“Everyone thought this would be a great time to be creative, but it’s hard to get anything done that’s new,” says local musician Joaquin Berrios, who’s seated on a bench in Flamingo Park with a surgical mask that covers most, but not all, of his beard.
Rather than surrender to inertia, Berrios gave another listen to some cuts that hadn’t made the cut for his 2016 album, Garden of Eve. Hearing the prog-rock songs with fresh ears, he found a theme he thought might be universal for all those who are suffering through 2020: a yearning to experience live music again.
Now Berrios has released Rotten Apples From the Garden of Eve…a Devil’s Tale, eight previously unreleased songs that he mixed and remastered over the past several months.
“The songs,” he says, “are all about going out and playing live again.”
What started as a musical trip down the memory lane of his own raucous rock ‘n’ roll days transitioned into a metaphor for missing the connection between performer and audience that live music provides.
“The main character of the album is the devil,” Berrios explains, clarifying that he doesn’t mean the satanic version but rather the hedonistic, Dionysian sense. “When I would perform, I would go nuts on stage,” he says. “That’s the devil that would come out. I missed that feeling.”
Berrios was playing guitar and singing in a cover band in his native Chile when a car accident made him rethink his life. Vowing to become a serious musician, he studied Charles-Louis Hanon’s The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises as if it were a Bible. For two years, he played piano ten hours every day. Though Chile offered limited options, his talent, hard work, and determination paid off when he was accepted to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. And in the late ’90s, after starting the Spanish-language rock band Sofia, he made his way to Miami.
“We thought about going to New York City, but our drummer was already in Miami studying at UM,” Berrios explains. “Our guitarist said, ‘Why freeze to death? Let’s move to Miami.’”
Sofia played their Spanish-language take on the Pixies around South Florida. They toured Mexico. The music video for one of their songs, “Tres Palabras,” made it into rotation on MTV Latino. But what Berrios remembers most fondly is the bohemian lifestyle.
“We had a house on South Beach on Fifth and Michigan. Thirteen people lived in that house,” he recounts.
Outside the house, the bandmates had a sign made that read “Kaza Zirkuz,” which recieves a nod as the title for the third track on Rotten Apples.
“The album is a push to get back to the stage,” Berrios says. “It’s about bringing a band back together. It’s about live performances and the real connection it makes with people. The pandemic has made everyone miss that connection. It’s made people rethink the structures of their lives.”
Then he poses the question that’s on every music lover’s mind.
“How much longer do you think this can go on? When do you think they can have concerts again?”