Though he’s released dozens of albums, tours almost non-stop and continues to reign as one of Latin rock’s biggest stars, Enrique Bunbury still has secrets to share.
His latest disc, “Posible” (Warner Spain), out May 29, reveals more facets of the Spanish-born singer-songwriter known for his mastery of reinvention, beginning in the mid-’80s as a member of the influential group Héroes del Silencio and continuing as a solo artist since 1997. “My previous two [studio] albums were very socially conscious and committed,” he said. “But this one is introspective, definitely. The songs are about the possible variations of your own self that you’ve left behind, and the infinite amount of possibilities that you have for being something else.”
“Posible” is his first studio release since “Expectativas” (2017), which won the Latin Grammy for best rock album. Though the title might suggest a sense of optimism, it’s more complex than that. Speaking from Los Angeles, where he has lived for the last decade, Bunbury sees the album against a backdrop of world crisis, due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic collapse.
With his nearly constant touring, he’s a road warrior. But suddenly that way of life has been put on hold. Last week, he announced that the “Posible” tour, scheduled to start in September, has been moved to 2021. “I’ve been touring and releasing albums for a long time,” he said. “It’s not going to be a big problem to be off the road for a year. What really worries me is that so many people are going to be without a job for so many months. The problem is much bigger than me not being on stage.”
Whenever the tour happens, he promises that ”it’s going to be something else. We will be there to touch you, to hug you, to kiss you and sing for you all.”
Early this year, in an Instagram message announcing “Posible,” Bunbury asked his fans to listen with “open ears. … Nothing on this album is what it seems at first listen.”
Elaborating on that description, he said, “There’s a lot of post-production. And many layers. There are sounds that you can hear as synthesizers, but they are really played with a guitar or a sax. The rhythm section might seem like it relies on a lot of programming [the use of electronic devices and computer software], but there is a drummer and a percussionist playing all that weird stuff. It’s important to listen carefully if you want to catch the real essence.”
In terms of narrative and cinematography, the videos accompanying this album are very much in the vein of “weird stuff.” “Deseos de usar y tirar,” the disc’s first video, unfolds like a film noir, with Sherilyn Fenn, famous as femme fatale Audrey Horne in David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks,” being stalked by transgender actress Jessica Hogan while Bunbury croons in a scenario that’s right out of Nicholas Ray’s cult classic “Johnny Guitar” (1954). Also distinctive are the color schemes, with the use of green recalling “Vertigo” (1958) or the more recent “Joker” (2019).
“Yes, we were thinking about Lynch and film noir in ‘Deseos,’ ” he said. “I love the ‘Johnny Guitar’ reference, because we didn’t think about that, but yeah, definitely it’s there. And the colors [came out of] an important conversation with the filmmakers. The greens and the reds and the yellows — it’s right there in ‘Joker,’ although it wasn’t the reason we were using them. And ‘Vertigo’ ... I have to rewatch that one. It’s a must.”
Bunbury and his team sought out Fenn, who was immortalized in “Audrey’s Dance,” the mythic scene and song from “Twin Peaks.” “We started talking about filming this homage to ‘Audrey’s Dance,’ and we thought, what about calling Sherilyn? That would be the real thing! And she was so nice and understanding.”
Though the videos were shot in Los Angeles, Bunbury and his band, Los Santos Inocentes, returned once again to the Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas, to record “Posible.” Nestled on a 1,700-acre pecan orchard in the middle of nowhere, the residential facility has attracted other big names like Conor Oberst and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. On what makes this studio so special, Bunbury said, “It’s everything. It’s the equipment of course, but also the opportunity to be so far away from everything and concentrate on the work. After recording three albums at the Ranch, it feels like family. You know they can help you achieve whatever your dream is.”
As for achieving dreams, Bunbury has gained superstar status around the world but not yet in the States. Coincidentally, “Posible” comes out on the same day as the latest release from another megastar, Lady Gaga. With his characteristic black humor, Bunbury sums up the situation, icon to icon. “We talked about this, Gaga and me. We know we don’t share much of the same audience, so it’s not going to be a problem. She was a little concerned, but I told her she will be fine.”
Laura Emerick is a local freelance writer.