In Session: Juliana Castrillon of Canella

ALBANY – Canella, with their latest release, “No Escape,” are continuing to cement their ties to the local DIY-scene. The song, rife with solid production values, tight performances across the pounding drums and bass, as well as the shimmering chord progression performed on guitars, is quite the banger. Skyrocketed to higher heights with a powerful vocal, and a guitar solo that serves as the piece’s conclusion, the song simply kicks ass! I had a chance this week to sit down with Juliana Castrillon, vocalist, guitarist, and main songwriter of Canella. What follows is our conversation.

Lucas Garrett: Juliana, you just put out a new single, correct?

Juliana Castrillon: That is correct! It’s called “No Escape.” It’s a new song off of our upcoming album and we’re very excited for it.

LG: Are you the main songwriter in that band? How does that all work?

JC: Technically, yes. But we do have different situations where we’ll write all together. For example, this song was one we wrote all together; it came with a melody and a chord progression idea. I had a concept for the song, but we all sat together in a room, jammed, and figured out the structure. I usually come up with the lyric. It’s very collaborative, sometimes we’ll come in with a full song and arrange it together, and sometimes we’ll do it in a group. It’s very versatile.

LG: The process you’re describing seems very organic. So, you are not from around here! You’re all the way from Colombia, right?

JC: Yes! I was born and raised there. I lived there ‘til I was eighteen.

LG: How the heck did you find yourself in Albany, NY?

JC: Hahaha. I don’t have any family here, or anything. It was just because I was looking for music industry programs in the US. I found the St. Rose program through this article on Billboard. They had wonderful things to say about the college. I really looked into the program and Albany, but I’d never visited New York State before coming to my first day of school of college.

LG: How terrifying was that?

JC: It wasn’t terrifying! I think it was more exciting, if you know what I mean?

LG: Mhm.

JC: I love a good challenge and I love feeling like I’m outside of the box of my comfort zone. So, I was up for the challenge and I was very happy.

LG: For what it’s worth, I’m real glad you’re making music here, because it’s awesome! How long have you had the band, Canella?

JC: We’ve been a band for a little over a year at this point. It started off as it being just me. I brought in the rest of the musicians a year ago, and that’s when we started writing more music. Then, it wasn’t my solo project; I really liked the band setting – more minds make it better.

Canella, from left-to-right: Dan Carr, Joe Taurone, Juliana Castrillon, Gabe Klingler-Horn.

LG: I feel when you start playing as a band, you don’t want to go back to being a soloist.

JC: Absolutely! It’s just a different experience and it’s so much fun.

LG: I’ve been a New Yorker my whole life and I’ve done music for a while in this area. I haven’t really been outside of New York for any length of time. I’m curious. From your standpoint, how is the music culture different here than it is in Colombia? I know up here, people are really into the DIY scene. How is that in your country?

JC: It’s definitely different. The music scene in Colombia is obviously centered on Spanish-speaking music, you know? It doesn’t have to be a Latin genre, per se, like Latin pop. It could be rock music, it could be R&B – all sorts of genres. Spanish-speaking music is what hits. And, the music scene there is more popular on a less-independent musician level. The music that succeeds the most is the one that’s supported by the bigger companies or bigger teams. That’s where the music scene really thrives.

The fandoms in Colombia tend to be really intense. It’s not every day that musicians or artists from all over the world are coming there. Every time we have an artist on tour there, fans go crazy! It’s pretty cool to go to a concert in Colombia; everybody’s really into it and it feels like it’s the last time you’ll ever see them play. I feel here, as an independent musician, you have more opportunities. There’s more of a scene.

LG: You make a good point about the major artists. I feel like this area, you know, has SPAC, and I don’t know if you’re noticing this yet, but every year they practically have the same people play. It can be very annoying. Nothing against Dave Matthews, but let’s bring other people in!

JC: Right, hahaha.

LG: I really like the Albany-Troy DIY scene. It seems like everyone knows one another and wants to work with one another. It’s very welcoming.

JC: It’s such a welcoming community, I love it so much. It’s so great.

LG: You’ve talked about a lot of different genres. What are some of your favorite ones?

JC: Oh, my god. Indie rock is always going to be my favorite one. Alternative rock as well; I’m a huge rock music fan. The second would be Latin music, or Latin pop, like Reggaeton. I love Reggaeton! It’s one of my favorite things to listen to; to dance; or in a party… it really brings an energy to the vibe. My third favorite would either be soul or R&B. Aretha Franklin… old soul, that kind of music just brings joy to my heart. It’s like drinking a cup of coffee!

LG: It’s pretty damn good stuff, I’ll give you that!

JC: Hahaha.

LG: I’ve heard “No Escape” thus far. When I write music, I’m like a sponge, you know? I know there are a lot of bigger artists that incorporate a lot of Latin-style music into their art. That’s how I first heard those stylings. Then, I started listening to native-Latin music, rather than just white guys ripping it off.

JC: Ha, yeah.

LG: Do those styles ever find a way into your art? I’m a big fan of samba, and that type of stuff.

JC: It has in the past. I don’t think this album has it. It’s more of an angry, rock song type of album. That’s what it’s going to be. But we’ve done it in the past where we’ve spiced up my songs to make them have a Latin feel. It is true what you say. When I’m listening to a lot of folk or Latin music, it translates to the writing that I do during that time.

I’m excited for the next project we’re making. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Colombia, and listening to a lot of Latin music. I’ve been writing songs that are a bit more influenced by that, and excited where we can take it, without sacrificing the signature sound of Canella. You know?

LG: Right. Incorporating the sounds while not going all the way over to it.

JC: Exactly, yeah.

LG: As a guitar player, I’ve flipped through the “Real Book” (jazz book). All those great jazz tunes, like Black Orpheus… bossa nova is very intense!

JC: I love it. It’s so impressive and beautiful.

LG: It’s impressive if you play it right! If you play it wrong it might be a bit cringe-y.

JC: Ha! For real.

LG: You have an album coming out, do you have a set date for that, yet?

JC: We don’t have a set release date, but we hope it’s going to be in the spring of 2023.

LG: How many songs are on it?

JC: We have nine songs on the album. I’m excited; they’re going to be fun! Even though it’s all within the indie rock genre, there’s a lot of different styles of indie rock within the songs. I’m excited for everybody to see it; there’s going to be harder songs; there’s going to be more folk songs.

LG: I like calling myself “indie rock” because it means I can do whatever the hell I want!

JC: Does it have guitar, bass, drums? That’s indie rock! Hahaha, that’s how I think about it.

LG: Where can we see you next?

JC: We have a show on Saturday, November 5th, at No Fun in Troy. We’re opening for My Son the Doctor. Also supporting is Gabe and the Grand Mals, which is my guitarist’s (Gabe Klingler-Horn) band. I’m excited to see him, because he’s so talented. He’s played with me and in different bands for five years at this point. I love his new project, and it’s really, really new!

LG: Where are you after that one?

JC: After that, on November 18th, we’re playing the Troy Speakeasy! We’re going to be opening for two great bands! One of them is Sun Organ. They’re definitely heavier. The other is Hal Marks, and they’re incredible. I’m so excited to open for them, they’re so good and they’re on tour together.

LG: It’s great to hear that! Is there anything else I might not have touched upon that you’d like to discuss?

JC: Are you familiar with the Kyle Robinson Memorial Foundation?

LG: I am a little bit.

JC: This foundation was created around my bandmate, Kyle Robinson, who passed away in 2020. With the people in the foundation, we created a YouTube series, called Making Toast, that’s like NPR’s Tiny Desk.

LG: Yes! I saw The E-Block on there!

JC: There’s an episode featuring Canella that comes out tomorrow (Thursday, November 3rd).

LG: Oh, cool! I’ll have to watch it!

JC: I’m excited because it was recorded so long ago. It has old songs that didn’t make the record, but it’ll be fun to hear them again!

LG: Thank you so much, Juliana! I’m glad that we got a chance to talk and that I know your music more!

JC: Oh, thank you so much.

LG: I look forward to hearing more from you!

JC: Thank you, I really appreciate it. Thank you for taking the time to talk and everything. I’m very grateful!

LG: Let’s set up a show in the new year, sometime!

JC: Absolutely!

LG: Have a great night and I’ll talk to you soon.

JC: You as well, bye.

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