¿Téo? Might Be From the Moon

Mateo Arias, the Colombian-American artist known as ¿Téo?, makes music for the moon.
Mateo Arias, the Colombian-American artist known as ¿Téo?, makes music for the moon. Courtesy ¿Téo?
Mateo Arias, the Colombian-American artist known as ¿Téo?, has accomplished a lot in the five years since officially launching his music career. From collaborating with actor-turned-rapper Jaden Smith to opening for Justin Bieber during the pop star’s 2022 Justice tour, Arias has been carving a unique path for himself with his mixture of hip-hop, reggaetón and Latin pop.

While preparing for his latest run, he talks about performing in Colombia for the first time in February, which was a dream come true, and how excited he is for April’s Coachella festival.

That Colombia performance "was revolutionary for me. I’ve been looking forward to performing specifically in my mom’s city of Medellín for a long, long time, so to be able to do it at La Solar Festival was honestly one of the highlights of my life,” he says, adding that about forty family members came out to see his set. "I only get to perform in Colombia for the first time once, and it was a great way to start off the year.”

For now, Arias is on the road promoting his upcoming album, Luna, which will be released later this year. He stops in Denver on Tuesday, March 21, for a show at the Larimer Lounge with Maesu. Being able to focus on so many projects at once is just how he operates, he says, explaining that when he first heard about the show in Colombia, he was in full-blown “album mode” writing Luna.

“If I have a desire to operate at the highest level, then I have to move at the highest level. That means you’re going to have to juggle a lot,” he says. “It’s going to be an arduous journey, but at the same time, when you’re inspired to do something, when you got the motivation and intentions and the team and resources, you just flow with everything. That just comes with it, and I enjoy it. I’m very lucky to do what I do, and I’m very grateful for it all, truthfully.”

Arias was born and raised in Atlanta to Colombian parents. His first creative love was acting, and he appeared in several TV shows and movies over the years before becoming a touring musician. The southern city that’s home to the likes of Outkast and T.I. made an impression on Arias, who began pairing rap beats with the Latin music he grew up hearing throughout his home. He calls his style “neo-American.”

“I’m pulling inspiration from everything that I love and everything that I am, and I’m just creating my own thing. The beauty about being an artist for me is I get to present the work; I don’t have to explain it, which is beautiful,” he says. “I’m excited to present this to the world. I feel like we’re at a place culturally and sonically where it’s not so crazy to put something out that’s so varied.”

The new record, a followup to 2021’s Sol, is his “love letter to the moon.”

Luna, to me, is exploring all of the different scenarios, themes and experiences that can happen when the moon is out,” Arias adds, whether that’s hanging at a club or intimacy with a partner, to name just two. “There’s a turn-up song. There’s a song where you might be in a meditative state alone or with your loved one. There’s a song where you might be walking on the beach meeting your maker, or you’re on a plane or on a train. All of the different things or emotions that you can experience while the moon is out was my inspiration for Luna.”

The mystery of the moon reveals itself in odd ways. For example, on one particular night, a full moon inspired Arias to write what he says became his favorite track on the record.

“My girlfriend at the time said, ‘Hey, this is a full moon in something…it’s supposed to be a very creative moon, so make sure you make the most of it.’ I was like, ‘Okay, cool, bet,’" he recalls. "So that night we birthed my favorite song on the project, or the seed was planted, if you will, for what became ‘Don’t Stare Too Long.’”

Logically, it might not really make sense, but that’s fine with Arias.

“There are a lot of stories like that throughout the project where I feel like we really channeled some lunar energy — even the concept of a song like ‘Lunatic.’ The root word of ‘lunatic’ comes from people going crazy on a full moon night. When you call somebody a lunatic, it’s like the energy of a full moon making people go crazy,” he says. “On a full moon night, it’s a known thing, the most murders are committed, the most people become enlightened, the most people commit suicide — full moons are crazy. We’re deeply influenced by the moon’s energy, and obviously the tides; we’re all water. For me, it just makes sense...but sometimes not making sense is what makes sense, to some extent.”

¿Téo?, 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Street. Tickets are $22.
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