Look Who’s Rockin’
Home, Refuge, and Inspiration: Shangri-La On The Magic City
When you hear the name Shangri-La, you probably think of the fictional paradise depicted in the 1933 novel “Lost Horizon” by James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as an otherworldly, exotic and harmonious utopia. Likewise, an upcoming local band, Shangri-La, is fulfilling the legend of the literary name, bringing a little piece of heaven to The Magic City. The band consists of Felix Ovalle on drums and synthesizer, Carlos (Kike) Sevilla on guitar, synthesizer and vocals and Mango Sterling on vocals. The trio combines roots stemming from Venezuela, Peru and the Dominican Republic. And, the sounds of foreign, tropical paradises echoes in their high-flying electronic, indie-rock melodies.
Shangri-La is one of a few upcoming local bands managed by Gummdrops, a ground-up initiative with a focus on music that creates a platform for artists, musicians, and activists in Miami to connect with each-other and collaborate on projects. Since they were established in October 2012, Shangri-La has been hitting the best local live music venues like the Vagabond and Churchill’s Pub, impressing audiences with a raw talent that sounds polished and professional as well. A recent Tropicult article said “Shangri-La rises to the top in a city full of cookie-cutter, mundane sparkly poppy keyboard fueled groups.” Part of their success is due to original vocalist Mango Sterling. The songstress sounds like a cross between Bjork and Etta James, ethereal and strange, yet soulful and passionate.
The group recently performed at Churchill’s Pub, a sort of rite of passage for all local musicians. The performance was part of the pub’s new female-oriented night, a unique “ladies” night, which brings the most talented female musicians and performers in the local arts scene to their stage. Shangri-La’s dance-infusing set included crowd-pleasing hits “Sticks and Stones,” “Familiar Stranger,” “Saved,” Total Embrace,” “Touch,” “Tourist,” “IDK,” and “Degenerates.” Soon, they will be passing another rite, releasing a new record. So, be on the lookout in the near future.
In the meantime, I caught-up with Felix, Carlos (Kike) and Mango, and asked them about their origins, their idea of home and their musical roots, amongst other things, getting to know the faces behind the music.
How did you choose the name Shangri-La?
After trying many different names, Felix came up with Shangri-La and we all agreed to it. Shangri-La is a fictional place in a novel that is said to be modeled over tibet. It is a place of peace, acceptance and privilege. Which is exactly what the band and the music means to us.
Where did you all grow up?
Mango Sterling was born in Dominican Republic and raised in Miami and New York.
Kike was born and raised in Peru.
Felix was born and raised in Venezuela.
How did the band get together?
Kike and Felix met through a mutual friend. Since then, they started to share music that they both like and decided that it was time to start a band together. They placed an ad for a singer on craigslist and after many replies they found Mango. She sent them a demo and both knew that she was the last piece of the puzzle.
How did you get into music?
For us, music is a lifestyle, a religion…
Mango: I was a kid model in pageants in dr and mia. Went to college for acting and was in an electro down tempo band called Limbic Divine in NYC, now studying psychology at FIU. Hope to combine the two and heal with art.
Kike: I started playing guitar at the age of 12. Since then, my musical career started. I joined my first band when I was 15 and stayed there for 5 years. Studied sound engineering and moved to Florida when I was 21. Then formed a band called NoiseVox and also joined a cover band. Decided to study culinary arts as well, so I’m a musical Chef.
Felix: I picked up the drums when I was 15 years old. Always surrounded by music and art. I went to school to become a Photographer and also an Art director, but music has always been my main goal in life.
Where do you make music?
We make music at Kike’s home studio in Sunny Isles, Fl. and we practice at GAB Studio in Wynwood.
What you like about home [Miami] that fuels your creativity?
Mango: When you’re a child your first ideas come while you’re lounging at home, it’s a source of comfort and freedom.
Kike: At home is where I find that my ideas flow more, especially when I am playing my guitar, which is everyday basically.
Felix: Home is my refuge, it’s a personal space where everything is on track with my personality. There is no better place.
What are some of your inspirations and influences?
Sharing our individual inspirations is what inspire us as a band. We combine our different experiences and find inspirations from that.
For influences, the list is huge, but to name a few that we share: Depeche Mode, Bat for Lashes, NIN, Radiohead…
What is your favorite place to play in Miami or favorite show?
Every venue has its own magic, but I will say that so far my favorite show has been at Blackbird Ordinary when we played Irocke 4evr Festival (Kike and Felix). Mango loves Kill Your Idol.
What are your goals as a band?
Make a good living out of our music and keep playing together for many years