Los Po-Boy-Citos came out of the box dancing in 2008 with New Orleans Latin Soul, an ingenious hybrid of 60s-style Latin boogaloo and New Orleans second line funk, and followed it up with the lively Brand New Dance. While collecting acclaim, the band worked hard to develop its own sound, and a third CD, the just-released Hasta, offers the clearest picture of where Los Po-Boy-Citos have been headed all along.
“We know we’re gringos in a sense,” says guitarist Matt Sakakeeny, ”but we love this music. We come to it from our own perspective. It has Latin rhythms and the lyrics are in Spanish but it’s pretty dissimilar from Latin music played in other cities. It’s not salsa, it’s not son. This wasn’t about creating something traditional and deeply rooted, it was about urban American music.”
The idea of Los Po-Boy-Citos dates back to right after the federal flood of 2005 when New Orleans music had to be recreated by those who returned to the city. “As musicians we had to learn how to play it,” Sakakeeny explains. “It was a really interesting trial and error process. We would take things like Rebirth Brass Band’s ‘Feel Like Funkin’ It Up’ and try to do a boogaloo version but it didn’t work. Through trial and error we found out what was needed. It basically came down to a Latin rhythm section with a funk bass and guitar and a New Orleans style horn section.
“In 2006 we played a lot at Café Brasil, which was a great training ground. The first record covers Joe Cuba, Mongo Santamaria, a little Tito Puente, we just kind of immersed ourselves. We had to master the style before we could find our own voice.”
Sakakeeny believes that voice has emerged on Hasta. The band wrote the songs next door to bassist Dan Cutler’s house in the Holy Cross neighborhood. Then they went to Sakakeeny’s house and cut it live with producer Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff).
“We’re always trying to find where the Latin rhythm intersects with the New Orleans rhythm,” says Sakakeeny. “It’s rarely a case of ‘We need a cumbia rhythm for this song or a clave rhythm or a cascara rhythm’, which is all over this new record. Michael Skinkus plays the shell of the timbales to get that rhythm. You can hear it on ‘Mary Wants to Boogaloo’.”