Robbie Jalapeno

Robbie Jalapeno and band

Robbie Jalapeno & The Fabulous Band Of Faceless Bureaucrats launch debut LP, Carmina de Nihil, at the Astor Lounge this Friday, August 29, with support from Elk Bell. BOB GORDON checks in.


Releasing a debut album is a big step for any independent band. When that debut LP is also a concept album, that’s a considerable leap.


That’s what Robbie Jalapeno & The Fabulous Band Of Faceless Bureaucrats have done with their debut, Carmina de Nihil.


“It was a very organic process. I think setting out to do a concept album as a debut would be as presumptuous as doing a ‘greatest hits’. So it definitely was a case of being led down a particular pathway.


“Actually, at first, it was almost a bit of panic, because I thought I had written all these songs with similar themes and I thought it would all be too boring! But as you go through the process of arranging the songs, then recording, mixing and so on, each song takes its own shape but the original themes remain. From then I guess it’s a question of honesty – the album is called Carmina de Nihil because it’s Latin for ‘songs about nothing’ which is what all the songs are about.”


The album is described as being about ‘Existentialism, feminism and the frustrated inertia of modern times’ – one wonders what has led Jalapeno to this place?


“In my songs, I try not to be allegorical or judgemental. That’s all pretty old school to me. I don’t think I have any right to preach to others. But I do think I have a responsibility to be honest as a songwriter. I have views. I have feelings. The best I can do is try and express them musically and see if others can form some form of connection with that. That’s where the existentialism comes from. The feminism is simply all about equality – I believe in equality. Full stop. And I don’t think you can do that without being a feminist. It’s a word that seems to have taken on all these ugly meanings, but really it comes down to whether a person’s gender should determine their opportunities.


“As for the frustration part, I don’t know if it is just me, but it does seem we do seem to be collectively suffering some sort of frustration. There’s an irony in that we have so much information available to us but the quality of discourse seems to be dropping, and there seems to be an increasing anxiety that things are getting worse and we can’t change things and make them better. You can either surrender to that and become one of the chattering whingers, or you can try and do something … I guess the songs on this album are my effort at doing that.”


Unsurprisingly, the band chemistry at this point in time is excellent, especially in how they worked to bring Jalapeno’s lyrical themes to life musically.

“The chemistry is fantastic!” he enthuses. “I am humbled by the quality of people that have worked on this record. It’s almost like an orchestra, in a way – everyone doing a little bit to make a greater whole. And that includes me too!


“Sometimes one or other person will ask me, ‘What do you think?’, and I’ll say, ‘Me? What do YOU think?’, and we’ll work it out from there. It’s very important to me that others express themselves too, even if they are my songs.”