AQUIHAYAQUIHAY on Breaking Boy Band Boundaries and Making Music for Everyone

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Self-proclaimed “anti-boy band” AQUIHAYAQUIHAY and I have at least one thing in common from the outset: long, foreign-sounding names that are seen as intimidatingly hard to pronounce. It’s an innate struggle we share, teaching people how to say our names correctly instead of having to hear someone butcher them. Pronounced “ah-kee-ah-ee, ah-kee-ah-ee,” the Mexican quintet’s name roughly translates to “here we have” or “here it is” — verb tenses in Spanish don’t directly translate to English. With context applied, a more accurate translation would be that there is something here. For AQUIHAYAQUIHAY, that something is the potential to ignite a revolutionary musical movement.

That’s what Steve Aoki saw in them. Though AQUIHAY accidentally left a DM from his team unread for months, the world famous DJ eventually signed the independent and largely unknown Mexico City-based group to his newly founded Latin underground label Dim Mak En Fuego. “It was a real honor for us to represent Mexico and be the first Latinos in the label,” Zizzy, the unofficial frontman of the group, tells Teen Vogue in Spanish over a Zoom call. “We saw it as a gigantic opportunity, opening new doors to new projects or a new audience for us.”

But before AQUIHAY had the financial backing and influence of an international label, Jay-lee, Nehly, Neqer, Phynx, and Zizzy were largely a self-run, independent operation. Starting out as five friends, they formed the group in 2016 after realizing they vibed well together in the studio. They named the project after an inside joke they had with their neighborhood friends and three years later dropped their debut album, the self-love ode DROPOUT. Thanks to that record, the following year they signed with Dim Mak En Fuego. Now, they’re spearheading what they’ve dubbed M-pop — their Spanish-language take on the globalized, genre-bending force of K-pop — by dropping two EPs last month titled “:)” and “:(“ (pronounced “feliz,” which is happy, and “triste,” which is sad).

AQUIHAYAQUIHAY finally got to put out a cinematic music video — their first big-budget production — for their latest single, “Grave” featuring fellow regio (people from Monterrey, Mexico) Lil Benjas. Directed by Cruz Lee, the video puts an apocalyptic spin on a song about finding the positive in difficult situations. “If the world is ending, the only thing that matters is being ok with yourself,” Zizzy explains.

Similar to the way in which K-pop draws from many genres to create hybrid earworms, AQUIHAY’s music reflects the globalized musical palette of Latinx Gen Z. Phynx, who is heavily influenced by producers like Timbaland and Darkchild, infuses hip-hop and reggaeton into their beats, and they all convey their storytelling lyrics akin to bachata and regional Mexican music via R&B vocal stylings. “For me, [Timbaland, Darkchild, and Pharrell] influenced me musically, but we try to add our own sauce,” says Phynx, who produces all their music. “I think that something that all of these genres have in common is that they have roots in the streets and that they were created by creative people, people who wanted to take music to a new limit, and I think that’s why we identify with them. We take certain elements of all the music we like, both old and new, and that’s how we found our sound.”

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