Hanging Out With Raul y Mexia, the New Cubs of Latin Pop

PHOTO: Raul & Mexia at an East LA yard party

Pili Montilla

On a recent Sunday afternoon in a sunny backyard in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, an eclectic mix of artists, music industry types and tattoo-cladded hipsters got together to eat ceviche, cupcakes and drink endless cervezas.

L.A. in dahouse!

Of course, no East LA yard party is complete without live music, even if the "stage" is a simple chunk of grass. First up was El Gavachillo, aka Wil-Dog from Ozomatli who has a a unique-sounding band mix of banda music with punk. And then, the hometown debut of the brother duo 'Raul y Mexia' (pronounced Mex-a-ee-ah), an urban duo who are one of the most-talked about new artists in Latin music this year.

Raul checks out El Gavachillo.

Raul y Mexia get ready for their backyard BBQ show."We're a little nervous. But that always happens when you have passion for what you do. Plus, this is not our band! So this band JUST learned the song!" says Mexia outside the house.

The brothers are not your typical urban male duo. While Raul's voice is melodic and romantic, Mexia adds the urban energy that makes the audience stand up and dance.

Mexia's real name is Hernán, named after their dad, bassist Hernán Hernández from the legendary band Los Tigres del Norte. The brothers grew up with one "foot in Mexico and one foot in San Jose, California" and listening to everything from Santana to Miles Davis to a lot of norteño and banda music.

Raul takes on the stage. Oh, is that Wil-Dog in the back sniffing new talent?

However, being the sons of a Tigre made it harder for them to find a record label that believed in them. It took them over three years for this to happen: "Being the son and sobrinos of Los Tigres are big shoes to fill. There's a little pressure there... but our dad and tios are so accepting of our music," says Raul. "They understand our concept. My dad always says: 'Why would I want you guys to do norteño? We don't want any more competition!"

Grabbing our attention.

Like buenos tigres, these cubs are on a mission: "Our music resembles change. Latinos in the US are accepting a mix of music and that resembles change. Our album ["Arriba y Lejos" dropping on February 19th via Nacional Records] represents that," adds Raul, 25, the pop inclined one of the duo who admires Luis Miguel.

Meet and greet in the heat. The Hernandez brothers give some love to the fans. "Wow! That was the fastest we've ever had to sing that song. Ufffff!" says Raúl as he wipes the sweat from his forehead.

"We're not trying to do the 'Rico Suave' thing here. We're bilingual and bicultural and we're like a salsa or a ceviche, just a mix of different genres," explains Mexia (26), the urban counterpart whose idol is the rapper Nas.

Ceviche time! Mexia refueling.

Enough work for today. Time for the hermanos to join la fiesta.

Los Tigres are saved, but other urban duos like Wisin y Yandel or Chino y Nacho have been warned. These cubs have a loud, strong roar!

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