Teoría Dorada de Popeye 
Rock Band

What began as an art student's interpretation of a fake rock band wound up sounding better than most real rock bands ever do. La Teoría Dorada de los Popeyes is part art project, part alternative music act, and much more original than such a description would lead you to believe. Their name translates in English as either Golden Popeyes Theory or Popeye's Golden Theory (you'll see it written both ways). Whatever their name may mean, Los Popeyes are a lot of fun. But they're no joke.

They have worked hard to preserve their anonymity, their faces rigorously hidden inside cardboard masks. They sing in both Spanish and English. Sometimes they tell people they're from Hungary. And they've managed to become a favourite with Havana crowds curious to hear what Cuban music sounds like when it has nothing to do with ballads, dancing or virtuosity.

In their "Destroy" video Los Popeyes sound a bit like Nirvana and look like cartoon rabbits from a children's TV program no child would be allowed to see. Their "Poltergeist" video looks like something Slipknot would do if Slipknot didn't have a wardrobe budget.

Legend has it that La Teoría Dorada de los Popeyes formed in 2003 in Havana. Joslov, as the band's founder/bassist prefers (for the moment) to be called, was studying painting at the San Alejandro Fine Arts Academy in Havana. After he and his fellow Popeyes received their master's degree from the Instituto Superior de Arte they decided to infiltrate the music world with their ideas about visual art. This led to animating music videos and then, somehow, to playing alongside genuine rock musicians at huge Cuban music festivals.

"We play our instruments really badly," Joslov insists. To attempt to prove this point, an impromptu Popeyes gig was organised for us in the band's back-garden rehearsal room in Havana's Nuevo Vedado district. Joslov's head was covered for the occasion by a carboard mask cut in the shape of a loudspeaker (perhaps because he does most of the talking?). Niñona the drummer wore a cardboard drum, and Nimrod the vocalist wore a cardboard amplifier. 

The three of them (the band's guitarist wasn't available for the interview) were dressed in red trousers and white t-shirts, a colour scheme made famous by the White Stripes. Los Popeyes claim to be unfamiliar with the White Stripes, but if you ask them about seminal North American grunge bands (Mudhoney, Nirvana, Melvins) their cardboard heads will nod in appreciation.

It's probably just as well that Joslov never studied music because his electric bass had only one string left on it and he seemed oblivious to any limitations that would surely hamper a bassist used to having four or six strings at his disposal. When they played, Los Popeyes made as much noise as their underpowered equipment could muster, and they sounded like Earth's last, most perfect garage band.

On an island blessed with every kind of musical prowess, Los Popeyes are a brilliant Cuban exception.