force in her life. When she was young, the singer served as a role model, representing an example of hard work, not to mention endless charisma. Selena’s personality left a strong impression. Highlighted further was that she was Mexican American, which was a blind spot for the mainstream American audiences. 

I have tremendous respect for the fact that she can sing Selena's arrangements as they were meant to be sung because she does have the range.” - Mala Muñoz  

She strongly identified that Selena grew up speaking English but sang in Spanish, allowing for a closer cultural connection to her roots. L.A.-based multi-hyphenate and one-half of Locatora Radio podcast, Mala Munoz first saw Chrisol perform with Selenamos in 2018 describe her ability to honor Selena's legacy, not through the lens of imitating the singer but instead honoring it. “I have tremendous respect for the fact that she can sing Selena's arrangements as they were meant to be sung because she does have the range,” remarks Munoz.   

On her recent solo EP, Lovely, released in September of last year, Chrisol takes everything a step further and manages to do a graceful swan dive into a moonlit swimming pool of her collected influences. Giving proper nods to indie inspired pop, disco, and torch songs meets boleros, all while singing in Spanish and English, making the listener keenly aware that she’s not afraid to take any type of creative risk it comes to showing who she is. 

Photo by Yesica Magaña.

Chrisol uses the music on her EP to create her own cinematic universe. Lovely can awaken the senses, allowing listeners the opportunity to conjure up their own imaginative and emotional landscape. It is the type of music that possesses a reality-altering ability by invoking a series of images, switching different colors and hues with each song while being played for the appropriate dramatic effect.

A perfect testament to what Chrisol strives for on Lovely in terms of her artist growth can be found on the second track, “Atoms.” The song opens with primordial sounding beats paired expertly with a soft keyboard introduction, something you might find on a Kate Bush record. Chrisol’s ethereal vocals appear singing the lines: “Let these atoms divide and burst/ No more hiding yourself.” Hearing those lines, one truly gets the sense of the power of her artistic sensibilities. It could be seen as witnessing a scientific reaction of sorts as she takes the next step towards becoming fully realized on her own journey of greatness.

“I’m still on a journey to discover my sound...” she mentions. Being a person who came of age in the 90s and 2000s and being a first-generation Mexican American, Chrisol represents a type of fluidity and duality that many Latinx artists have come to represent today. Because of that fact, she is still trying to find the right space for occupying with her music. Representing a combination of many things, both past and present, and yet still manages to be a unique force that is unequivocal all her own.

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