THE friendship between Hinds and Gabriella Cohen was christened over some homemade merch and forged on the road.
The Melbourne singer toured in support of the Spanish rock band three years ago, and she obviously made a big impression on her well-travelled peers.
“I’m not sure if we said it enough times when we hanged out together but you are a role model for us,” Hinds guitarist/singer Ana García Perrote tells Gabriella in a warm, insightful exchange conducted over email.
The two acts admittedly have always been on a “similar timeline” over the past few years. They recorded their debut 2016 albums in a similar window between shows and released their follow-ups within a few months of each other: Hinds’
“Hearing it wasn’t easy,” Ana says of Gabriella’s album, “but we got good 4G on the road from Minneapolis to Denver, and you made It such a beautiful trip.”
Ana: I noticed that you take very good care of the aesthetic in general – from clothes to pictures, music videos to album covers. Where did you shoot the picture in your cover? Tell me about how you think of everything that’s not music but is still involved in it.
Gabriella: Thank you! That’s funny, I’ve always been at a complete loss for aesthetics. I’m glad you think so, something must be working. The picture was taken in a deserted beach when we were road tripping around Oaxaca, Mexico, and came across a completely deserted beach.
We pulled up in the little [Volkswagen] Bocho to find this horse, Estraya. I’m not really used to horses, and I had food in my basket that the horse was really into, so the only thing I thought to do was jump on top of the car as quickly as I could. Sky took the photo, and I took the photo on the back. I had the most incredible time in Mexico. It kind of shaped the records aesthetic accidentally.
"No matter how amazing or elated you are after a tour your mother will always cut to the chase and ask if you if you made any money."
Ana: The second time we played together in Brisbane you invited us to your house. I barely remember the details, but you told me something like it was an all girls house/space where you all created art together. Is that right? Also, your guitar player [Kate “Babyshakes” Dillon] is so good and lovely, and you guys seem to be really close to each other now. I wondered how much do your bandmates write, or if it’s only you doing the creative part.
Gabriella: Yes! I was living on top of a hill in an old mansion with my four best friends. And, yes, we did all create art together and cook and laugh together. It was such a lovely time. The house got knocked down last year. Very sad! You should have come, although I’m sure you had a great time regardless. Kate is the best. She and I record all our music together. To answer your question, I tend to write all the music and then have the band play what is written.
You are such a hardworking band. I looked at your tour dates, so so much touring … When did you all have to say goodbye to your day jobs and realise that you were going to be full-time touring? Do you like touring? Do you grow anxious before tours, or it is something you look forward to?
Ana: it happened pretty early and pretty fast in the band life. We were all students before so we had to quit uni after the first summer ’cause we knew we wouldn’t be in Madrid to pass the exams. But touring has been always really exciting for us. Before starting a tour we always are so keen about it. Then when we’re on the third week in a van, reality changes of course and we miss home a lot. It gets anxious sometimes when we know we are gonna be touring for six months ahead, and you still haven’t done your laundry from the last two tours. But with these last tours we really couldn’t wait to play the new album to new people. It felt like a new exciting beginning.
Gabriella: It’s nice to read the four of you work as such a supportive unit. It really is hell when you are fighting on the road and in the van and then have to play a show together. Are your friends back in Spain understanding that you are on tour all the time?
Ana: At this point now they understand more or less that we miss them and care about them even if we are not there. Also a good part of this is that we have a lot of international friends. So whatever continent we go to, we have someone to call and catch up with. And these friends (like you) are musicians, so they definitely understand about our problems. [Laughs]
Gabriella: Do you all go back to separate houses when you aren’t on tour? And would you say you are more on the road than you are at home these days?
Ana: Yes, we all have different houses back home. It would be too crazy to also live together here. [Laughs] I reckon we spend around one week per month home, and three weeks on the road at the moment.
Gabriella: Kate and I are planning on basing ourselves in America next year. Do you fantasise about moving countries together anytime soon?
Ana: We all really love Madrid, and I think it keeps us humble to live here. If we moved to London, NY, Chicago or wherever, we would only know musicians, and would get into a bubble that’s not the real world. We have a lot of friends with day jobs here, family etc. Never say never but right now we are all happy to be here.
Gabriella: I found once I started touring I had to implement some kind of morning routine to calm my mind before each day, otherwise I was too stressed. Now Kate brings a yoga matt on tour, which I think is a genius idea because we were doing yoga on the concrete in car parks. Do each of you have some kind of practice you do to prepare for your days on the road, or before shows?
Ana: When van call is not 8am we like to exercise together. We do this plan of exercises you can do without a gym called Kayla. We do it in parking lots so we can:
- Be outside with fresh air instead of a van/venue all day;
- Exercise; and
- Tan all at the same time. [Laughs]
To relax on the road we have different methods. Ade [Martin, bass] does a lot of crosswords and watches movies and TV shows. Carlotta [Cosials, vocals/guitar] writes and draws in a notebook. Amber [Grimbergen, drums] churns through new music, and I’m reading a lot of books lately.
Gabriella: I think I’m going to bring a hula hoop on the next tour. What do you think about that?
"How can you sustain a relationship if you have to leave all the time? Perhaps free love is the way to go. I don’t want to miss someone all the time on tour. That is the pits."
Ana: [Laughs] Do the hula hoop. We once had a volleyball called Franklyn, and we played in airports, festivals, venues, all over the world with it. Last tour we bought a rope and jump rope for a bit.
Gabriella: Tell me about the writing process for your album I Don’t Run. Is it you and Carlotta who writes and brings them to Amber and Ade? Or is it all a collaborative thing?
Ana: It depends on the song, really. There are always two steps in each song. Step one is when Carlotta and I are finding guitar chords, melodies, and lyrics in one of our houses. And then step two is all of us playing our instruments plugged in our rehearsal room. (Step two can be before step one, too). We take a lot of time to finish a song. We change it a lot, and we record them with our phones and then listen to them non stop for 24 hours, then come back to the rehearsal room and change whatever we didn’t like of that recording.
Ana: We have 100 percent control of all the writing. When we chose Gordon Raphael to be the producer of our album, we made sure he was okay with us co-producing it. We were scared a “producer” would change Hinds’ recipe [laughs], but it ended up being someone that recorded all the songs the way we wanted. This was also cause we had almost every song finished when we got to the studio, so he couldn’t really do that much!
We are open to let new people in our creative process though. Maybe it would be refreshing for album three. He liked all the ideas and choices we took, but he happened to be really good for our vocal recordings. He is the first non-Spanish producer we’ve worked with, so he helped us with our accents and pronunciation. Before recording he would made us sing a capella and would stop us if he didn’t understand something. He was very patient to choose the right takes for every song. I think it worked. Fans know more lyrics now because of this. [Laughs]
Gabriella: I really enjoy the backups in
Ana: We recorded ‘New For You’ right after the tour with
Gabriella: I enjoy how unapologetic you are in your lyrics, but also the way your vocals sound very brash and real. It feels like you are singing in my bedroom when I listen to you.
Ana: Thank you. We wanted to be more honest in this album so we wrote more direct and less metaphorical sentences. We took the decision of singing without Auto-Tune – our mixer Shawn Everett was so excited about this – and we sometimes chose the takes that had more mistakes but sounded more real. We didn’t want to lose that part of our live shows. When we sing we are thinking about what we are saying, so if our voices break or we yell too much, it means something. This also makes it more of an honest record, I think.
Gabriella: Do you have a favourite way to record vocals, or any particular microphones you love? And do you often find that your demo vocals are the ones that you keep on the record?
Ana: One thing we tried this time was having two mics each: the mic the recording was with; and then another mic with distortion, which was the one we were hearing with headphones. You know sometimes you get more shy when you hear your voice too clean, without effects? This helped us be more expressive when singing.
How do you record vocals? Carlotta and I record them late in the day, with our eyes closed but always facing each other. Your voice is such a big part of your songs. I got curious to know what your favourite way of singing for a recording is.
Gabriella: I always find that my first initial recording, usually done by myself in my bedroom, is always going to have a better feel than me trying to re-record it in a ‘studio’ context. Everything sounds better when you are not feeling under pressure or trying so hard, of course.
Ana: Do you write first lyrics or melodies? We do the melodies first, with made-up words, so when we have to actually write and “fill the gaps” it can get really tricky because we only want words that sound similar to the invented ones.
Gabriella: Oh, interesting! Usually the melody and the words come all at once. Although sometimes when a melody comes, the words that come after that just stick. That’s a pretty lazy way to do things, I reckon. I’d like to change that in the near future.
Ana: How much did you participate in the mixing? I feel like your vocals are really loud (I love it) and the guitars are treated as a special part, too – not just behind. The sound is really you. Is all this something you chose? Do you trust in other people taking decisions about something as personal as your first solo album?
Gabriella: Great question. I participated a fair bit in this latest record. I’ve learnt so much more about production, and it seems I always have such a specific vision. (I forget sometimes and surprise myself at how specific I am.) I can’t just give it to someone to mix anymore. It just doesn’t work. So I learnt a lot because I gave this album away to be mixed, and then when I got it back realised it wasn’t going to be right until I did as much production on it as my skill set would allow. It was tedious, because I had to ask for all the individual stems in every session, thanks to the patience of Marly Luske from Alchemix Studios. In the end it worked out, and now I’m into production.
Gabriella: Yes, there is a nylon guitar. It’s my grandpa’s, and it’s been with me in all my recordings for such a long time now. It’s kind of like a treasured family heirloom between my sister and I – although my father is always wondering why we like it so much because it’s a cheap guitar. I don’t mind playing electric or acoustic. On stage right now it’s always electric, but I’d like to someday incorporate acoustic guitars in my set. Maybe when I get a roadie.
Ana: I enjoyed a lot listening to your lyrics and I wonder how much of your personal experience do you put in them? Do you try to stay true to the experience, or do you also dream through them?
Gabriella: [Laughs] Yes, it’s all true, I don’t hide anything in my lyrics … not yet.
Ana: “My mama thinks I’m doing gigs for free.” This made me laugh so much. My mum is the same. After every tour she asks me, “How was it?” And after I say, “Really good mum, she asks, ‘Did you get anything from it? Did you get any interesting offers?’” How are your parents? Did they always support you? Do they like going to your shows? Do you like them coming to them?
Gabriella: Yes, no matter how amazing or elated you are after a tour your mother will always cut to the chase and ask if you if you made any money. [Laughs] My parents have always been extremely supportive – although now they are suggesting subtly I try and save some real money and buy a house. But, yes, thank god my family are on my side. I wouldn’t know what to do without their support and advice.
Gabriella: Maybe we’ll save this when we have a beer in our hand! [Laughs] But in short, yeah, I feel you. I’m not sure how musicians do it, unless they are making bucketloads of cash. How can you pay your rent if you’re leaving all the time to tour? How can you sustain a relationship if you have to leave all the time? Perhaps free love is the way to go. I don’t want to miss someone all the time on tour. That is the pits. It’s good when you’re writing songs, but if you’re going on stage to a sold out show and all you can do is think about someone thousand of miles away, well, that’s not fun.
Ana: When you are on stage you are powerful, sexual, elegant and intense, but delicate too. I wonder who your role models are – as performers and musicians.
Gabriella. My role models change everyday so I’ll name a few that I’m inspired by right now:
I’ve been watching your success from afar and it’s so refreshing to see your audiences with looks of pure joy, adrenaline, and life on their faces. Do you find you want to hang out with your audiences after shows because they look like they could all be potential friends?
Ana: [Laughs] Yes. I think we are very lucky with the connection we have with our fans. All of them see music as big as we do, and we always go to the merch table after playing to meet and chat with them.
Gabriella: All the very best my friends. Stay sane. You’re an inspirational tour party. May all the rest of your shows be as successful, happy and happening as they are now. See you soon.
Ana: Take care Gabriella. Keep on rocking. You are our favourite and this album is gonna bring us back together.