“I’ve been living in the Hudson Valley ever since moving from Santiago, Chile in the year 2000,” says musician Ariel Acevedo of Yolanda Yolanda. “Even though I was born in Santiago, I consider this area to be my home. What I love about Kingston is the community. After living above Wing Shui restaurant — with drummer Mattia — for a year, I became more deeply rooted with community members in Kingston. A lot of people give so much of their time to make the rest of our lives more enjoyable. It’s that dedication and willingness to be a productive member of the community that most likely keeps me around.”
The detail oriented Acevedo is releasing Estados Separados (meaning separate states) via his musical project, a warm and vibrant blend of styles and influences from around the world. I remember when my partner and I overheard the full live band rehearsing in an apartment below us one or two different week nights we were thrilled at their energy and liveliness.
“My writing is definitely influenced by the direct experiences my family and thousands of other Hispanic families have and are going through here in the U.S.,” said Acevedo. “Growing up my cousin introduced me to a lot of different genres but the music that stuck to me the most was protest music. Los Jaivas was Andean folk music in the late ’60s that protested war and the authoritarian regime of Pinochet. They were actually exiled during Pinochet’s dictatorship because of the so-called ‘propaganda’ they were sharing through their music. Los Prisioneros was one of the first Chilean bands I got into. Much of their music was songs of protest. These songs were fun, danceable and had a clear message about the oppression of workers during the ’80s.”
With this common theme of fighting injustice through music, Acevedo became more involved with how our politics work here in the U.S. It’s inevitable for anyone who cares about the history or present of folk music and/or activism to find intertangling of social issues is inherent to the process.
“I don’t need to get into politics now, but it’s important to understand that there’s a lot of ongoing corruption, injustice and greed that our representatives are beholden to,” he says. “We’re all workers and we all deserve a good quality of life. Discussing politics is a very scary thing to most people. So I try to write songs we can all dance to but also leave the show with a new yearning for understanding of what actually is going on, like Marvin Gaye. This album is my own version of protest songs and I hope to make more.”
Acevedo started writing the songs in winter of 2016 with a nylon string guitar. That’s pretty cool — there’s a spare intimacy to starting out in a basic fashion so you really get your head into the bare-bones mechanics of a song from the ground up. While obviously there’s something special about a full band jamming an arrangement out of chemistry or someone technically navigating arrangements by graph for a prog-metal fusion album, I’m pretty sure even today’s stadium-friendly Green Day knows the value of starting a song from the heart of the matter and then building outward.
Starting in March of 2017 Acevedo set up a studio in Uptown and started tracking instruments. Things grew exponentially from there.
“While working about 60 to 70 hours a week, it took me from March 2017 to June of this year to fully complete mixing and tracking,” he reveals. “There were a lot of times where I found myself in a rabbit hole. Just when you think something sounds great, you gotta do it over. However, I learned a lot about music production and songwriting by doing this all myself.”
The album’s release show is happening at The Beverly this Friday, Nov. 9. Playing with the band that night is Schmave. Both Schmave and Yolanda Yolanda were part of the O+ Festival this year there and are excited to return to the venue.
“It feels rewarding to have finished this project after working on it for so long,” Ariel tells me. “This album also serves as a reminder not to just myself but to everyone else who wants to follow that dream they’re always thinking about.”
I ask Acevedo if there’s anything else he would like to reveal as an initial feeling at this time, or an impression to look back upon.
“I’m excited to share this with everyone. All my friends, coworkers, family members domestic and overseas all know that music is where I’m meant to be,” he says. “So for this album to be finally finished is a dream come true for me. I’m humbled to be a part of a diverse musical community with eclectic musicians that is Kingston. This is only the beginning.”