Mau y Ricky are reinventing themselves on their aptly-titled new album Rifresh. Finally finding success as artists with their blend of pop and reggaeton on their 2019 debut LP Para Aventuras y Curiosidades after songwriting for years, the Venezuelan-born brothers used their time in quarantine to revamp their sound and image for their sophomore album. A little over a year after releasing their debut, the punk rock and '80s influenced Rifresh, released on Nov. 20, takes them to an edgier place musically.
On the new album’s vibrant cover, Ricky sports his Cruella de Vil-like black and white hair as he playfully kicks Mau in the groin, leaving behind the calm, cool and collected rock star demeanor displayed on their debut. There's a looser vibe on the album as well as the brother duo bounce around on rambunctious bangers like "Fresh" and "Mi Moto." It’s clear: They're enjoying the ride this time around and showing it.
"I feel like right now we're obsessed with evolving and doing new and different sounds and concepts that not only differentiate us from the rest, but most importantly, differentiates us from what we've done in the past," Mau tells GRAMMY.com over Zoom. "I think that's the beauty of evolving."
The evolution didn’t come fast for the singer/songwriters—it took them nearly a decade to find themselves as artists. Mauricio "Mau" and Ricardo "Ricky" Montaner, Jr. are the sons of Ricardo Montaner, the GRAMMY-winning Argentine icon who received a Latin GRAMMY lifetime achievement award in 2016. They began their careers as balladeers, following in their father’s footsteps when they began to make music as MR in 2011. But after not quite breaking through, they shifted gears into songwriting, penning hits like Becky G and Natti Natasha's 13-times Platinum "Sin Pijama" and Ricky Martin and Maluma's "Vente Pa' Ca," for which they received a Latin Grammy Song of the Year nomination in 2017.
In 2018, they found their pop groove as Mau y Ricky with their reggaetón-influenced breakthrough single "Mi Mala'' featuring Karol G. A year later, their debut album followed with Platinum success. They have become go-to collaborators featured on hits by Mexican superstar Thalía, Argentine pop princesses Lali and Tini, and Puerto Rican reggaeton OG Nicky Jam. They went global this year when they were invited to sing in Spanish on the remixes of John Legend's "Bigger Love" and JP Saxe's "Hey Stupid, I Love You." They have also brought GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Camilo, who married their singer/actress sister Evaluna Montaner earlier this year, to the forefront on their multi-Platinum singles "Desconocidos'' and "La Boca."
Now with their new sound, Mau y Ricky are “exploring the possibilities and showing the people that there is no limit,” Mau says.
The guys chatted with GRAMMY.com about Rifresh-ing their career with the new album and life in a musical family.
What's the experience like to work together in Mau y Ricky as brothers?
Mau: As brothers, it's a beautiful experience. We learned that our relationship is actually our biggest strength, and our connection as brothers I feel is what differentiates us from the rest of the people.
Has your dad Ricardo Montaner given you guys any advice on the industry?
Ricky: Throughout our entire life, we've seen his example. I think being grateful is the biggest advice. To always look at everything as a gift. Being able to write songs and do what we love for a living, I think that's beautiful. And appreciating every single step of growth. One is always focused on the end goal, but we tend to forget the small steps that it takes to get there.
The "Mi Mala" remix with Karol G, Lali, Becky G, and Leslie Grace was your first big hit as Mau y Ricky. How did your lives change after that song?
Ricky: That song definitely changed our lives. We did "Mi Mala" and the remix. Both those songs kind of set ground for us to start building off of that. We were able to grow a lot after that—and knowing that we played, even if it was just a small role, in this Latin women movement by having all these beautiful and talented artists on one song: Becky, Karol, Leslie, and Lali; It was the first song in Spanish to have that many women on it—To know that we were a part of that, I feel like that's a dream come true. We didn't do it intentionally. We just thought it would be really dope. It's beautiful and really set the way for everything that happened after that.There are notably no artist features on rifresh. Why did you guys decide to do that?
Mau: When we decided to make this album, one key decision we made was to have no features. The beauty of a feature is that it's kind of [finding] that middle ground; having to surrender to certain things and the other artist doing the same and meeting in the middle. In this case, we were very clear on what we wanted, in our minds and hearts, to communicate on this new album and what we wanted to happen in our career, that evolution and that growth. We had to make sure that that message wasn't scattered. A lot of times when you work with other people, your message has to take a back seat, so that you're able to work as a team. It doesn't mean we won't do that in the future. We already started working on features on some upcoming projects.
Manuel Turizo has uncredited vocals at the end of the song "Dolería."
Ricky: That was a dope surprise we wanted to do for our fans. When we did the first arrangement of the song, we pitched my vocal down. We put it low so that it sounded like Manuel Turizo. It was a little bit of a joke. Then we thought it would be really cool to actually have him on it. The day I proposed to my girlfriend, [Stefanía Roitman], I was so nervous that I needed to get out of the house and ended up going to the studio with Manuel an hour before proposing. I was in the studio recording his part.
Mau: Rick was so nervous. He didn't even tell me. I called him like, "Yo, where are you?" Because we were an hour away from him proposing. He's like, "I'm at the studio." And I'm like, "What in the world are you doing at the studio? You're about to propose!" He's like, "I'm cutting Manuel's vocals." I'm like, "First of all, you're about to propose. No. 2, what the heck? You didn't let me know that you were cutting his vocals."
Mau: It comes from the music that we grew up listening to. It's this kind of hint of an influence, which I love. Most of it is in the album's aesthetic or in our music videos. We wanted to explore the possibilities of reggaeton music being combined with music like punk rock. We feel like people didn't think that could happen. We're here exploring the possibilities and showing the people that there is no limit. Anything can happen if you do it with excellence and love. If you actually believe in and be genuine to who you are, it'll sound dope.
Mau: During the quarantine, we found out Stillz was Rick's neighbor. We ended up reaching out to him. We started creating all the concepts together. It was a creative, awesome relationship growing through these videos. Most of the videos have come out already, but there's still some that haven't come out. In our opinion, they're some of the greatest music videos out right now. Stillz is one of the top directors. It's a huge honor to be able to work with him. He allows us to be extremely crazy with our ideas. We allow him to go crazy as well with his. We fit together.
What did you think when John Legend invited you guys on his "Bigger Love" remix?
Mau: We had two crossover moments, which are wild, in this quarantine: John Legend, like you're saying, and JP Saxe. Those two are our favorite collabs we've done. We went straight to the studio to write our part for that song. We sent it. They loved it. John actually asked us to do more, so we went back to the studio to record some more. It's crazy to me because he's an artist we've admired for awhile. JP Saxe is our favorite artist in the world. We've become friends with him in the past year. We have a beautiful relationship. He invited us to become a part of that remix and it's our favorite song.
How did you feel seeing Camilo win the Latin GRAMMY for Best Pop Song for "Tutu"?
Ricky: So excited! I busted my lip celebrating it. I'm still in pain. So much pain. We've all gotten nominated, but he's the first one in our family to win one.
Mau: It was this family moment, we all celebrated as if it was our own win. It does feel like it's our win. We're proud of him. He deserves it. Nobody works harder than him.
What can we expect from you next?
Mau: After "Ouch," there's two new videos coming that you're going to freak [about]. They're crazy and also with Stillz. There are a couple songs that we'll be releasing with other artists. One in particular comes out very soon with our entire family, which is a surprise that I wasn't supposed to tell, but because it's you, I'll tell you. It's our first song as a family that we're ever going to release together. It's one of my favorite songs in the world.