If you haven't heard of Domino Saints, you will. The Puerto Rican duo (and real-life couple), who is Giselle "Gigi" Ojeda, 27, and David Leal, 28, just ended their Colombian tour and recently opened for Shakira at the closing of her Sale el Sol tour in Ojeda's hometown of San Juan. They stopped by our office during a visit to L.A. (Leal was born in Venezuela to Colombian parents who raised him in Puerto Rico then moved to Fresno; hence the visit), and I was blown away by the impromptu flow they left us with. Their super catchy single "No Me Digas Que No," blew up in Colombia, where the video was shot, and demonstrates the group's ability to stand out amidst a reggaeton-heavy island.
Inspired by artists as diverse as dancehall legend Barrington Levy and English rock greats The Police, the self-described Latin urban pop act formed in 2007 in Boston, where they both attended Berklee School of Music. They released their debut reggae-flavored self-titled album in 2009 and were recently named 'Favorite New Artist of the Month' by MTV Tr3s. My co-worker, Karina, and I snuck them into the art gallery on the bottom floor of our building to ask them a couple questions.
How did you two meet?
Gigi: I was on the beach and there was a shark attack [laughs] and David's friends were there...
David: I wasn't there, but my friends were checking out this hot girl [Gigi] in the water and there was a shark that swam by so they started talking to her. They invited me to her birthday party later. That's how we met.
What's the difference from your sound and reggaeton?
David: Honestly, reggaeton's like one beat. It's dembow and they just loop it. I think you can do so much more creatively. We try to be original, set standards and do new things.
Gigi: We produce and play with different rhythms. We'll hear an Arabian beat and be like, 'Oh that sounds good.' It flows with our dancehall. A lot of stuff is about the guy conquering the woman, but we twist it around and do the girl conquering the guy.
What do you each bring to the group?
Gigi: We both compose and write music. David is a drummer. I play the piano and sing, so I bring more of the melodic parts and harmony. David's very rhythmical, but we switch it around all the time.
David: We have a good way of jumping on each other's creative train. I'll be working on a beat that I'm stuck on and Giselle will jump in and take it somewhere else. When it comes to our lyrics, it depends on where we are. It could be a love song, a flirty song, a party song.
Your inspiration is pretty diverse. What did you listen to growing up?
David: Punk rock is the first thing I listened to as a kid. Then reggae. After listening to a lot of reggae, I got in touch with my Latin side, my Caribbean side. You know, salsa.
Gigi: I think we have all that inspiration embedded in our blood. Being on an island you listen to reggae, you listen to salsa, you drink rum. It's second nature.
What are some of the biggest issues in Puerto Rico right now?
David: Puerto Rico's in a tough situation because it's a colony. The economy's really bad, there's a lot of crime, and the government doesn't seem to be doing a good job of taking care of the issues--thinking about how to make it a better place to live and asking why there's so many people leaving.
How do you deal with the fact that you're part of the U.S., but you can't vote for the U.S. president?
David: During the 70s, when 44,000 Puerto Ricans got drafted to fight in Vietnam, the three million Puerto Ricans living in New York got to vote and had a say. Giselle's uncles are still traumatized by Vietnam and they didn't have a say in it. Whatever happens in the States affects us. If you don't vote, you waste the opportunity to make this a better place for everyone.
Some people in Puerto Rico want to become independent from the States.
David: It's actually a minority. It's very complicated. It's a matter of being idealistic or realistic. Some want to deal with the consequences of being our own country.
Gigi: It's a very touchy subject. It gets people into a lot of fights.
Well, thanks for stopping by.
David: We're very excited to be working with Voto Latino.
Watch out for Domino Saints on Voto Latino's 2012 iTunes compilation coming soon.
Kamren Curiel is a Digital Media Editor at Voto Latino and freelance writer for Remezcla and MTV Iggy. Her column, AMP (Art Music Politics), profiles artists and musicians that are dedicated to a cause.