Making Movies is a multifaceted band. The lead singer/guitarist (Enrique Chi) and bassist (Diego) are brothers from Panama who grew up in Kansas City.
In addition to these two, the band has a keyboardist who also plays the bongos, as well as a drummer/percussionist who busts out a guitar at the end.
Enrique, upon explain the band’s origins says “Our music is all messed up. Sometimes it comes out in English, sometimes in Spanish.” The rhythms are from Panama but are mixed in with the keyboardist’s Mexican heritage. They even have some interesting instruments like the tiny acoustic bass guitar a Panamanian guitar and a donkey jawbone.
“Pendulum Swing” has a cool guitar riff (chords played very high on the neck, giving a distinctive alt 90s feel). The vocals even do some simple “oh ohs.” Enrique’s voice sounds strangely familiar (but I can’t figure out why and I know he’s not someone I’ve heard before because he also sings in Spanish). I love that the keyboardist plays the bongos during the verses and then adds textures to the chorus.
“Cuna De Vida” starts with some more high-pitched guitars and looped voices before some dancey rhythms are added from the bongos and drums. Enrique mostly plays very high chords on the guitar and there’s more “Oh oh ohs.” The song is sung entirely in Spanish and sounds very different from the other two (but still with that alt 90s feel). By the end of the song there are bongos, drums and cowbells as the song builds. It’s fun to her the chorus sung in Spanish as it ramps up at the end.
“Chase Your Tail” opens with looping high notes on the guitar. It sounds much more alt rock–except that the drummer is playing the donkey jawbone and cowbells. The song is really catchy and fun. When it seems like the song is over, the drummer grabs his guitar and Enrique plays the tiny Panamanian guitar. They play a very fast rhythm and he sings in Spanish with fun loping bass notes (and great Mexican style oh oh backing vocals). And when you think it’s all over, the drummer steps up on the zapateado board and does a rhythmic tap dance.
Making Movies was putting out their debut album at this time. I hope they had success with it. I’d like to hear more.
[READ: May 15, 2016] Gus and His Gang
I’m fascinated by First Second’s relationship with French artists. It seems like half of their early releases were originally published in French. And this one is no exception.
What’s also funny is that the French artists seems to have a very distinctive style. Even if they don’t look alike, there’s something very “French” about the way they draw. I did consider that this book might have been drawn by Joann Sfar, but it was all done by Blain, And like many of those other book this was translated by Alexis Siegel.
This book has 13 chapters, although they may also be independent stories. I’m unclear about that. In fact I’m unclear about a lot of this story. Like why does Gus, the lead character have a nose that would be about 18 inches long?
It’s funny and makes him instantly recognizable, but it’s such a weird idea. And why does the titular Gus disappear about half way though never to return? Is this an excerpt? Is it only part one? The colophon is very uninformative.
The part that is obvious: this is a loving mockery of the ol’ West. There are horses and stage coach robberies and sheriffs and black hats and women of ill repute and everything else.
The first story (dated 2004) and titled “Natalie” sees Gus (with the big nose) pining for a woman. His gang mocks him saying that she is not interested. She sends him dismissive letters and even says she is getting married but he can’t give up on her.
The second story is called “Gus Clem Gratt” and gives us the full gang. It was written in 2005. They are planning to rob a train. Gus is distracted by a pretty woman. Although that relationship failed to materialize, he and his gang are very successful in hijacking the train (with fairly disastrous results).
In “El Dorado” we finally ge ta good look at the other two. Grattan is blonde while Clem has orange hair that sticks up at an angle on either side of his head (at one point someone calls him broccoli hair). It doesn’t seem weird with his cowboy hat on, but when he takes it off–crazy We also learn that Clem has a wife and daughter, but he still goes off and joins Gus in his gang, They head off to El Dorado where there are women galore. Gus tries his best to score with various women but really strikes out. Grattan also strikes out. It’s only Clem, who is not even looking who manages to score a very beautiful woman. She looks a lot like a drawing from Sfar.
“Linda McCormick” is another woman. This woman hooks up with Grattan. But he doesn’t want to see here again because she smells really bad (what a strange plot!) But she is the judge’s wife and if he upsets her he can get in real trouble.
I like the way Blain’s drawing style has changed over the years. By “Isabella” (2006), I feel like his characters look more fleshed out and fully realized. In this once, Gus and Grattan are in their new hide out. They are waiting for Clem so they can do their next heist. Clem comes in goes up to his room and stays there for hours. Then they finally do their heist. Through some strange circumstances, they learn that what he’s doing up there has to do with the beautiful woman from El Dorado.
In “Peggy” Gus is sent to scope out a bank to rob. He doesn’t like robbing banks, preferring the safety of trains. When he goes to the bank there is a beautiful woman working there. So he decides to deposit money. And then he convinces Peggy that he is a writer writing about bank robbers. He invites her over and plies her with stories. He does a lot of work trying to woo her, but we have already learned that Gus is not lucky in love (but he is very lucky at cards).
“Adios” is a one page story in which Gus has gone missing and Gratt and Clem agree to disband.
“Triumph” follows Clem as he gives up the outlaw life and goes to find Isabella (not his wife, mind). This story is mildly explicit–acts are shown although no parts are shown. But it turns out that Isabella really wants to have sex in crazy places–at the top of a mountain–preferably with outlaws riding horseback below them. Things get pretty surreal when a giant Clem-shaped created seems to be spying on him (his conscience maybe?). After several adventures, Isabella tells him a story that is fill of day-glo colors and looks a lot like Yellow Submarine. It’s very trippy. (This was written in 2006, before some of the previous ones).
“Inger Lutz” has Clem returning home to his wife and child–his girl is very happy to see her daddy. In this chapter we learn that his wife is a writer and has written a multi-volume very successful story called The Life and Times of Inger Lutz. But homelife is exhausting–his daughter wants him to build her a wagon and his wife has a lot of work to do. But he also fears that his daughter is growing up too fast.
In “The Famous Outlaws and Gunslingers of the West,” it turns out that Isabella gets up to a lot of things while Clem is away too.
“Frisco” is a flashback to when Clem had a full head of hair and when he and Gus first met (Gus was planning to rob his store).
“Bank of California” shows how Clem bought the house for he and his wife.
“Hansdsome Outlaw” is a funny end to the book. Gratt says that he’s been working with another gang but they only want to know about Gus–none of them has heard from him. And as they ride off into the sunset, Clem brandishes a cape and top hat because he is a handsome outlaw,
It certainly feels like there should be more.
This book went from something i didn’t really enjoy to one I found strangely compelling. And I am quite interested in what happened to Gus (and his gang).