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Los Amigos Invisibles bring Latin funk sound to Miami's Grand Central

Los Amigos Invisibles are in town as part of F + M Festival.
Los Amigos Invisibles are in town as part of F + M Festival.

If you love funky Latin bands and haven’t seen Los Amigos Invisibles perform live, you’re in for a jawdropping experience Saturday night at Grand Central, where the Grammy-winning band storms the stage in support of its 10th album, “Repeat After Me.” The group is famous for its relentlessly energetic live performances, which are reminiscent of its early days rocking abandoned discotheques in Caracas, Venezuela. Founding bassist Jose “Catire” Torres talked to The Miami Herald about the show, what he thinks of the city, and his favorite bass players.

What’s a Los Amigos Invisibles show like?

It’s very high-energy. Out of all of our music, we have a set that’s just like it’s played by a DJ. We take most of our high-energy songs, and play them live like a DJ set, and take what we consider our hottest hits in Latin America, so people can sing along. Most of all, it’s just a great party.

So it’s nonstop music?

It’s all-consuming – it doesn’t stop. I think in a one-and-a-half-hour show, we might have two breaks at the most.

Will we hear a lot from “Repeat After Me”?

Well, kind of. We kind of hate it when you have your favorite band, and they come into town and they have their new album. So you pay for your ticket and then they only play the new stuff. And it’s like, “What the f—, man?!?” So what we’re doing now is, we have like five songs from “Repeat After Me,” and the rest of the set is old tunes from previous albums. So we hope people like the five songs that we’re gonna do, and hopefully they’ll buy the album, and then next time maybe we’ll play a little bit more new songs.

Back in the beginning, were you embraced right away in Venezuela, or was your sound too different?

Well, we were an underground band, and I guess in the underground contacts, we were well-received. The weird thing was that the way we started playing in Caracas, is that we went to old discos – there were a lot of discos from the ‘70s that in the ‘90s were all broke – and these were the kind of discos like from “Saturday Night Fever.” And we made a deal with the owners, and said we were a dance band and we want to have a party here. So “dance band” – what do you mean? Merengue? No, no, it’s like funky.

Do you guys have any ties to Miami?

Well, actually, two of us live in Miami right now. Julio [Briceno], the singer, and Manuel [Roura] the drum player – they both live in Miami and they’re very happy.

So what do you think of the city?

I like it. The thing is, we all live in New York for almost 10 years. But then, we realized it wasn’t necessary to live together in New York. I mean, Manuel and Julio just hated cold weather. So they said, “Man, if we don’t need to be here, then we’re moving.” [Laughs]. I really like it there – every time I go I have an amazing time. It’s beautiful with the beach, but I’m more like a big-city boy. So I’m into the beach thing for maybe like two or three weeks. But the atmosphere in Miami, people are just happy and smiling, and I really like that, and I feel at home whenever I’m there. And everybody speaks Spanish, so it’s not like the U.S. sometimes.

As a bass player, who are your three favorite bassists?

OK. Well, the bass player that inspired me as a kid, learning to play the bass, was Geddy Lee of Rush. The music was not related to us, but I really tried to imitate him in the beginning. I couldn’t, but I tried. Just amazing basslines. And then I remember Jamiroquai’s bass player, Stuart Zender. And then [Red Hot Chili Peppers’] Flea. I don’t like bass players that use the bass to masturbate – I like players who play with a lot of feeling, and onstage they look great and have a great show. So that’s my approach to picking up the best from the best bass players.

What does your nickname “Catire” mean?

That’s how Venezuelans refer to blond people. Like “Hey Blondie!” Because blondies are not common, so in my case, the nickname became my name.