Rhian Daly catches up with Madrid's garage pop queens to talk love, sex and how it's barely rock'n'roll to drink til 7am.
Hinds don’t do taking it easy. Over the last four years, they’ve crafted a reputation for being one of the hardest working bands around, so much so that their first SXSW trip in 2015 is the stuff of indie legend. Though they only played 15 shows then, that figure is regularly inflated – 18? 20? 30? – not for exaggeration, but because it felt like they really were everywhere all the time.
Back in Austin for another year, they’ve only packed 14 shows into their schedule – their fewest so far – but they’re still walking away as SXSW queens. “Have you seen the capes?” asks singer and guitarist Carlotta Cosials excitedly, peering around the driver’s seat of their tour van. The locals the band have been staying with this week gifted them with their own blue and pink sparkly capes, trimmed with white fur, to commemorate their reign over the annual new music scrummage. They’re the least the band deserve for another heroic shift, second only to a good long rest.
There’s no time for more than a brief sojourn inside their parked van, though, the din of the festival reverberating around us. With second album ‘I Don’t Run‘ making its mark on the charts and fans’ lives, they’re back to doing what they do best – hitting the road non-stop for what feels like eternity. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s a wonder they’ve had the time to write a follow-up to ‘Leave Me Alone‘, their 2016 debut, at all. There’s only been about four months since they first began playing live in 2014 where they haven’t performed a single show, and, Carlotta says, they never write on the road.
Instead, the band – completed by co-frontwoman Ana Perrote, bassist Ade Martin, and drummer Amber Grimberger – found a six-week block of free time from somewhere at the start of last year and set about working on something new. It turned out to be the perfect antidote to coming off tour and having to “build a real life”. “We’ve been rushing and living, and everything’s been so intense travelling all over the world,” Carlotta says. “Taking it kind of easy and vomiting all these sensations into an album was beautiful. Suddenly I can use what I’ve been living for two years.”
As well as the creativity of writing, they found renewed freedom in having to make decisions again, whether they be about the artwork, or lyrics, or accompanying music videos. “You completely lose your freedom when you’re on tour,” explains Carlotta. “You have to be here and there, and you cannot even choose when to pee.” That might make it sound like the Madrid four-piece are not big fans of touring, but minutes later they’re giddily contradicting that impression. “Always!” promises Ade with a big grin when asked if they plan to tour as relentlessly on this record as they did on the first.
“You lose your freedom when you’re on tour. You cannot even choose when to pee!”
Capes aside, if there’s one reward for how much toil the four women have put into the band so far, it’s that they’re now much better musicians, performers, and songwriters. ‘I Don’t Run’ still maintains some of the ramshackle charm that made the world fall for Hinds on ‘Leave Me Alone’, but it’s bolstered by stronger, sturdier foundations. The band themselves readily admit that first record was a little rushed (“It was a nightmare,” Carlotta says with a rare stern face), but that wasn’t something they let happen on their second go.
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“Any time we had someone on our back being like, ‘We need the mixings’ or ‘We need the album cover’, for the first time we were like, ‘Fuck you, I need time,'” Ade says. “With the first album, we were really new in the music business and we never knew how to say, ‘No, no, no – wait.'”
The band decamped to Cádiz in southern Spain – the same location where ‘Leave Me Alone’ was made – to record, bringing producer Gordon Raphael with them. It’s no secret that Hinds are big Strokes fans, but they say it wasn’t really a big deal to have the New Yorkers’ early collaborator on board because they already had a strong relationship. “I mean, I freaked out a little bit at the beginning,” Ade concedes, but Carlotta has a different view. “He wrote us when we had 300 likes on the Facebook page,” she says. “We really appreciate people who like Hinds, so it was awesome for us – having a person who has been a fan for a long, long time and before all the success and everything [working with us].”
During the making of the album, Gordon “let [the group] be”, answering any queries they had about how solos should sound or what pedals they should use with a simple ‘Whatever you prefer’. “Every decision that was made in that album was made by us,” Ade says proudly. Now, Carlotta says, when the time comes, they’ve just got to produce the third album all by themselves.
Hinds are obviously a band not afraid to back themselves and march to the beat of their own drum, and the title ‘I Don’t Run’ reflects that strong, independent spirit, too. It’s a rejection of the “live fast, die young” attitude – a concept loaded with nihilistic machismo that Hinds don’t see the merit in. They’d much rather focus on creating something lasting with their music than pushing themselves to the brink of excess, although they say they do sometimes feel the pressure to succumb to elements of that lifestyle. “Sometimes we find ourselves thinking, ‘Are we rock’n’roll enough?'” Ade says. “And then you think, ‘Of course we are – more than anybody!'”
That’s not to say the women’s disinterest in living out rock clichés means they’re tucked up in bed by midnight with a book and mug of cocoa every night. If they’ve got a reputation for working hard, then they’ve got one for partying too. Leaning forward from the seat next to Carlotta’s, Ana recalls one promoter who warned the band’s team about their antics. “[They went] to the only men in our crew to say they needed to keep us safe because we were getting too wild and they needed to control us,” she says. Her voice might be a hoarse whisper from all the shows they’ve done, but the disdain in it is still entirely palpable.
Hinds dispute that idea that they’ve ever been off the rails, arguing it’s more just a part of the culture they were raised in. “Seriously, every bar we go to in Spain closes at six am,” explains Ade, before mocking the shocked tones people talk about Hinds in. “‘They party until seven am!’ Yes, because, in our country, that’s the way we do it.”
The album’s title, “I Don’t Run’ might be making a statement, but its lyrics aren’t so much concerned with that, and that’s intentional. The group like to keep those two sides separate, focusing on examining relationships and emotions in their music, instead. ‘Leave Me Alone’ might have ended with its creators wide-eyed in love on ‘Walking Home’ (“If this were a film you’d be my star“), but that happiness hasn’t particularly extended to ‘I Don’t Run’. Hinds’ second record opens with ‘The Club’, a combo of fuzzed up vocals and pining guitar swoons on which they’re dealing with that classic imbalance of wanting more than your hook-up is willing to give. On ‘Finally Floating’, they’re struggling to get over someone, Carlotta and Ana sighing in anguish: “Cause if I wake up feeling nauseous one more time/Then I’ll be lonely one more time.”
Everything comes to a head on album highlight ‘Tester’, when they discover they’re not the only ones sleeping with a lover. “Why’d you have to kiss me after sex?” demands Ana over drums and bass that make her words sound even more assertive, before she and Carlotta pair up to deliver the killer blow: “Should I have known before you were also banging her?” It’s incredibly forthright – the kind of question that can only really be asked in the middle of a blazing row, and one that becomes a striking yell of emancipation every time the band play the song live. If you thought these ladies would take your shit before hearing it, you’ll be under no such illusion afterwards. “As there’s not so many girls songwriting, we think [that line] is such a great step forward,” Carlotta says. “But still, that song, the way it’s written – it comes from a very tough moment, but it’s written to be like, ‘Alright, if you don’t care, I don’t care either.'”
If Hinds place a lot of importance on love, it’s because they think it’s the most important thing we have in this world. While discussing the album’s lead single ‘New For You’, Carlotta explains some people have incorrectly taken that song to be about someone not letting you be yourself. Instead, she says it’s about wanting to be a better person for someone else. “I think choosing love as the reason to change is nice,” she says, before paraphrasing a quote from the recently deceased Stephen Hawking. “He said, ‘The universe would have been stupid if the people you love don’t live in it.’ It’s true. This life wouldn’t make any sense if you don’t have a heart.”
As well as summing up the band’s outlook on life, the song also let them rep their roots. Its video saw them gather up a load of their mates for a big, rowdy football match. “We’re more Spanish than anything!” laughs Carlotta. “We have one of the biggest football leagues worldwide so [we thought] let’s do a football match. It’s such a male scenario so it was cool to draw that metaphor with music, which is [the same].” Despite the video showing off some skills (Carlotta taking the ball on her chest, Ana heading in a sweet goal), Hinds say they’re not that good at the sport. “We should say we’re really good,” Carlotta tells Ade, realising a little too late they’ve missed a trick.
They might have to dupe people about their footballing talent, but, when it comes to music, it’s clear how gifted they are. ‘I Don’t Run’ shows a band taking their next steps to greatness via a record of bubbling, poignant indie rock, which is exactly what they’re after. “I would love to mark history a little bit,” says Carlotta, head against the seat back, arms flung around it. “It’s a big dream, but you have to dream big.” Whether hers come true remain to be seen, but Hinds have more than earned it.