During our conversation, Carlos Medina walks around Coyoacán, a “folkloric” neighborhood in Mexico City, known for its cobblestone streets, art galleries, Frida Kahlo Museum and the preserved former home of Leon Trotsky. It is the so-called bohemian center of the city, and Medina describes sweeping mansions and colonial architecture as we talk. It’s a befitting location for the avant-garde Mexican musician to describe the work of his dreampop sextet Petite Amie, just before setting off on its U.S. tour.
“I think a lot of bands and projects came out from the pandemic and we’re one of those,” Medina says. “As musicians we didn’t have anything to do. Shows were canceled. Everybody was very, very sad and it was, like, let’s sing it out, en petit comité, just the six of us and make an album.”
Medina is the thread that knits all members of the group together, the catalyst that started the project in the heart of Mexico City. Bassist for the tropical-pop outfit Little Jesus, he enlisted friends and acquaintances from across the area’s robust music scene: He met Isabel Dosal (vocals) at Vive Latino, a decades-in-the-running festival in Mexico City, pledging to make music with her someday. There’s also Jacobo Velazquez (guitar) and Aline Terrein (also vocals) who had been touring with a Colombian artist. Plus, Santiago Fernandez (bass) of synth-pop band The Plastics Revolution.
What started as a gathering of like-minded musicians at Chimychanga Studio in Mexico City in 2020 (taking advantage of the country’s looser pandemic restrictions), Petite Amie has become more than a side project, with one eponymous LP under its belt, and another yet-to-be-titled album on the way.
Writing as a group, sharing feelings, stories, ideas with each other creates a dynamic if not sometimes disparate repertoire. At one point in the writing process, Terrein (who went to a French school in Mexico City along with Dosal) started singing in French, solidifying the band’s love of language. Medina remembers thinking, “Oh my God, I don’t understand anything, but I love it.”
Singing roughly half of their songs in Spanish, the other half French, the ethereal female vocals fuse with psychedelic pop sounds to form rich melodic textures in each track. But Petite Amie doesn’t hold to the rigidity of one influence or one genre or one idea, following the trend of Mexico City’s music scene, a diverse mixture of sounds, styles and musicians—what NPR calls “la capital’s fertile rock scene.”
Petite Amie, like Medina’s other projects, is a product of the country’s mid-1990s La Avanzada Regia scene that began in the northern city of Monterrey. The genre-bending indie movement fused disparate sounds from rap to pop, rock and electronica all in the name of revolutionary culture creation.
All of this coalesced at a time when digital platforms were on the rise and corporate music labels were crashing, making room for more elastic indie label models. Petite Amie releases under the local Devil in the Woods label, a company Medina says is eager to create a new music scene in Mexico City.
“It came, like, from the heavens,” he says. “We don’t get a lot of independent labels in Mexico with, I don’t know, like, a little more, how do you say it, influence?”
Petite Amie is also highly influenced by the musical structure of their northern neighbors, channeling the spirit of such groups as Broken Social Scene, the critically acclaimed Canadian group that fuses the musical tastes of its individual members, most of whom are involved in a variety of side projects as well. Plus, they all bond over their love of classics like The Beatles and Pink Floyd, along with more current acts like Big Thief, Magic Potion, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Crumb.
Petit Amie’s latest single —“Otra Vez”—signals an expansion of the band’s original concept, which addressed the melancholy and existential dread that naturally followed a worldwide pandemic and claimed the lives of people close to the band’s members. Likewise, “Otra Vez” (or once again) speaks to the current moment, describing attempts to reason with somebody, engaging in the same conversation over and over again without seeing any change.
“It’s a dark song,” Medina says. It describes, “that hideous thing that always haunts us.”
There is, however, a bit of optimism thrown in, a recognition that the world doesn’t exist in the black and white binary we often attempt to use. Rather, every situation, every conversation comes with mixed emotions, and such cyclical patterns of conversation are often futile without the desire to change. Petite Amie suggests that perhaps our energy is better spent attempting to accept other people and ourselves as they are rather than how we wish them to be.
ON THE BILL:
Spaceface with Petite Amie and Pleasure Prince. 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16, Lost Lake Lounge, 3602 E. Colfax Ave., Denver. Tickets are $15, lost-lake.com