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Sacramento Interview

Sacramento Interview
Performed via Skype September 2011


On a day when cyberspace is awash with howls of outrage over Facebook’s latest “improvements,” it feels a bit ironic to be writing about the Chilean metal band Sacramento, a band that I first heard about through Eve’s Apple, the Facebook community of professional female metal and rock vocalists. After downloading their 2009 promo album, Sacramento went on my watch list of promising bands. And their debut album, Weight of Sin (June 2011), did not disappoint … heavy riffing and powerful female vocals, with just a smattering of growls. (Most of the promo album is still available as a free download here.)

Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker caught up with vocalist, Laura Vargas, to chat about Weight of Sin, being voiceless just days before opening for a major headliner, and much more. Dive in to find out more!

Hello Laura, and welcome to Sonic Cathedral webzine! We’re really happy to have you here today to talk about Sacramento’s new release, Weight of Sin.

Laura:  Hello, Robin! How are you on your side of the world?

Robin:  It’s a holiday weekend, so everything is GREAT. First things first, I understand that Sacramento came together in 2009. Would you tell us how you became involved with the band?

Laura:  Alejandro [Espinosa, guitarist] one day spoke with Francisco [Martin, bassist] on msn and asked to him if he knew a female singer because he had a few songs ready (at least 6 songs) that might fit for a band with a female singer, and Francisco told Alejandro about me. Then Francisco told me about this, also on msn (as Francisco lives in Sweden), and asked was I interested in that. I said, “Okay, let’s do it!” After that, Alejandro and I met here in Santiago, and I went to his place to listen to the songs he has for this. He showed me the music, and I liked it right away … I thought: “Oh my God, this is what I want to do!” The very first song I listened was “Fallecer” (or “Die Alone” in English). I was: “Oh dear! I’m on it, let’s do it!” I was so damn EXCITED; it was fantastic! And that’s how Sacramento was born at the beginning.

In the first place, Alejandro and I were working together at his place with the computer bass and drums -- almost like a computer band. We started with the songs … the arrangements and the lyrics … then fixing the songs in the right tune so I could sing them and all that. That’s the way our 2009 EP was brought to life.


Robin:  How did you and Francisco know each other, with you living in Chile and him living in Sweden?

Laura:  I was rehearsing with another band here in Santiago before I met Francisco, and as Francisco was friends with the guys of that band, he mentioned to one of them that he wanted to make a band with a female singer and all that stuff. This guy told Francisco about me and that’s how he (Francisco) contacted me. And rest of the history is bla, bla bla = SACRAMENTO.

Robin:  Had you been a vocalist for a band before joining Sacramento in 2009?

Laura:  Yeah, actually my very first band was a kind of melodic hardcore “emo” band. (laughs) I can’t remember if it was when I was 19 or 18 years old. But I remember that I suffered from stage panic, and I didn’t sing in front of people at all. One day, one of these guys called me that was a friend of mine and told me: “Oh, you like the band, but our singer sucks. Do you want to sing with us?” I was like, “okay!” (laughs) Then I hung up the phone and I was like: “Oh my God, what did I do?!? I will have to sing in front of too many people right now!” That’s how it started.

I started to sing with them. The band was called Syndie, and we played with a lot of international bands of the hardcore / punk scene. After Syndie, I sang in another band that was more of a symphonic metal band (when I was studying classical singing). I had lots of fun and I started to enjoy so much singing live. Then I left that band, and I tried with those musicians to make another band. But it didn’t work. Then I just concentrated myself on my singing lessons and trying to get a band where I can sing with my real voice. In 2009, the Sacramento opportunity appeared, and I’ve been here since.

Robin:  When you were singing with the more hardcore bands, were you doing scream vocals?

Laura:  Oh no, no, no. Not at all. Actually, all of the metal bands that I had, I was singing more like classical singing. There were no harsh voices at all. So Sacramento was 100% different than what I was doing before.

Robin:  The original thought was to have Sacramento as a Spanish-language band …

Laura:  Yes, that was the idea.

Robin:  What changed? On Weight of Sin, all but one of the songs (“Fallecer”) are in English.

Laura:  Well, first of all, when Alejandro and I were working on these songs, we wanted to make lyrics in Spanish. But Francisco, our bassist from Sweden, said: “Let’s make it in English because it’ll be better if we want to make it like more international … to put it in the market in Europe, the U.S., worldwide.” And we agreed, so we started making all the lyrics in English. But our first single “Fallacer,” from our 2009 EP, is in Spanish. This song was already written by Alejandro including the lyrics, and then we had to translate it into English.

We are not disregarding the option of making another song in Spanish. Actually, I would LOVE to make another song in Spanish. For me, it would be great, and I think I really want to do it because it’s so nice to sing in your own language. But, at the same time, I think it will be better if we do it in English. It’s more like almost everyone would understand what we are trying to say or, at least, it sounds even better in English.


Robin:  When you and Alejandro were writing, did you write the lyrics in English originally, or write them in Spanish and then translate the lyrics into English?

Laura:  Alejandro was in charge of the music, and I was in charge of the lyrics. I started making the lyrics in the beginning in English. I didn’t have the chance for making any lyrics in Spanish. So when the idea of making all the lyrics in English came out, I said: “Okay, I’ll start right away in English!” Of course, once I finished writing all the lyrics, we sent them to Francisco so he could review them with a friend of his, who I think was kind of an English teacher, to correct them. Fortunately, almost everything was perfect. As English wasn’t our original language, sometimes you screw up some sentences or you’re not using the correct verbs or something might sound a bit off ... but I think when you listen to the songs, you get the idea, right?  I think we did it, so far, very well. (laughs)

Robin:  Of the songs on Weight of Sin, which track came easiest to you when you were creating it, and which came hardest?

Laura:  The hard one, “Forgotten in Time”. I remember that, together with Alejandro, we put into “surgery” that song several times … the first time, the lyrics were too long and the song itself was totally different as well. It took us a while until we finally brought to life “Forgotten in Time”.

And the one that came right away, it was “All Betrayals” that song came out in one day -- both the lyrics and song. It was FANTASTIC for us. After we finished the song, we listened to it with Alejandro and we laughed and laughed and couldn’t stop saying “Oh my God, this is one great song!!!!”

Robin:  Allusions to Catholicism are all over, with the band’s name (Sacramento), the album’s title (Weight of Sin), and the cover art with the penitent down on his knees flagellating himself. What is the appeal of Catholicism or Catholic imagery for the band?

Laura:  Actually, I have to say that it has nothing to do with that. I’m going to say the exact words of Alejandro. (He’s the one who put the name of the band.) He thought of Sacramento because he liked the way it sounded. He just one day finally got the idea of the name of the band like: “Ah, Sacramento. Sounds very good, I like it!” So, he named the band Sacramento, with no other reason.

About putting that guy … actually, the guy on the cover is my little brother … we thought, “okay, let’s try to make it like if you want to talk about the weight of sin” because the band was called Sacramento, even though we are not Catholic or we do not have very religious creeds. So we were like: “Let’s put an image of a guy self-inflicting himself. Okay, let’s do it.”

I think that will bring a lot of the attention of the people. They would always wonder: “Why are you called Sacramento? Why did you put this guy hitting himself on the back? Why is your album called Weight of Sin?” It’s just because we like it. (laughs)

Robin:  You had mentioned before that your bass player Francisco lives in Sweden. Logistically, how did you record the album?

Laura:  It was recorded by Alejandro with the help of Pablo, who played the bass with us at the time we were recording the album. Right now, we have another friend who is playing with us here in Santiago, Chile, whose name is Roberto [Soto]. He’s the one who plays here with us, and maybe in the future, if we go to Europe on a tour, Francisco will take the place of the bass player. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but that’s the main idea.


Robin:  Speaking of live shows, one of your first live Sacramento shows -- if not THE first show -- was opening for Theatre of Tragedy during their farewell tour in 2010. Is that right?

Laura:  (laughs) that was our SECOND show.

Robin:  What was that like for you? Somebody who used to have terrible stage panic, and yet one of your very first shows with your new band is opening for this major band in front of a horde of rabid fans.

Laura:  (laughs) It sounds very funny, but yes! I suffered from stage panic, but I ended with stage panic with my first band. (The one I mentioned before.) Now I just enjoy it. I LOVE to be on stage. That adrenaline and singing our songs, my lyrics … is just great! I can’t find the words in English -- or Spanish (laughs) -- to tell you how good I feel when I’m on stage. Even if I’m still a bit shy.

I remember that Alejandro went downtown to a record store and the owner of the store was also working on bringing bands from abroad, and he said: “I liked your band. Do you want to open for Theatre of Tragedy?” And Alejandro said okay. When he told me, I was like “No way! We are going to open for Theatre of Tragedy?!?” Oh dear, I was freaking out! There was a very bad part of that news because I remember that I was feeling a bit sick, and three weeks before that show, I lost my voice 100%. I was dying … in my place alone, sick, with a fever and no voice. Shit, what am I going to do? (laughs)

I remember the Theatre of Tragedy show was on June 24, 2010. We had one show before that at the beginning of June. I was feeling sick that day, but I never imagined that, on the next day, I was losing my voice. So, I went to the doctor -- nothing happened. I went to a second doctor, who gave me some magical meds, and I recovered really well. I think a week earlier before the show, I was still recovering. Three days before the show, I finally got my voice back. (laughs)

Imagine this:  I was nervous, and I was terrified because I didn’t have my voice and didn’t have the chance to rehearse with the guys before the show. (I think I rehearsed with them one day before the show.) And when I was in the venue, I was thinking, “oh dear, what am I going to do?” We played all the songs during the sound check, and all the guys from Theatre of Tragedy were there, applauding and said “ah, you’re making very good music!” It was VERY exciting. Then we played, and it felt fantastic that our first big show was in such a good venue with a great band like Theatre of Tragedy. C’mon, how many bands get to do that?!?

Robin:  You REALLY can’t do much better than that! Well, for folks who did not get a chance to see Sacramento opening for Theatre of Tragedy, what do you have coming up as far as live shows?

Laura:  Right now, we are getting ready for our official release party for Weight of Sin, which is going to happen on October 20th. It will be for free, so everyone in Santiago, Chile is more than welcome to come. We are playing with another band, Silverjack that make more like rock music. We’re just practicing and getting ready right now for that show. We’re very focused on that because we want to do it perfect. We’re going to play all the songs off the album, and there is a little cover in between as well. We want to kick some asses in there. (laughs) That’s what we’re going to do, OH YES!


Robin:  Before your October show, will you have announced what the next single and video from Weight of Sin is?

Laura:  Yes. Right now, we’re in dealings with the people and working on the new video for the new single. I think we have almost everything set to start the filming of the video. I can’t really tell you when this is going to happen because we are still trying to get a good location for that. But it’s going to be in September (hopefully). Our new single is going to be “Everything to Waste.” There you go, now you know! You all know what our new single is going to be.

Robin:  Genre-wise or influence-wise, to whom do you consider Sacramento’s music to be comparable? I’ve read many reviews comparing you to Lacuna Coil, Evanescence, Nightwish and Within Temptation, but those bands seem quite different to me.

Laura:  Well, yes, a lot of people have compared us to Lacuna Coil and even Within Temptation, I don’t know where they get that idea because the music that we do is very different from them, especially Within Temptation. Well, what can I say … let them say whatever they want.

Alejandro actually has never listened to bands like Lacuna Coil or Within Temptation or Nightwish. He doesn’t know anything about them. We all in the band have different tastes in music … you get bands like Pantera, Carcass, Sepultura, Machine Head, Gojira, Alice in Chains, Tool, Vader, Tori Amos, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, etc., etc., etc.

We, Sacramento, know exactly what we want to do and this is Metal … with me singing on it. 

Robin:  We have all too rapidly come to the end of our time, Laura. Do you have any final words for Sacramento fans and for people who may be hearing about you for the first time today?


Laura:  First of all, I want to thank everyone who has helped to spread the virus of Sacramento. Thank you to everyone who helped us makes this dream come true! It’s amazing. If you listen to Sacramento, you will find out that this is such a fresh and new sound. You won’t regret listening to Sacramento. I invite you all to take a tour on Weight of Sin album. It’s amazing, and you won’t be disappointed at all. Mwahahahaha!

Robin:  We wish you all the best, Laura. Thank you so much!


Sacramento official site: http://www.sacramentomusic.net
Sacramento on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Sacramentocl
Sacramento on ReverbNation: http://www.reverbnation.com/sacramento