REIK Speaks On Christian Nodel Collaboration, New Album ‘De Mexico’

From Mexicali, Baja California, and with a trajectory of more than 16 years now, Reik, the Pop Rock band, recreates itself exploring different music genres.

The group was formed in 2003 by Jesús Alberto Navarro Rosas (lead vocals), Julio Ramirez Eguia (guitar, background vocals), and Gilberto Marín Espinoza(guitar) with five albums that have been classified as Latin Pop. Still, since 2015 the game has changed for Reik and transitioned into a more urban sound. 

They opted for a more regional Mexican style in collaboration with Christian Nodal in their latest single, “Poco.” 

In an interview with Contrast Magazine, Julio Ramirez (Acoustic Guitar and Songwriter) and Bibi (Electric guitar/songwriter) told us about their origins leading up to the band’s new era, the journey into the reggaeton scene, and what’s next for Reik.

How did the band come to form? Jesus and I grew up together. He was an amazing singer and I played the acoustic guitar. We realized we both liked music, so we decided to start a band. Then we met Bibi, the other guitarist that came along the way, and we found that he added an incredible electric guitar sound to the band. So, the three of us stayed together and we started writing songs and recording demos. We really liked what was coming along, so we started submitting our demos and began sending them to our friends, and all of the sudden people were noticing our band. Finally, Sony Music heard of us and decided to sign us.

Where did the name of the band come about? I got to say we’re not sure if this is true or not, but a friend of ours who was a guitarist told us about this guitar sound called RAKE, which is when you kind of like strum the guitar before you hit a note on the strings. So, since we have two guitarists in the band, we thought it’d be a cool name to use. But, because we sing in Spanish, we decided to spell it REIK, otherwise people would but give it the wrong pronunciation.

With three members, how do you all come to agreement with a style or sound for either a track or record? Being three of us in a band, it’s not easy, but we’ve been together so long for a reason. Big part of that reason is that we respect each other and our roles in the band.

We basically do things just 2 out of 3. If two of us like something, it’s probably because it’s a good idea.  We really try to respect our views and our goals in the band. So, let’s say Jesus and Bibi want to release a really happy and party-like reggaeton song, we try to find that song and we all work together to get it, for example like “Indeciso” with J Balvin and Lalo Ebratt. But then, if I come along and say that I want to work on a ballad, they will make sure that we get that song and that we work on it to release it. So, we all try to fulfill everyone’s goals and try to have everyone in the band happy.

We are not gonna do anything weird that would hurt out career, but we are all happy making sure that we get those songs out without leaving the artistic side empty. Of course, we want to have those hits and everything, but if we want to do something just because we love it, we better release it, otherwise it creates tension.

Does that still apply till today? I think we do still apply it today. Even more now than before. As we grow older in the band we get a little wiser and less immature. We respect each other more and we understand that our career is our business so we like to be smart about it. We stay together as a band because we love each other as family, but also because it is a business.

There are the kinds of decisions we have to make every day together as a band, like making reggaeton or exploring the regional Mexican genre, or going back to ballads.  Those are decisions we have to make day to day, that are part of the business. But we also try to make sure that we love the artistic side of it as well. We don’t like to release tracks or songs that we don’t like. We got to make sure we like how it sounds, we like the song, and that it makes sense for our audience and to us as a band.

A career spanning 15 years and 5 albums. You managed to reinvent yourself infusing reggaeton with your already known pop-rock sound. Was there a particular event or moment that caused this change?

Yes, there definitely was a moment when we decided to merge into the reggaeton genre. We basically started to notice that what used to be mainstream in Latin America – which used to be our style, like Pop, ballads, acoustic stuff, or even the rhythmic stuff – it was all towards the love songs and heartbreak songs. That was the universal thing going on but then we started noticing it was shifting to reggaeton.

Reggaeton existed since we started our career back in 2005. It wasn’t as popular at the time, but then it started to become a new Pop. All of the sudden, all of the award shows instead of having just artists like, Reik, Sin Bandera, Camila, and all of the ones that did the ballads, we noticed that all of the sudden there was so many new artists showcasing this new music in these awards shows. They were all mostly reggaeton artists.

So, we decided to have a meeting with our managers, and they told us that they thought it would be a good move if we started leaning towards the Reggaeton genre. We had much debate on whether to do it or not, mainly because it was just not part in our influences in music, but we opened our minds and we thought we’d give it a try.

We heard Nicky Jam’s “El Perdon” with Enrique Iglesias, and we thought it made sense for us. It was basically a heartbreak song with reggaeton rhythm, and we loved it. So, our managers got us to work with Nicky Jam, we went to Medellin and that’s how we kicked off with the genre. Nicky Jam was so nice to us, he decided to grab this song that we wrote as a ballad, called “Ya Me Enteré”, and helped us transform it into a reggaeton song, that you would think that we wrote in reggaeton from the very beginning. So, after that, it helped us to build our confidence within the genre. We owe a lot to Nicky Jam. We don’t see him much or talk a lot these days, but that is how it all started and then came the rest.

REIK has been reborn in a new era collaborating with chart topping acts/reggaetoneros. What is the creative process like now with this “new sound”? We’ve been really opened to writing songs or recording songs for the reggaeton scene. At first, we got a huge amount of songs that were sent to us by our producers and songwriters, but we’ve always liked to be a part of the process. We tried recording those songs, even though we didn’t write them at all, but then we started going to song camps like in Miami, LA, Medellin, etc. We started learning.

It was a hard phase for us. It was really fun and interesting, but it was hard because it was very humbling. We realized we had much to learn when writing reggaeton songs or producing them. As well as when it came about recording them with guitars, because there’s usually no space for guitars in the genre, and even the singing parts, Jesus, our vocalist, had to learn the reggeaton singing style.

So as a band, it was hard. It’s never easy to get out of your comfort zone, and after many years of career being successful at something, it’s hard to learn something new. But we decided to do it, and I think we’ve grown as artists and as songwriters, just because of that phase where we had to learn from the best of that genre, and now I can say that we can get the best of both worlds. If you listen to our approach to reggaeton in our songs, I think they keep those melodies and those lyrics that people have liked from us since the beginning, except for the new rhythm and the sound and certain things that we put to make it honest and real for the people who are used to listen to reggaeton.

Does the song or collaboration come first? I think it is both ways. For example, with Nicky Jam, we first had our song “Ya Me Entere” which he helped us make it into this reggaeton version that we collaborated in. But there are other times, just like “Me Niego” with Wisin, where they sent us the song and he got so excited that he decided to participate it. Then Ozuna heard the song and also decided to jump on board with it.

I think with Maluma for example, we first decided to do something together and then the song “Amigos Con Derechos” came. With Sebastian Yatra, it was the same. We talked for about a year about working together, until we finally set a date to work in the studio and our song “Un Año” came. So, this definitely happens both ways.

How was the process for writing your latest EP “20—21” during quarantine and what does it mean for the band and the audience? This album started out as an idea for us to not lose our minds. I think with the pandemic, it just caught everyone off guard. We are usually traveling all the time, but now we were wondering what to do.  So, for this project we started with the idea of writing one song to give hope to people in these times, without being cheesy about it. We thought of the song “Fix You” by Coldplay as inspiration, because it really connects with people.

The first song we wrote for this EP was “Lo Mejor Ya Va A Venir”. It is a really upbeat song about not losing hope. So, after this song was written, we wanted to give continuity to this story so we wrote “Con La Falta Que Me Haces” which is a song about losing someone, whether because of the pandemic or just the loss of a relationship. Then we wrote “Lo Intenté Todo” which is about reaffirming your love for someone and letting them know they are irreplaceable, even though you’ve lost them. Finally, we needed a love song, so we wrote “Pero Te Conocí”.

We got each of the four music videos to be a continuous story, and we loved that. So, we decided to release one song every week, hoping that people would get hooked with the story and connect. We really thought this was the best time for us to release once again those heartfelt ballads, from our original scene. The tricky part was making sure those songs would not sound like our 2005 songs, because after all the music in reggaeton that we released we got so many new fans, with new ages and new taste. So, we wanted to make sure not to sound old in this EP. We took many references like Ed Sheeran, to try and get an effortless fresh sound.

What’s next for Reik? Well recently also release an EP of covers called “De México” for regional Mexican songs that we love and artists that we really respect. It has been amazing because people love those songs, They are proven to be some great songs for the Latin community.

We really wanted to do this EP because previously, during quarantine, we worked on covers for Reggaeton songs of different artists such as Farruko, J Balvin, Ozuna, and more. So, this time we decided to step up our game and do these regional Mexican songs. Also, because we want to begin exploring into writing new songs that have to do with regional Mexican artists and collaborations.

So, we do want to explore into regional Mexican music, but we definitely want to keep releasing our reggaeton songs and our ballads. We just want to keep playing with different stuff, and since we cannot go on tour right now, we just want to keep writing and see what can get out there.

What is the meaning of your latest single “Poco”? The meaning of hour latest single “Poco” is mostly the fact that we are once again trying to reach new limits. We have been working a bunch in expanding our horizons and collaborating with a bunch of different artists and different genres and styles. “Poco” was our latest approach to do that precisely. Christian Nodal is a great artist. I would say he is probably at the top of his game. It is always really interesting to do something that completely throws you off your safe zone. I mean, in a way, I must say,  we’ve been super used to that genre because we are from up north in Mexico, we are super Mexicans obviously, we listen to a lot of Regional Mexicano, so we already kind of knew how to sing those songs, how to write those songs and how to interpret that whole different thing; and the lyrics are something that we think that is also really Regional Mexicano, which is Heartbreak, anger, sort of an “Screw you”, but at the end of the song it’s actually like a love confession.

What was it like collaborating with Christian Nodal? Collaborating with Christian Nodal was super fun. Mainly because he is also from up north. He is from Caborca Sonora and we’re from Mexicali which is the neighbor state. So, we have a bunch of different thing in common. We kinda talk the same, we grew up listening to the same type of music. And you know, we had all those inner jokes / local jokes that were just a complete success. It was just fun. It is always interesting to get to work with different people.

New Talent, new artists. Because there’s always something to learn from them. The fact that we have been around for more than 16 years, doesn’t necessarily make us the most qualified to do whatever we would want to do, but being together in a room with someone like Christian, there’s always something new to learn.

What break-up advice do you have for our readers? Get out there and have a blast. Have some drinks, meet new people, go out and about, discover new stuff. Get yourself in good shape and do all those things you thought you could not do because of your previous relationship and that would probably get your head out of it.

The definition of Contrast is to be strikingly different. What is strikingly different about REIK? This is a great question. I would say this, and I hope it doesn’t come off in a cocky way – I think we have the ability to adapt to every genre and every situation in music, and that for me is different from many artists. You can see a lot of artists stick to their genres, and that is great, but you don’t see a lot of them doing different genres.

What I’m going to say is not coming from us, but mainly comes from the fans – the fact that they think that REIK is one of the few artists or bands that sound great merging into reggaeton or regional Mexican or sticking to our pop ballads. That for us is such a big honor. We are so grateful that people feel that way and that that is the perception they have about us.

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