Tijuana Cartel heading to The Northern.
Tijuana Cartel heading to The Northern. supplied

Tijuana Cartel on the M1

If you live on the Northern Rivers and you haven't spent at least one night dancing to the infectious grooves of Tijuana Cartel... you need to think about what you're doing with your life.

Born of the Gold Coast, the five-piece are renowned for their flamenco infused dub and roots music.

But the new album offers something more. The Cartel have gone a little more rock, a little more electronic on us and M1, their third album is a great development for the band.

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Paul George, frontman and guitarist, takes some time to talk to Pulse in the lead-up to the band's first ticketed-headline gig at The Northern, Byron Bay. This is an exciting step in itself.

George started playing guitar when he was 11 years old and was first influenced by Middle Eastern sounds and rock before scoring a gig at a cafe.

"They wanted Latin-style music," he says. "So I was playing there five days a week and flamenco became a bit of a passion. It was really because I got a job doing it that I got into it."

That sound has since had a major impact on George's music and the sound of Tijuana Cartel.

Listening to different bands before making M1 has also had an impact on the band's new sound.

LCD Soundsystem, The Presets, Midnight Juggernauts and TV On The Radio were high on the playlist making for an interesting transformation that doesn't leave their past behind.

"We just wanted to not do what we'd done before and use some of our talents that we hadn't done before like playing electric guitar," George says.

"Keeping what we know but just adding to it."

As for the Brit-pop sounding vocal, there's a combination of influences including, firstly, George's English father.
"It seems like the more drunk I am the more English I sound," George says.

Secondly, there is an echo to the vocal.

"Yeah, that was a Magoo thing," George says. "There's a reverb sound that's quite popular. Bands like Foals have been doing it for ages, but it's just a delay sound I wanted to get on the album."

Magoo (Lachlan Goold) is a renowned Australian producer who has worked with an extensive list of Aussie acts including Regurgitator's seminal album Tu-Plang, Spiderbait, Powderfinger and more recently Art Vs Science and Operator Please.

Written over two years, M1 was recorded over a six-week period in a house in Nimbin.

"Each room was a separate recording room," George says. "It was just good to be able to do it at our leisure. We were even a fair way from town so we rarely ventured in. We all had big beards by the end of it."

The chilled out, bush environment wasn't as good as they thought it would be for recording.

"It was actually hard because we wanted to do a heavier album," he says. "But, being in such a relaxed environment it was hard to get different emotions out. It came out a little different, but I think that was a good thing in the end."

They then picked up a few tips from the master in the mixing and engineering phase with Magoo.

"You never know what to expect when you go into these things but we really learnt a few cool things," George says. "Well we learnt a lot, but we also learnt we were going about things the right way too."

At this point George starts going into the detail of things the band learned and what they were already doing right, but in his words "it's all pretty nerdy stuff."

Live it's a whole new beast as well and George says they're happy to take the new sound to their second home in Byron Bay.

Catch Tijuana Cartel at The Northern on Saturday at 9pm. Tickets $29 from www.thenorthern .com.au.

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