‘When I first met Rodrigo [Sánchez], we talked about guitar, and guitar and more guitar,” says Gabriela Quintero.
Since that first conversation at Mexico City’s Casa de Cultura art school in 1989, the two have built a 25-year musical partnership, performing an exciting array of rock originals and covers on nylon-stringed acoustic guitars that incorporate flamenco and rumba for high-powered live performances. Rodrigo y Gabriela perform Aug. 7 at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa.
Though the two had no formal training, they shared a passion for guitar and heavy metal music. “We were very obsessive with [guitar],” Quintero says.
In 1993, Quintero joined Sánchez’s metal band Tierra Acida (“Acid Land”). “We wanted to sound like Metallica or Pantera,” she says. After the band dissolved in 1997, the two moved from Mexico City to a beach town near Acapulco, where they expanded their musical boundaries, learning to play jazz and bossa nova, as well as covering a lot of metal ballads suitable for the the cafes and hotel lobbies where they played.
“For us it was like winning the lottery,” Quintero says. “It was rewarding to play different kinds of music.”
Wanting to tour the world, the two saved up money and traveled to Europe in 1999. They eventually settled and lived in Dublin for several years while busking street corners and playing in pubs. There, songwriter Damien Rice and his manager, Niall Muckian, founder of Irish record label Rubyworks, befriended the pair and offered them a record deal.
Rodrigo y Gabriela have released five studio albums and three live albums. Still managed by Muckian, they tour the world constantly, connecting with audiences from Japan to South America.
In the midst of their constant touring schedule, the duo are planning a new album for next spring, currently choosing from the massive number of original and cover compositions they’ve put together since their last record, 2014’s 9 Dead Alive.
For their date this month in Santa Rosa, the pair are playing an acoustic show that promises an uplifting and energizing performance, with Sanchez rapidly picking strings and Quintero using the guitar body like a percussive instrument as much as a melodic one.
“We’re still a rock band in our head,” Quintero says. “And I know over the years people keep insisting we play flamenco or world music, but for us, as long as we don’t say that, we are happy.”