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Guitarist Alberto Nebel's band Xolmani has been around for six years. He says the American Idol-ization of Mexico's music scene has hindered his group's progress.

"Rock en español doesn't get that much interest anymore. Everything has gone pop. It's not like it was in the early '90s. Rock has pretty much gone underground."

Besides an American Idol-like show called La Academia, Nebel says rampant CD piracy has helped push Mexican musical tastes away from rock.

"You can get a pirated CD on the streets for a couple dollars before the record is even released. It's so bad that the record companies will develop very few new [rock en español] bands; they only want to invest in sure things, which means pop."

Though Xolmani won a 2003 battle of the bands for northwestern Mexico, he says it makes sense to try and break into the U.S. market.

"That's why we are translating [and rerecording] all our music into English."

Nebel says winning the contest had a negative effect on his group.

"Our singer started getting a big head. He thought the band was all about him, so we sent him back to Spain. We found a good replacement for him from Tijuana, [but] he left his visa on top of a public phone. When he tried to get it back, they penalized him and made him wait six months. We waited for him, but he got pulled into deejaying raves."

Nebel says he advertised in the Reader for a replacement singer.

"I said we were 'Santana with balls,' but they changed it to 'Santana with power.' Because we mentioned Santana, we got a lot of older people."

Xolmani did eventually find a front man. The band appears May 15 at House of Blues.

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