It’s a freezing winter night, and rush hour commuters scuttle between trams, buses, and the various bars along Amsterdam’s Frederik Hendrikstraat, seeking sanctuary from the driving rain with early evening beers. Deep in the bowels of De Nieuwe Anita, a homely venue full of shabby vintage furniture and worn out rugs, Hinds (née Deers) are busy sound checking, but they’re running over. Cartons of Thai food from one of the city’s better take-away restaurants – the sort of luxury that shows just how well bands are looked after on the continent, even by the smallest of venues – sit waiting for them, and when the band are finally done, they pose impatiently for a few press shots before devouring piles of noodles, chicken, and vegetables in steaming curry sauce.
As is common among Spaniards, dinner conversation is rapid fire and to the point, veering wildly between topics. Sentences and stories are finished with mere looks or simply left hanging, not needing to be completed. “I don’t speak any Spanish, so I never know what they are saying,” says Callum, their indefatigable tour manager. He has the air of a patient, friendly headmaster; all the better to deal with the growing demands placed on one of most hyped bands in the world. They’ve just arrived from Eurosonic, where they played four rapturously received sets in three days, and there are five more cities left to visit on this short European tour. After that, they have some downtime in Madrid before heading to SXSW, followed by the small matter of recording their debut album in the spring. They tell me that their whole year has already been mapped out but, in place of weary resignation, they retain the wide-eyed wonder and enthusiasm of a group who can’t quite believe their luck and the opportunities presented to them. Spend any time in their company, and one thing becomes clear; Hinds are determined to make 2015 their year.
Hinds have their beginnings in 2011, in a late summer road trip to the beach. Having met through various friends and ex-boyfriends, Carlotta Cosials and Ana Garcia Perrote headed to the coast with some beers, free time, and a couple of guitars; they came back with a version of Bob Dylan’s ‘It Ain’ Me Babe’ and a desire to further explore their musical partnership. But it wasn’t until October 2103 that they decided to abandon the covers and focus on writing some of their own songs, spending hours every weekend “trying to become a proper band”. Fuelled by a little Dutch courage and the sort of “fuck it!” attitude they’ve adopted as a life philosophy, the fruits of that labour, ‘Bamboo’ and ‘Trippy Gum’, were finally uploaded to Bandcamp one boozy afternoon around this time last year. Then the roller coaster began.
The first person to notice was Dan Carson, a fellow freelance music writer. “I spend way too much time trawling Bandcamp for new music, and a lot of the guitar-based stuff sounds so contrived; bands trying to force something into action, or imitating music from another era,” he tells me via email. “Deers [as they were then] sounded utterly spontaneous, and only like themselves; that was a genuine breath of fresh air for me, and I wanted to know everything.” He got in touch, which led to a piece in NME, the tracks appearing as The Line of Best Fit’s “Song of the Day”, and a meeting with Lucky Number Records head honcho Steve Richards (who subsequently put out their first two singles).
“It seemed absolutely impossible that this was happening,” says Ana looking back, but having expanded to a four-piece – adding friends Ade Martin on bass and Amber Gimbergen on drums – the hype kept building; their fourth ever show was in Berlin, their fifth a sell out at London’s Sebright Arms (attended by just about everybody who is somebody in the UK music industry). Before long, they were supporting the Libertines in Paris in front of 5,000 people, travelling to Bestival and the Isle of Wight festival, and recording with the Vaccines; meteoric doesn’t quite cover it.
“A hurricane,” summarises Ana. “The eye of the storm. There were so many things to do, so many people, so much travelling, so many shows. My brother made a neat comparison; it was like we’d been playing to the Mayor of a little town, and then suddenly the Queen of England sent us an email.” “We were always wondering: ‘How are we going to do this?’” adds Carlotta, “because we know this is not normal, you know? We’re a new band, but we’re not fools, so we’re aware that this is amazing and we really, really appreciate every little thing, like the noodles we just had, or proper beds to sleep in.”
They’re also remarkably laid back about the position they find themselves in; there’s no airs and graces or delusions of grandeur on show. More than once they refer to their focus being firmly on the craft of writing great songs, and even some of last year’s highlights – such as that Libertines support slot – are discussed in a self-deprecating tone. “It’s more impressive being here in Amsterdam, talking to fans and having them say: ‘Oh, I’ve seen your documentary’. And we’re like: ‘What? How? Why?’ That’s more impressive than playing in front of that . Of course, if you’re headlining that’s different; that would have been amazing…”
Around the same time, they played their own, low-key – and, naturally, sold out – show in the city, and they talk with wide-eyed glee about getting “50 more likes on Facebook, a surge”, and how “every person who was in that venue was there just because of Bandcamp or some little thing that you don’t even realise.” One sweet moment captured on film has Ana declare, with a mixture of happiness, amazement, and pride, that they sold seven vinyl singles, the sort of small step that can seem inconsequential but, at the time, gives the greatest sense of achievement imaginable. “I remember having so many conversations with Amber and saying: ‘Fuck, my life is changing – I have a different life now than I did two days ago!’ You have these little spots where you realise [what’s happening], and it’s been like that every day until now.”
Listen to those early singles and it doesn’t take long to work out why they’ve become such hot property. Their ramshackle surf-pop garage-rock has an infectious energy, and they play with a glorious, devil-may-care abandon that makes jamming with your friends sound like the most natural – and fun – thing in the world. They tell me that the rough edges and woozy reverb that form part of their charm were neither planned nor accidental; they were simply a consequence of the typical constraints faced by fledgling bands. “We had no money, so we couldn’t pay for a studio,” admits Carlotta. “So we recorded it in a friend’s rehearsing space.” “Also, we didn’t know if anyone would ever hear it apart from our friends,” adds Ana. “Nowadays, we’d think way more about the actual recording, but it was our first song, our first recording, so we thought: ‘Let’s just try. We will have more chances’.”
The freedom conferred by anonymity was also applied to their lyrics, which contain the sort of outré declarations that, if sang by Rihanna or Miley Cyrus, would lead to moral panic and tabloid outrage. “I need you to feel like a man when I give you all I am” sings Carlotta on ‘Bamboo’ while ‘Between Cans’ features the far more direct “My bra is not closed, you pick up my nose / And I swear that I wanted to suck you.”
“We were free to say whatever we wanted just because we had no idea that anyone outside our family would ever have access to it,” offers Carlotta by way of explanation. Many bands might worry whether such sentiments would count against them when dealing with radio play or succeeding in America, but Hinds are refreshingly unrepentant; when I ask via email, several weeks later, whether they’ve thought about this, they reply that: “Yes we are concerned about the sexual nature of some of our lyrics and it’s completely on purpose. Hahaha we love to love, man.”
The musical influences they’ve name checked in past interviews will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with their material. It’s easy to spot traces of Mac DeMarco, Ty Seagall, The Black Lips and Thee Oh Sees in what they do, and the washed out, Sixties vibe of Shannon and the Clams, who marry sun-kissed, doo wop charm to classic R&B, is another obvious touchstone. We talk about growing up in Spain’s post-millennial boom and the music of their youth; while the Beatles feature prominently, they admit to having pretty average – and pretty standard – teenage tastes. “The shittiest pop” says Ana, who names checks La Oreja de Van Gogh and the music of Argentinian soap opera Rebelde Way. By contrast, Carlotta lists “terrible” Spanish hip-hop as one of her early obsessions. “I wore all the baggy clothes as well”, she adds, “and listened to lots of Snoop Dog. I was so into it.”
De Nieuwe Anita is unusual in that there are no dressing rooms or backstage area. There’s a lockable store cupboard for valuables and equipment, but no concessions to privacy or comfort; it’s so small, getting changed prior to the show requires them to use a two-in-two-out policy. With two hours to kill, they drift between the bar, the smoking area, and the merch stand. Amber, the quietest member, hardly says a word all night and spends most of the time outside smoking before retreating to the tour van for a pre-show nap. Ana and Callum busy themselves with the merchandise, trying to rearrange the t-shirts and underwear – yes, you can buy Hinds pants – into an attractive, colourful display. A succession of fans are disappointed by the lack CD’s, cassettes, or vinyl; a few settle for a t-shirt instead. Ana explains that as they had no money, the original run of pressings was so small they sold out well before Christmas, and they were unable to get more done prior to this tour. But there’s another explanation for the paucity of their wares; a few weeks ago, they were forced to change their name.
The moment every nascent band fears arrived in the shape of a stern and threatening letter from a lawyer. They refuse to name the band that sent it, admitting only that they hail from Canada. (It’s not too hard to make an educated guess as to who they might be) “[It was] because of the sound [of our name],” says Carlotta. “They said it created confusion.” It was, adds Ana, “completely ridiculous, but we had no option.” Their annoyance stems in part from the arrogance and heavy-handed nature of the approach. “It was more the way they made us do it; it was really impolite. They knew they had the power to make us do it as we are just starting out, but they have lots of albums.” “Also, they had a lawyer, and we didn’t,” reasons Carlotta, “so what could we do?”
They are, however, determined to see the silver lining. “We actually got new followers from that, and we’ve had really good support from the industry,” says Ana. “Some websites, who’d never written about us before, were suddenly saying things like: ‘Hey, these kids had to change their name!’” The only difficulty was picking a new one, a process that was extremely trying; “One month of no sleeping and thinking: ‘What do we fucking do?’” according to Carlotta.
“We would say: ‘OK, this one. That’s fine.’ And then an hour later it would be: ‘No way!’” says Ade. “The thing is, you’re going to see this name for years, so you have to really like it. We had these ideas, but they sounded like shitty things we’d just come up with or something.” The band posted a picture of hundreds of ideas scrawled on a blackboard, some of them inspired (Fat Kiddos) some of them legally dubious (Deerios). The one they eventually settled on, Hinds, was “the perfect solution” according to Ade. “It’s pretty, it’s still an animal, and we can keep using the same image. And in Spain, we can still be ‘Ciervos’, so everything was perfect.”
By the time Hinds take the stage, there’s an air of excitement and anticipation in the packed ranks of fans; it’s another sell out crowd. They race through ten tracks with gusto and humour, smiles permanently on display, and look like they’re having just as much fun as those bobbing and dancing around at the front. They’re also far tighter than you’d expect after listening to their records, and sound remarkably polished and sure footed for a band that’s only ten months old; everything is whip smart and lean, and the new songs – particularly ‘Fat Calmed Kiddos’ and ‘San Diego’ – fizz and pop just as much as those early singles. There’s a shout out to the fan who is now wearing his newly purchased t-shirt and plenty of between-song banter, before the idea of inviting a mini stage invasion for last number ‘Davey Crockett’ is briefly contemplated; the fact that there is no stage, nor any real space between them in which one could dance, means it doesn’t happen.
Hinds seem utterly relaxed in the spotlight, as though this was just another Sunday afternoon jamming session, and are unencumbered by the pressure and expectation their position might otherwise bring. “We feel the pressure from ourselves but not from other people,” explains Carlotta. “I mean, even if we had nothing, we would still feel the pressure [from ourselves] to make a good album. We want to do that not just for the expectation of the people, but because we want to make a really good record.”
“It’s always worse the day before you release something as opposed to when you are writing it – then you realise that people are going to hear it,” confides Ana. “Pressure doesn’t make any difference to a normal gig; when something goes wrong at a concert because of the sound or something, you feel much worse that if there was pressure. You feel like: “Fuck, we were in the NME as a good band, now I can’t sing anymore.’ When it all goes wrong, your mood goes to black.”
After the show, the mood is anything but. Having loaded away their gear, they return to the merch stall, beers in hand, to chat to fans and sign t-shirts. Several Americans come up to say hello, and they swap tips on things to do and places to see at SXSW. It will their first trip Stateside, and the girls are giddy with excitement; there’s also several dates in Australia and the Far East in the interim, as well as a block reserved for heading to the beach and recording their album, although who will eventually get to release it hasn’t been decided yet. They insist that the decision “is not about the money, it’s about the conditions,” and it probably won’t be released until after the summer; “We’re aiming for September or October,” says Ana.
“There are some [labels] chasing us,” she admits, “but we are saying: ‘No’. We’re going to write it first, then record it, and then, when we know what it’s going to be, we can talk about money, years, and albums and stuff. We want to record it for ourselves, then we can say: ‘We have this, it’s done.’ Then they can’t say anything or make any [creative] decisions about it.” She sounds defiant, but there’s logic behind the approach; “This is the only moment we are going to be able to do this. We are free, and we are young!”
It’s mid April, and Hinds have decamped to Cádiz in southwestern Spain. They post a number of pictures on Instagram documenting their progress playing, and recording, in a house by the beach; after twelve days, they post this. They also announce a show at Madrid’s legendary El Sala Sol venue, exactly 365 days on from their first ever gig; it is, by all accounts, an absolute triumph. I think back to that January night; “We are going to the stars, and we are going there fast!” joked Ana, but it’s true – rarely have a band soared so high, so quickly, and captured so many people’s interest. The ferocity of the hype machine frequently destroys bands before they’ve had a chance to really show what they can do, or settle on what they want to achieve, but I can’t see that being a problem for Hinds. “[In the Madrid scene] nobody gives up; you keep playing your music, even if you are not growing as a band. You still try, you know? But we know what we are doing,” assured Ana. On current form, it’s impossible to doubt her.
Photo Credit: HACHE
Hinds Tour Dates
Sat 16th May, Brussels, Madame Moustache
Sun 17th May, Paris, Social Club
Tue 19th May, London, Scala
Wed 20th May, Birmingham, Hare and Hounds
Thu 21st May, Glasgow, Broadcast
Fri 22nd May, Manchester, Dot To Dot Fest
Sat 23rd May, Bristol, Dot To Dot Fest
Sun 24th May, Nottingham, Dot To Dot Fest
Mon 25th May, Leeds, Gold Sounds