Letty of Rimel

El Béisman FILM's docu-short


Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with a member of Chicago’s Rimel. I caught them back in September at CumbiaSazo and was instantly hooked. “An all female Norteño band? That’s unique. I want to know more.” So, I started looking around and I found some stuff here, I found some stuff there, I found some Soundcloud previews; not a whole lot. But what I did find was incredible. Unsatisfied and intrigued, I decided to reach out. A few e-mails and a couple weeks later I found myself at Taste of Heaven sitting across from their charming lead vocalist, Letty. A pronounced handshake and a genuine smile immediately put me at ease as we settled into a table. This is what happened...     


              NR:  The name: Rimel. The first thing that came to mind was last name, but that didn’t
                      sit right.

           Letty:  It’s not. (laughs) No, it’s not. Well basically with Norteño music, especially with girls, it’s
                      usually Las “something” del Norte, you know; and I didn’t like that. I think it limits us to just
                      that genre — it’s just a Norteño band. Which is what we are, right now...a little
                      more modern, but, we eventually want to play around with other styles with the
                      instrumentation that we have. So, Rimel was just something that — it’s very feminine,
                      obviously it’s...you know what it means — and so it just kinda implies that we are women;
and that it’s one word, simple, straight to the point, kind of eclectic, kind of diverse.

              NR:  You guys have been performing for about 2 years?

           Letty:  Right, about 2 years.
  Yeah, I saw the promo film, and it seemed like you just picked up instruments and kinda
                      started playing…

Letty:  Yeah, kinda started playing. I mean, I’ve always had a passion for music. You know,
           typical story: You’re a little girl and you want to sing and you want to play. But, I didn’t
           grab an instrument until I was 21; that was my first time grabbing a guitar, but...

   NR:  No formal training?

Letty:  No. Never, never. None of our family members are musicians. I wish, I wish, my
           father had put me in music school. We’re all going to school, I finished my degrees
           that have nothing to do with music...which, I’m like man, why didn’t I just study music...but,
it’s that whole idea that music isn’t a real career kinda thing. So I pursued other things,
but no. No formal education until recently.  I’ve been trying to feel how to push this thing forward
and so, how do I learn, what do I do...and, you know, hanging out with other musicians,
playing on your own, and just improvising and...challenging yourself. That’s the way to do it.

              NR:  How long did it take you guys to kinda get proficient with, well, not kinda - to get proficient
                     with your instruments?

Letty:  To get proficient, well, with this instrument that I have now, it’s called the Bajo Quinto.
           It’s kinda like a Bajo Sexto but it’s 10 string and it’s a very traditional Norteño instrument.
           It’s not the same as a guitar, even though once you’re used to a guitar, you know —
           you have the manual, the facilid...ah, I want to say it in Spanish! La facilidad manuel... (laughs)

              NR:  (Laughs) Sí.

           Letty:  Anyways; so, with this instrument it’s just hard on your hands. It’s not made for women.
                      So initially, I got the blisters again and was like, “Oh my God; this is terrible. I hate this
instrument.” And then I started falling in love with it and was like, “I’m gonna go for it.” I’ve
                      been playing it for about 2 years now, and I think, it took me a while. (laughs) But it took,
I don’t know, we started playing after about 6 months at family parties and stuff like that.

              NR:  Wow. It seems real easy for you guys.

           Letty:  (Smiling and shaking head) It’s not.

              NR:  The way you come off; the way you play...I’ve watched the videos and I look at the way
                      you guys carry yourselves, it just seems so so easy for you and you took to it pretty quick.

           Letty:  Yeah, it’s when you like something so much you’re gonna push for it; for sure.

             NR:  Tell me about the songwriting process. Is it a communal effort?
Does everyone throw into the arrangements and the lyrics?

           Letty:  This is how it usually happens: I have an idea. I write it down. I come up with some cord structures,
and then I bring it to my sisters and bass player who’s not our sister but she’s like a sister…
That’s Tita?

Letty:  Yeah, she came into the band a little bit after and so the three of us kinda initiated it and
                      we were looking for a bass player. And it was hard; it was very hard to find female
                      musicians that like this music and that are passionate about it. And so we found Tita,
                      thank God. She’s great; she’s a great bass player. And so, what happens is I bring them
                      this song, “I have this idea. What do you think?” They like it or they don’t and then we kinda
                      start playing with it and they start bringing in their own flavor and their ideas as well
so that we have a complete song. But, usually I initiate it and, you know, they’re welcome
to write with me, they’re just not...they’re more about coming up with their arrangements
musically rather than giving you lyrics. 

NR:  Gotcha, yeah. Since, you are the lead singer, for the most part…

           Letty:  Yeah, yeah. Usually. And I’m open. As a matter of fact, one of the songs that we’re
                      about to record is not ours. It’s the first time that we’re going to record something that’s
                      not ours — and it’s this guy from California, actually — and he...a lot of people send me
                      songs, and for some reason this song just got me and I’m like, “We’re going to record
                      it.” So, yeah. It’s still something original, but it’s not ours.

              NR:  What’s your artisanal drive? I just wanted to say artisanal.

           Letty:  (Laughs)

              NR:  As an artist, how are you driven? Is there anything that...

Letty:  (Breaths deep) I think the, the...there’s just so much. And I think I’m going to stutter here
           a little bit because I think very fast and I think in Spanish and English, and so it’s like
           “Oh, God”. But I might be a little Spanglish here (jokingly)...basically, my drive is: I’ve
           always had a passion for it since my childhood; and seeing how music can change lives,
           ideas...how it makes you feel. How if I, or when I become that successful artist — and I
           don’t just mean rich and famous, or rock star; you know? I’m talking about being able to
           influence the community and make a difference. And like you said, we were talking earlier
           about charitable events — we’re really, really into all that stuff. And so, if we can create
           some kind of awareness, and make a difference, and also, bring music to, (gets fired up)
          I don’t know, just travel. Learn. Do something. Educate. Get involved in the community.
           That’s the main thing for me. And also, knowing that time flies. When you’re in your 20’s
           and your 30’s, you’re like...I remember when I was 15 and was like, “What happened to
           all this time?” and all these things we didn’t do, so now we have to do this, and we have to focus.
           And it’s just that: it’s life. Seeing your parents and how much they struggled for this and for that...
           now we have to work hard and either make this thing happen, or work on something else; you know?
           So it’s just plethora of ideas that come to mind: To make a
difference. To make that change.
           Also when you are playing: how you feel. You just love it! I mean, you’re playing and are like, “Oh my God.
This is awesome. I could do this all the time and every day.” My hand, right now, is a little bit sore because I
           was practicing like non-stop yesterday, new material. And, I’m just like, “Oh God”...I wish I could go another ten
           hours, but...I have to chill sometimes.

              NR:  That was great: that answer.

           Letty:  I felt I was all over the place. (Laughing)

              NR:  Oh, no. It was…

           Letty:  Oh, yeah?

              NR:  Oh, yeah. Wow. (Impressed) Tell me about your biggest challenges as a group.

Letty:  The main thing is learning. Learning how to actually play together; play in sync. For us as
a family with 3 sisters, even with Tita sometimes because she’s like a sister to us now,
           we sometimes don’t agree. It’s hard to get along and be sisters at the same time, sometimes; saying,
                 “You know what, I don’t like this song.”,
                 “Well, I wrote this song, and I love it, and I really want to do it…”,
           and then, you just kinda...you know. Hit “Bing”. But for the most part, I think that when we
           have performed — and it’s not really a challenge, it’s more like, if you’re a girl and you want to play the
           accordion, or if you want to play the Bajo Quinto...why not? Who cares? I think (another) challenge will be
           getting to the place that we want and doing it right. There’s no one way; you know? There’s no one path. If
           you want to be a doctor - you go to school and get a degree. With this it’s like, you don’t know. You don’t know
           what’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen or how, so it’s always a huge struggle; it’s just a huge
           sacrifice in being a band and trying to do big things is not easy at all. We have sacrificed
a lot.

              NR:  Yeah, especially in a society that has drained all the art out of education, and…

           Letty:  Oh, yeah. Exactly. Yeah. They don’t take you serious until they see a little more so
                      you have to just keep proving yourself...proving to yourself that you can do this and
                      you’re not going to quit because this is what you want.

    NR:  I think you answered the second part of that: “How is it overcome.”
           and it sounds like perseverance.

 Letty:  (Laughing) Of course, yeah. It’s the mindset that you have. If somebody gives
            you a negative comment, you say, “Thank you.”, and that’s it. You can’t go after
            them and be like, “Why did you say this about me?” Not everyone is gonna love you.
            That’s just the way it is. As long as the majority do, or you have support from a lot of people,
            or even family support: it’s awesome.

              NR:  What do you think is the best way to get people out to live shows? I think it’s a struggle
                      a lot of times, getting people out to support. It’s a hard thing to do.

Letty:  It is. It is. Well, other than trying to give out free tickets, and a lot of promotion, and saying
           let’s do this and let’s do that for the community, or we’re gonna give part of our ticket
sales to this charity — it is hard, but I think that once they...you see, the thing is the
           audience has to feel a connection with you. And if they do they’re going to support you
           when they can. So, if they don’t feel like they have anything in common with you…
           Thankfully, we’ve had some following here in Chicago and all over the country where
we’ve traveled thus far. We’ve had a very short career. I can’t say much about that yet -
           but I think right now, it’s what you have to offer and the good thing about the Mexican culture
           is that: we like to dance, we like live bands, we love to enjoy ourselves and listen to the music
           we like and we are used to. So, that’s part of it. I still think I have a lot to learn in terms of,
           “Okay...what else do I need to do to market this event?” (Laughs) But once we have the album
           released, from there…

              NR:  It’ll be a huge tool for you, too.

           Letty:  (Nodding) Yeah. Yeah.

              NR:  Have you done any benefit performances?

Letty:  Oh, yeah. For sure. Actually, in a couple weeks we’ll be doing one for Sociedad Civica Mexicana;
           we played for Federación De Chihuahua, we’ve done fundraisers for sick children...
           sometimes they are independent. Sometimes they’re not. Anyone that needs our support...
           we did one recently at the Mexican Fine Arts Center for AMDM
           (Academy of Mexican Dance and Music), a non-profit dance group...
           so there are a lot of activities. And if we can get involved in more, why not? We love that.

              NR:  Great. Do you have a fan club or street team?

           Letty:  Not yet. (Laughs) No, we’re working on that. I think once we have completed...right now
                      we’re still finishing the writing process for the album so once we have that we can say,
                      “Okay. This is what we need to promote this.” And we have a lot of people supporting us
                      but there’s nothing official yet.

                NR:  Tell me about any comments from your fans where your music has changed their lives
                       or has had a dramatic impact on them.

  Letty:  Well, there are individuals that we’ve never met - they write to us. There’s this one girl
who writes to us from Peru and she’s always saying how we are an inspiration to her.
             We also are making a little video to say “Hello” to a group in Chile. That’s also very
admirable in everything we are doing. We just have a lot of fans that give us comments like:
             “We didn’t know you existed.” - “Where are you guys from?” - “When are you guys coming here?” -
             “When are you guys going there?” - and it’s always people in other states. Chicago is awesome,
             but for some reason there is always unique support in other states. It’s very interesting.
             There was one person recently who was like, “I really don’t like this music but when
             I heard you guys I started liking it.” and I was like, “Wow. This is interesting.”
             The thing is, it’s very traditional; it’s not a crossover style. Recently, it’s started to evolve.
             But, you either listen to it, or you don’t. But yeah...overall there’s been many many comments,
             it’s such a good feeling but you don’t believe it.

                NR:  From the promo video, you mentioned that you wanted to start with Norteño because of
                        your shared interests...now, are there plans to add other elements in, something like
                        Nortec Collective where they’re doing Techno and Norteño. Not necessarily like that, but
are you thinking bringing other things into it?

             Letty:  For sure. For sure. I think right now we’re gonna start with the single. Then we’re gonna
come up with the album. And then, we have a lot of ideas to collaborate with other people
                        as well, for sure. There’s one project I want to do with a saxophone player — I know, that’s a
                        very Chihuahua style of music — the state where I’m from. And I’ve always wanted to do
                        stuff with violins and cellos; a little orchestra type thing. I don’t know, there’s so many different things.
                        We all love rock music so much. I’m very into Metal; 80’s Metal. (Laughs) I just love it. People see me
                        and are like, “Are you serious?” And then my sister is more into 50’s and 60’s music, my other sister
                        is more into the 90’s, so...we would love to make that fusion but we know that if we do it now —
                        we will have some support, for sure — but, when you go to the Mexican community,
                        they’re gonna be like, “What is this? This is weird?” They either hate it or they love it and it’s a
                        huge risk. So we have to start with what we know, do it right, and move forward.

                NR:  Let’s talk about the album a bit. We got a little bit of the themes already...
                        how many tracks we looking at?

             Letty:  We’re thinking between 10 and 12. The majority of them are ours or written by me.
                        The first single we’re going to release is called Mi Vicio Favorito which means My
                      Favorite Vice. It’s from another author — his name is Victor Manuel Lara — he sent it
to me and I was like, “I really like it. What do I need to do?” He said, “Just record it. It
                        would be awesome if you just recorded it.” So we’re going to start with that one and
                        then we’re gonna go ahead and do
La Traición. We’ve got other songs, I don’t know
                        if we’re gonna record them, but one is called
Lo Tienes Chico. (laughs) It’s very interesting.
                        I’m sure it will, (smiling) catch some attention. We have a couple of Cumbias that I wrote as well.

                        Which, I think...well, I personally think I suck at writing Cumbias, but for some reason, these three
                        Cumbias that we’re going to have on this album are mine. So, we’ll have three Cumbias
                        and then right now we’re still deciding which ones of the 30 something songs that we have, which
                        ones we are gonna pick.

                NR:  Wow. You’ve got a lot of energy.

  Letty:  Yeah. I do. I do. And the funny thing is they come to me when I’m falling asleep. But I don’t
             wanna get up and I’m like, “Oh my God - I need to record this.” Because when I get up in the
             morning I am
not going to remember. And so I’ll grab my recorder; or sometimes I’ll grab my guitar...
             so, that’s how it works for me.

                NR:  Yeah. Yeah. Hey, that’s the life!

             Letty:  (Laughs) Yup. For sure.

                                                                                                        The Artists

Letty - Vocalista/


Personal Quote:
"Son raspones, solo naderias."

Favorite artist of the instrument you play:    Lencho Fraire

If you could play a second instrument, what would it be?

Favorite genre not Norteño?
Classic Rock

Favorite dish that isn't Mexicana?
Cheese Lasagna

A country you've not visited but would like to?

Favorite Chicago restaurant:
The Chicago Diner

Favorite Chicago band:
  Ides of March  

Favorite benefit organization:
 Grameen Foundation

Favorite thing to give:
A nice gesture

Favorite Quote:
"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm"
            ~Winston Churchill

Shely - Acorrdionista

Personal Quote:
"So be afraid, and do it anyway."

Favorite artist of the instrument you play:
Sr. Juan Villareal

If you could play a second instrument, what would it be?

Favorite genre not Norteño: 
Classic Rock

Favorite dish that isn't Mexican:

A country you've not visited but would like to:

Favorite Chicago Restaurant:
 The Chicago Diner

Favorite Chicago band:
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Favorite benefit organization:
Locks of Love

Favorite thing to give?

Favorite Quote:
"Never confuse movement with action."
           ~Ernest Hemingway



Tita - Bajista

Personal Quote:
 "It can always be better."

Favorite Artist of the instrument you play:

If you could play a second instrument, what would it be?

Favorite genre not Norteño:

Favorite dish that isn't Mexicana:

A country you've not visited but would like to:
Favorite Chicago restaurant:
Taste of Heaven

Favorite Chicago band:
"Hard to choose one."
Favorite benefit Organization:
Animal Shelters
Favorite thing to give:

Favorite quote:
"Treat the woman who gave you life with respect."

Melen - Baterista  

Personal Quote:
"It's always good to get out of your comfort zone"

Favorite artist of the instrument you play:     Neil Pert & Mario Padilla

If you could play a second instrument, what would it be?

Favorite genre not Norteño:
"I don't have a favorite; I   love listening to everything."

Favorite dish that isn't Mexican:
Pasta Marinara

A country you've not visited but would like to:
"All of them! I want to see the world."

Favorite Chicago restaurant:
  The Chicago Diner

Favorite Chicago band/musician:
 Louis Armstrong

Favorite benefit organization:
 Locks of Love

Favorite thing to give:
"A simple smile can make someone's day better!"

Favorite Quote:
"Music is the strongest form of magic"
~Marilyn Manson