10 years after leaving his hometown of El Paso, Greg Gonzalez realized he missed it.

It started with music — he missed the Tejano sound, like Selena, La Mafia, and more — and from there, it became an excursion into the different memories of a childhood gone by. Gonzalez, best known as the frontman of ambient pop band Cigarettes After Sex, had fashioned together an album to try and capture this sound of nostalgia in his head.

The release of the aptly-named “Tejano Blue” last February and “Dark Vacay” in April marked the start of a new era that Gonzalez would be undertaking. What follows next is the highly-anticipated forthcoming record, X, coming out on July 12.

Ahead of the album release, Billboard Philippines sat down with Greg Gonzalez for an exclusive interview about Tejano music, capturing his childhood memories, and what to expect from Cigarettes After Sex’s upcoming album.

Billboard Philippines: You said before that “Tejano Blue” was inspired by your Texan upbringing in El Paso and hearing Tejano music growing up. How would you describe what Tejano music sounds and feels like?

Greg Gonzalez: Tejano music is hard to describe. There’s a very specific beat to it…it’s a cascara [beat], where there’s a really repetitive hi-hat beat and kick drum. It’s descended from different kinds of like, Mexican ballads. So it kinda has this kind of ballad feeling, melodic, and I call it very sweet, music. A lot of times it’s like, accordion, bass, drums, singer, guitar. I hope that gives a bit of window into the sound.

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You also mentioned that the song was an exercise in finally reconnecting with the music of your youth. After roughly 12 years in music, why did you decide to do that now in the lead up to your upcoming album? 

It’s crazy, actually. When I finally left El Paso, like 10 years ago, and went to New York. That’s when I suddenly started to like Tejano music. All my life I was like, huh. Tejano music sounds cool and everything, but I’d rather listen to other stuff. When I moved to New York all of a sudden, I found there was like a nostalgia that I had. I listened to Selena, this other band called La Mafia. I was like, wow this is actually great. I found the music really sweet and fun all of a sudden.

I kind of thought, what if I mixed Tejano music with like, Cocteau Twins. Like, what would that sound like? But that was like 10 years ago, when I had that idea. It took another 10 years, ’til now, to finally get that idea across and really try it out. It felt really appropriate to do, because of this romance I had recently, that runs through the whole record. It felt like the sound of that and Cocteau Twins was kind of the relationship just starting.

It took time…It was like a long-term idea. I’m glad that it finally happened after all this time.

Will similar themes of reconnecting with your roots be explored in your album? What can listeners expect?

There’s a bit of that as well. There are certain songs from my childhood that I thought of for my record…like “Rush, Rush” by Paula Abdul. It was a song that I heard as a kid all the time. Then, I kind of tried to make a song out of that. ’80s, soft rock radio, was really important to this record. Madonna ballads, [from] the ’90s. Those remind me of my childhood, for sure, growing up and hearing soft rock radio stations.

There’s one more song that uses a Tejano beat, called “Ambient Slide.” I’m glad I got two songs with that beat, like what I was telling you earlier, it was such a long-term idea. The way that I worked too was nostalgic. I have such a fondness for memories that I have, and I always wanna capture them somehow and live in them. The songs do that, with the lyrics and everything, but the song should feel that way too, they should remind me of things I love or things I went through. That’s the way I approach music, for sure.

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When “Tejano Blue” came out, I saw a lot of fans talk about how it sounds and feels so different compared to previous Cigarettes After Sex songs. It’s really nice to see that the intention is translating to fans too.

That’s kind of nice too. One thing I hear all the time is “all the songs sound the same,” and it’s actually really deliberate. I wanted everything to kind of the sound the same. It’s supposed to feel like one really distinct world. It’s kind of nice too to be like, ‘oh, it’s kind of different.’

“Dark Vacay,” the second single off the album, seems to very inspired by geography, as well as your experiences going on tour. From “Tejano” and “Dark,” the songwriting in the new album seem to touch a lot on tangible places and your stories there. Will the rest of the songs in the album include a lot of references to places as well? Why did you decide to incorporate that theme?

That’s a really good observation. The songs kind of do that. It’s kind of like, since I’m telling or describing memories, and it’s all storytelling, the place has to be really in it. My writing kind of does that very often, when I’m trying to describe, like, a city, a room or something. A lot of songs [in the album] are definitely going to do that. They mention cities and exact hotels, even. I just love that stuff. I love when a writer is really specific with details. Like, the Lower East Side, what is that in the song “K.?” Like, what does it mean? For me, it’s a really specific place. Hopefully, someone will read it and they’ll be, ‘what is that?’ and go look it up.

I feel like I’ll always do that. That’s just the way I describe memories. I feel like the whole record definitely does that, for sure.

You announced your tour dates for 2025 earlier this year. Why did you decide to announce them as early as now, and what does it feel like to have your lives planned out already a year ahead?

I think I wanted to announce everything because I just felt like…here’s the world tour, it’s gonna be all the places we can go. Let’s try to go everywhere, all these places we love to go [to], and new places. It was meant to be all there and no one feels left out. We’re trying to get a few more dates in there, like for South America.

It was just like that, like let’s make it feel like a world tour. I talked with my friends and they’re always freaked out like, ‘wow, you know where you’re going to be in a year,’ pretty much, and…I like that. But I had to get used to it. But now, I feel like I do everything like that now. I’m like, overplanning things all the time. So if a friend even comes to visit, I plan everything out, so that there’s nothing left to chance (laughs). It’s also so fun to think like, ‘oh wow, we’re gonna be in Manila again!’ We had such a blast last time.

I just feel lucky that touring is so fun and that it took us to many places.

What are you looking forward to the most for the upcoming tour?

Definitely Manila. That’s gonna be amazing. I love returning to places we’ve been because we start to learn these places, and make friends, and stuff. But usually, a new city we haven’t been to, that can be exciting as well. We were supposed to do Cape Town years and years ago and now, we’re finally doing it.The new cities are usually fun.

Stream “Dark Vacay” by Cigarettes After Sex on Spotify below.