Mar 07, 2023
By Mark Moody
Photography by Rachel Bennett
Today, Seattle-based and sister-fronted band La Fonda release their single “New Mexico,” from their forthcoming album, We Are Infinite, due out on April 7. “New Mexico” follows prior single “Kaleidoscope,” and the album also includes the anthemic single “Spokane Views,” which was originally released in 2022. The band’s prior album, New Self Old Ways, was released in 2021.
Fronted by sisters, Valerie and Veronica Topacio, La Fonda was formed in 2016, but came fully to life in 2019 when drummer Jacob Whinihan joined on. Other members include Jesse Cole (guitar) and Bryan Dever (bass). Though the band’s name has a Spanish language origin, the Fonda part of their name also came from a Jane Fonda aerobics poster that was hanging in their original practice space. “We signed up for this practice space at the Old Rainier Brewery and the Jane Fonda poster was by our door. Every time we came in we would say ‘Hey Jane’ to her in her little socks and leggings,” Valerie jokes.
As with many indie bands these days, getting their music out to fans requires extensive time on the road and much of that ethos is reflected across the songs on the album, particularly on “New Mexico.” Ironically, younger sister, Veronica, was on the highway headed to Austin for this year’s SXSW, so we were able to speak to Valerie about the band’s history and the “New Mexico” single.
The Topacio’s didn’t have it easy growing up in the expensive environs of the Pacific Northwest. Their father was born in The Philippines and has had to deal with extensive immigration issues over the years after complications surrounding his own parents’ work visas. These challenges left the family homeless and living in a hotel when Valerie was in early high school. “Even if we were displaced, and all our stuff was in storage, we still had each other and [a perspective] that we’re going to get through things together. Even if things were bad we could still make light of the situation and laugh and eat free donuts at the hotel,” Valerie says. But these obstacles in the sisters’ past have also caused them to bond tightly, which is evidenced in the passion Valerie displays for her sibling and band members, who she also considers their extended family.
Though “New Mexico” is a full-throttled romp and the accompanying video likewise portrays a fun-filled adventure, the song also has some heavier connections. La Fonda played SXSW previously in 2019, the same year that British duo Her’s were killed in a head-on collision in Arizona following their own SXSW appearance. Also, the band laid up that same year at Dever’s friend’s house in New Mexico. Sadly, their friend succumbed to addiction issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, causing Valerie to reflect on the fragility of things and a need to celebrate family and moments that may not recur. “Bryan’s friend, Enpheos, hosted us for several nights when we were on the road to SXSW in 2019. I remember all hugging goodbye. The desert was beneath our feet and we have a photo that shows us all laughing under a tiled roof. When we found out later he had died of a drug overdose during the pandemic it was so tragic, because he was clean back then,” Valerie shares.
The song is certainly sunnier than these touchpoints, but balances the rush of touring life with a longing for those that you want to return to. The sisters trade lead vocals on successive verses throughout the hook heavy song. Though titled “New Mexico,” the accompanying video, which was co-directed by Gemma Cross and Lily Grace, was made closer to home. The live music shots were filmed at Seattle’s iconic Tractor Tavern and the casino scenes further north at the Tulalip Resort.
In addition to making music and touring, the Topacio’s also curate the Belltown Bloom festival. The festival’s third iteration takes place this May 5-6 in Seattle with headliners L7 and Pussy Riot. And of course La Fonda will be playing as well. “We just wanted to have a festival where women and people of color were on the lineup. We wanted it to be unique in a way that we could celebrate women and their stories and songs. I was too young to ever go to a Lilith Fair, but this is a Lilith Fair that’s a rock version,” Valerie says. Valerie’s passion for the Seattle music community and her band members is evident and it’s clear that La Fonda will be rocking it out for a long time to come.
We Are Infinite tracklist:
1 The Calling
2 Living In The Amazon
4 We Are Infinite
6 Salt Lake City
7 Wanna Be
8 New Mexico
10 Spokane Views