The strength of duality has been like air and water to Rafael Reyes—both basic necessities to live.
Even at age 4, fresh into the United States from the turmoil Mexican state of Michoacán, Reyes—also known as Leafar Seyer, frontman of the cholo-goth duo Prayers—never feared to look within. Reyes remembers the old school days, living in a furniture-less studio apartment with his family. He often enjoyed locking himself in a tiny closet to read, be alone and just question things. He's always been curious and aware of his layers. Leafar Seyer is an alter ego that's been side-by-side with Reyes since he was a child.
"I came to the United States...and I was trying to understand things at that moment. [Leafar Seyer] has always been that image in the mirror, the reflection in the water," Reyes says. "[He's] always been the person looking back at me saying, 'I got your back.' I don't know if I created him out of fear or if he appeared to me as a necessity, but he has always been there."
That duality transcended into his adult life and helped shape he's musical being. He's a Mexican immigrant staying true to his roots while surviving on foreign soil, living with a tight, traditional and loving family. He's also the cholo, member of San Diego's Sherman Grant Hill Park 27 gang, who served six months in prison back in 2010 (assault charges that got him two strikes under California's ridiculous three-strikes law) who loves aura photography and David Bowie.
His layers are what make Prayers the sweet walking contradiction that it is. They are dark dance music with that characteristic fun keyboard, but with a touch of the harsh realities of el barrio, singing lyrics about gang life. The other half of Prayers, Dave Parley (a native to Tijuana), is a perfect melodic yin to Reyes's yang.
Prayers is all about "pushing boundaries and uniting so many different cultures, giving pride to people of color, brown people especially saying, 'Hey, we are here, too. We are also creative," Reyes says. "We are not just the people who take care of your children...the backbone of the working class. We are also pyramid builders. We also have a rich history. This is also our fucking continent."
We're all Young Gods in Reyes's eyes (the name of the duo's 2015 creation. In 2016, Prayers released their new EP, Black Leather). Gods come to Earth to create. He's creating. He's changing mentalities and killing the division of a minority within a minority—cholos v. the rest of Latinos and Chicanos.
Reyes has been collaborating with a friend on a project that immortalizes cholos living in Reyes's barrio, Sherman Heights, photographing their auras. It's a reminder to the outside that cholos are human. And, in a way, a reaffirmation to cholos themselves of their value, their creativity—that they, too, can be gods.
This is the first time Prayers is bringing this cholo-goth movement to the Old Pueblo, and, honestly, it took a while before Reyes felt alright with coming to Arizona due, in part, to the state's racist and anti-immigrant laws. But then Reyes realized, why the hell block the Tucson raza from his message because of the poor decisions made by the people in power.
"I came from fucking nothing and I have built an empire," he says. "I want my gente to know, don't trip on your surroundings, don't trip on any of that shit. You are capable of doing great things."