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The Miami Herald
New Act Circo: It's A Wonder!
BY JORDAN LEVIN
August 28, 2002
BEST ROCK GROUP?: Puerto Rican alternative rock band Circo made the cut on the Latin Grammy list of nominations.
When Fofé Abreu, leader of the Puerto Rican alternative rock band Circo, got a call from his manager in late July telling him the group had been nominated for a Latin Grammy, Abreu didn't believe him.
The group, after all, was only 7 months old, having formed in January after Abreu's old band, Manjar de los Dioses, broke up. And although Circo may have enjoyed underground credibility in its homeland, the musicians released their album on their own and had neither radio airplay nor industry clout on their side.
''I said, `How can we be nominated? It's our first album and we're independent,'' Abreu remembers. It took a call from their Miami producer, Gustavo Menendez, to convince him.
Circo, which plays tonight at Billboardlive in Miami Beach, is arguably the most unlikely success story on a Latin Grammy nomination list filled with artistically earnest rock-fusion artists and singer-songwriters. But the group's presciently titled album No todo lo que es pop es bueno (Not everything pop is good), recorded in a creative rush just before the spring deadline for nominee submissions, earned nominations for Best Rock Album and Best New Artist. (The awards will be announced during a national prime-time ceremony Sept. 18 on CBS.)
It's Circo's inclusion in the second category, a coveted and heavily lobbied platform that can launch an artist to immediate attention, that most surprises Abreu and Menendez.
''There's so much being released every year, to get that is a huge honor,'' says Menendez, who produced Manjar's first two albums.
''I'm super happily surprised,'' Menendez says. 'It's nice to see an alternative band in the same pool with every major company's pop priority. We started many years ago, and we saw bands come and go. . .and we were always the alternative weird ones. So a lot of times you ask `are we doing the right thing?' This says you did the right thing.''
Circo's intricately constructed songs, with spacey electronic grooves and surreal lyrics, mixed with Abreu's wild theatrics, have earned the band a following in Puerto Rico and attention from critics on the alternative Latin rock circuit. But the musicians never expected much beyond that.
''Our attitude is almost punk, because we do everything ourselves and we don't have the machine for promotion or payola,'' Abreu says. ``To me it's pretty cool that the [Recording Academy, presenters of the Latin Grammys] opened their ears to a band like us. It showed me that our music is more accessible than I thought if [Academy voters] can relate us to music that is more mainstream.''
Now the group is getting a taste of the big time: Circo is scheduled to play a pre-Latin Grammy party hosted by BMI.
''It's changed things already,'' Abreu says. ``We have more credibility. From now on I'm not just Fofé. I'm Fofé, two-time Latin Grammy nominee. That's already a prize.''