As Fans First, Madrid’s Hinds Infuse Garage Rock With Good Vibes

Hinds

Hinds (L-R) Ade Martín, Carlotta Cosials, Ana García Perrote, Amber Grimbergen. Aaron Serrano

Talk to any denizen of the ever-endangered DIY music community around Brooklyn and they’ll have heard of Hinds. From last year up until now, the Madrid garage band has toured non-stop, playing local venues like the late Palisades to adoring, sold-out crowds before their debut was even released.

That debut, Leave Me Alone, came out in January but has already made an impact on the American music machine.

Hinds have performed on Colbert, been interviewed by nearly every media outlet that still covers music, and had their images transformed into countless GIFS. Some of this attention is misplaced, guitarist and singer Ana García Perrote told me, as it involves the willingness of the press to market Hinds’ sexuality, to commodify it. This seems to have happened despite the fact that Hinds go above and beyond to just exist as a band, not a “girl band.” Hence, such characterizations speak more about the writer or outlet covering them than they do to the women of Hinds themselves.

But Perrote and her bandmates are still riding the waves with smiles on their faces. They’re traveling the world now, which allows them to see how different various music scenes and cultures treat women. They’ve also become icons in a certain country’s gay community, a development they never expected, but are totally down with.

“We really drink the audience’s emotions.”—Ana García Perrote

Perrote took the time to catch me up on Hinds’ whirlwind year with candid transparency and good humor, ahead of Leave Me Alone‘s deluxe edition re-release on October 28, complete with a fan’s treasure trove of bonus material.

“All of the demos we’ve chose happened when the song was just born, so we are making up English (?) words, or hardly reading the notebook while trying to remember the chords and the structure,” the band said in a statement, “but mysteriously, even though all this shit, we love them. ‘Cause they take us exactly to the moment we wrote them. Like a time machine. And we seriously hope this magic happens to you, too, and brings you to drink sangria at 1 a.m. sitting on a carpet with us.”

Evidenced in this blurb is Hinds’ charm encapsulated, their ability to make every interaction with them feel personal and special. Perrote and I talked about being dedicated to this approach, no matter how large or small the show. We talked about the importance of being a fan first, and how it allowed her to make music that people respond to without formal training. But ultimately, we talked about the importance of communal relationships—of being in a group with whom she has a symbiotic level of empathy, a positively blistering work ethic, and a whole lot of fun.

What are you guys doing in California right now?

Woof, having the time of our lives. [Laughs] We played yesterday in Santa Barbara and it was so, so, so nice. ‘Cause it’s been so long since we’ve played venues, we’ve played so many festivals this summer, and we missed it so much.

You get different vibes in different rooms, people can respond differently to your music in different ways?

Yeah!

But even being in Santa Barbara, lots of crusty garage vibes there, right? From your friends Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees and all the In The Red, Burger dudes. Have you been hanging with any of them?

Not really. When we started writing, all the music we listened to was that Burger Records kinda vibe. And yeah, when we came here we thought we were in a movie because we’re from so far away. You could see this because venues in their bathrooms usually have the lineup for the month. We saw La Luz was gonna play next Friday, and so many great bands were playing that same venue! We haven’t played with them in venues, but we’ve played with them in festivals.

You and La Luz on a surf garage tour would totally kill.

Yeah, it would be awesome!

“Each of us has a function, and each of us knows how to work with the other one.”

Well I’m no booker, but how does it feel that your record came out a little less than a year ago and it’s already getting reissued? Is that crazy?

It is! That’s really crazy, but apparently something that people do. We had no idea. We thought you need to be like The Beatles to make a “Best Of”, you know what I mean? But our label said, “Yo, it was a year ago, it would be nice to release something.” And it’s true that the way we recorded, we have so many fun recordings. We were at Carlotta’s place and wrote this on acoustic with one guitar. But then we have the same song the first ever time when we were electric with all of us.

We always do the things that we would love if we were fans, because we’ve been so many years being fans, buying the little demo that Mac Demarco put out, or the weird things that only fans love. Suddenly the option of having all those recordings, literally on my phone, that I could hear? Maybe other people want to hear it, too.

Totally! It’s just crazy because most bands don’t start doing that until way later in their career. The Pixies didn’t officially release The Purple Tapes or the B-sides until way after they had broken up. It’s also a smart way to keep the HINDS vibe out there while you guys spend time touring, which seems to be what you guys love to do. The term boundless energy gets thrown around sometimes, but—

[Laughs] Yeah.

But I feel like you guys never stop. You’ve literally talked to everybody press-wise, and none of them are phoned-in interviews. You handle the bullshit questions so well! How are you still having fun right now? When do you sleep?

I’m glad you’re pointing this out, because people think we do so much, we must always be tired. Or, “you’re living the dream”! People don’t see the middle point. We’re energetic and happy about it because what happened to us has never happened to a Spanish band, and we never even dreamed about doing what we’re doing now. But we have that thing, that energy. I think we have a dynamic between the four of us [that’s] very nice. When someone’s feeling down, another one’s gonna cheer you up, you know what I mean?

Hinds

Hinds. Aaron Serrano

You’re saying you’re like the emotions in that movie Inside Out, together you make up the whole range and it’s a symbiotic thing?

Actually, yeah, like those little characters! [Laughs] Each of us has a function, and each of us knows how to work with the other one. So yeah, I dunno, we sleep when we can but we love so much. It’s not just music, we love everything about music—we love touring, we love meeting fans, we love designing merch, selling merch after the shows, driving.

Well it’s all new to you still, and cheers to keeping it fresh! Like any good relationship, it’s got to keep being nurtured.

Yeah, 100 precent!

That’s awesome. I guess with all these California dudes you look up to sonically, who gave you a window into saying, “Hey, we can make this music even though we’re not formally trained.” You used the word “fans,” but you guys get called “outsiders” a lot, too. And I think it’s really interesting how a lot of these lo-fi dudes paved the way. Maybe Ariel Pink was one of the first, before Mac, giving different ways to record and capture sounds an opportunity to flourish. Showing it was about the composition. It seemed to help a whole generation get a little more creative with what they had right?

Yeah, that’s what I love about garage. I feel like garage music, if you play a song with one acoustic guitar and one vocal it’s still awesome. With pop you need so many things. But when a song is good, good, good, you can play it on acoustic and it will be a good song.

But isn’t that in danger when so many of the small venues, the spaces that make that kind of intimate exchange between you and a crowd possible, are being closed down and shuddered? I’m projecting a little because I’m in Brooklyn, but so many DIY spaces here go, is that the case in Madrid, too? I feel like another venue I love is closing every two months, you know? Is that unique to our city?

I can’t really talk that well about that. The closest I know is our tour manager, Fiona, she’s such a punk kid. She’s scared and telling us all the time, in L.A. for example, they’re gonna close The Smell. She was so upset, she said we should do something about it, play there or whatever. Because we come from Madrid we only have like five clubs, and they’re still open because it’s such a big city and the bands only have like five options. So we’re not suffering that much, but yeah, I know that’s happening.

It sounds like Fiona also explains how you guys are able to get so much shit done and still stay chill, still keep your heads on your shoulders. When you have a tour manager with good vibes.

One hundred precent. She really is so important in our lives, and as a woman. She was a musician before, she used to play with Vivian Girls. She has all the experience and has gone through all the bad stuff already, so she’s so good when we’re feeling down. We have all these little problems being women in this music world, and she’s like, “no, guys.” She saw things that we didn’t even see, like sexual things that were happening, and she’s able to say, “Guys, he’s saying that because of this and that. You’re being treated like this, but this is not the normal way. If you were a boy…”

“We’re pretty lucky with our fans in general. I think people feel pretty free. We’re free about our sexuality, so we make people feel free and comfortable at our gigs.”

She’s picking up a lot of the cultural subtext and the ugly male gaze shit that might be lost in translation for you guys?

Yeah, she’s awesome.

I’d read a bunch of interviews to do my research on you guys, and a good lot of them direct questions specifically at you all as women. “How does it feel to be women in music?” and “did you decide to be an all-female band on purpose?” I know they’re getting at the huge male-dominated promoter/artist rape culture to some degree. But isn’t an important part of feminism and equality also that we don’t define female artists specifically as a “girl band” or a band of women? Shouldn’t we just be saying, “they’re a band”?

Yeah. It was never the purpose, it’s never gonna be the purpose, it was just a big real thing that we didn’t think about.

You’ve said that you went out of your way to not sexualize yourselves, to not make it about gender. But I feel like the press found a way to make it about that anyway.

Yeah, there’s a thing when the press wants to take advantage of that and the title of the article is “Girl Bands Are Rocking Again!” or “Girl Power!”, you know what I mean? That’s when they wanna sell it, using our sexuality to sell more magazines or have more clicks on Facebook.

But then there are people that really wanna talk about that. And when they really wanna talk about it, it’s awesome, because it’s an issue that a lot of people don’t know is happening, and we didn’t even know. There’s not a lot of people that can talk about it as well as we can, because there’s not a lot of female musicians having success and touring nonstop, having the experiences we’ve been able to have. So when they really wanna talk about it we love talking about it, but when they ask, “Do you have groupies?”

Ugh.

Yeah, that’s annoying. They’re basically using our sexuality to sell more things.

What do you think about show spaces acting as safe spaces, where people look our for each other to make sure sexual harassment or inappropriate predatory shit doesn’t go down? And that the space is gender-inclusive so no one feels unwelcome.

I haven’t heard much about them at all. We’re pretty lucky with our fans in general. I think people feel pretty free. We’re free about our sexuality, so we make people feel free and comfortable at our gigs. I hope everyone knows that we are O.K. with everyone, every gender, every sexuality. This is so funny, I don’t know how or why this happened, but our label told us that in Germany we’re starting to be gay icons. We’re a cool thing among gay people, and I think it’s awesome!

Maybe it’s a community representing another community and feeling respect for it. Hinds sounds like a tight-knit community in of itself. And so you’re good at creating a vibe where people can be themselves, dance with whoever they want, not worry what anyone else is thinking about them.

Yeah, I don’t think that happens at all. It’s really because of being Spanish and how we talk onstage, how we dance. I really don’t think anyone can feel uncomfortable at our gigs, it’s really hard. We’re laughing all the time! Not this kind of band that’s playing introspective. The way we like playing music is like having a conversation with the audience, so we really can feel the vibe.

If you see us on a rainy Monday London show it’s gonna be so different from a Friday California show. We always use the vibe of the audience to make a better gig. We’re pretty sensitive about it. We just use our emotions and the audience’s emotions. We’re pretty open to feel how they’re feeling and would notice if something wrong was happening.

You guys have strong intuition with each other, so you have strong intuition with the room! When we started talking you mentioned how it’s good to be playing venues again, and this is something that comes up in my interviews a lot. Many bands love playing theaters and clubs and tinier spaces, but they only do the festivals for promotion. They don’t like how they sound, how the P.A. is mixed, how the crowd is sometimes too hot or too fucked up to dance. Why are you glad to be back to venues?

As I was saying, we really drink the audience’s emotions. When they’re so close you can see their faces, you can see they’re singing the lyrics and everyone feels more intimate. They’re physically closer to us, and that makes us feel stronger emotions than at a festival. Last summer playing all the festivals, we weren’t having a bad time, but we didn’t know how to express ourselves in big spaces with fans so far away. It was two different things—us onstage, and them 12 miles away, the audience.

That’s what everyone loves about you guys, though. So many big arena bands trade that energy and that relationship to the crowd for lights and a big video screen. That becomes something they substitute for swaying with the crowd or getting on their level. Now that you guys are getting so big, how do you keep that intimacy with each other as you play bigger rooms?

It’s just so many different experiences. Every day is different for us, and all the vibes, too. If we’re tired because we drove 15 hours that day or we’re super fresh because we just had a Red Bull. There’s so many little things that affect us, and it’s pretty cool in the end. If you play shows for seven years and it’s all venues or all whatever, I guess you’d get bored. When we play festivals now it’s kinda cool, because if you’re rested and on-time, playing at noon can be awesome, too.

The sun is coming and people are sitting down, but you just give a different kind of show. More chill, more talking to the audience instead of getting crazy and crowdsurfing. Which is also very cool. Having the balance is pretty cool. I think that’s a good thing about our record, too. You can play it at nine in the morning walking to work, and you can play it at a party at midnight. It’s cool to apply that to a live show in the morning or the night, at a festival or club.

“We know perfectly well what we would love our icons to make, and now we have a band, so we can make it!”

You said maybe a year ago that you found touring America and touring the world was liberating because you felt so narrowly defined in Madrid. After touring for a year can you still say that about the U.S. Are we still more progressive?

Yes. One hundred percent, man. Here our tour manager is a woman, and in Europe it’s a guy. He’s great, we love him, but it happens to be a guy. And here it’s so much easier to find a female sound engineer than in Europe! In December we’re touring Spain, and we feel kind of the responsibility of working to find a female sound engineer, because we feel like in Spain if you’re a female engineer and you go to a band they’re literally going to laugh at you. So we’re basically the only band that would allow to have a female sound engineer so we feel like we had to find her. And we couldn’t find her, man! Not one. And we live in the capital, you know what I mean? There should be at least one. We’re gonna have to go with a guy.

Which we love! I don’t wanna sound like we don’t love both sexes, we’re totally fine working with both. But we feel like we’re the only band that could help out a female working in Spain, and we couldn’t find her.

But here is so cool. We have so many little girls that come to our shows and say, “You’re my inspiration. Can you listen to this or that?” and “I started playing guitar because of this!” The way we started is also a nice example for girls. I don’t know how it ended up happening to us, but we basically were insane. All our friends were playing in bands, all our boyfriends were in bands, and we were like the groupies of the guys. No one said, “No, you cannot play this instrument, you’re going to be bad at this!” but we saw no women playing any instruments in any bands. So we said our job is to listen to music, the guys’ job is to make the music.

We never thought we could do it, and suddenly, I don’t even know why or how, we did. I feel like there’s so many good musicians hidden somewhere and they don’t even know they’re good musicians because they haven’t tried. I feel like every man tries music, but not every woman tries to play music because she doesn’t even think that she can do it. So here all these little girls come and tell us, and it’s so cool that you have all ages shows so you can go to a show if you’re underage. In Europe they don’t have that. That makes it cooler because you can start when you’re younger and that makes it easier for you in the future.

Your idea that there’s this latent, awesome band buried in every community is really awesome. That they’re just observing or listening or taking it all in right now and might not even know it. You and Carlotta have said how both of your boyfriends were in the same band, but I think it’s that you were fans first, like you said earlier. You loved the music so much that you realized it wasn’t really your boyfriends you were attracted to?

I know! Right now we feel like if we had a festival we’d totally know how to make it awesome for the fans and for the artists, you know? We have the knowledge of being offstage, watching your idols play. We know what we would love on the fun recordings, like with the demos. We know perfectly well what we would love our icons to make, and now we have a band, so we can make it!

What are you making now?

We started writing—we had three weeks off in September, our first ever break since we started the band. And we had holidays, a week of writing and rehearsing. We’re touring this month, November, too, December, too. In January we’re stopping, the Leave Me Alone world tour finishes, and our goal is to put out the record in 2017. We work really hard!