Madrid-based garage-rock band Hinds have never been afraid to embrace their imperfections. On the cover photograph of their debut LP Leave Me Alone, drummer Amber Grimbergen has her eyes closed. You can hear guitarist and vocalist Carlotta Cosials audibly laugh in ‘San Diego’ just before she launches into the last chorus. Instead of recording a polished studio version of ‘Bamboo’ – the track that enabled them to become one of the first Spanish indie bands to garner attention in the UK – they decided to include the raw, perfectly unpolished demo version on their first record.
“Sometimes we joke around,” says lead vocalist and guitarist Carlotta Cosials on a particularly sunny April day in London, just before their headline set at Electric Brixton. “When we're singing the lyrics before [bassist] Ade and Amber read them they’re like, ‘I thought you were saying something else!’ In ‘Garden’, we sing: ‘I can take you dancing’. But they always understood: ‘I can take you downstairs!’ So now in the live shows, in the third chorus, we sing that!”
The gristly nature of their ethos shines through in their music. Having released sophomore full-length Don’t Run in early April, the band don’t shy away from their mistakes and the LP offers a collection of ramshackle lo-fi pop songs covering themes of heartbreak, friendship, and poignant self-reflection. The band recreate the beer-spilling, chaotic vibe of their live show –– the quartet always look as if they have the time of their lives on tour on stage, and it’s audible on the record. Though the band constantly name garage-rock revivalists The Strokes, Ty Segall, and The Black Lips as their touchstones for musical direction, their ’60s jangly-pop sound, vibrant melodies and stomping riffs recall the fresher likes of contemporaries Mac deMarco, The Big Moon, Car Seat Headrest, and King Tuff.
Surf-rock vibes, fuzzed-out solos, and scuzzy riffs form the framework under layered vocal harmonies that define a more adventurous, risk-taking Hinds on their follow-up effort. Whereas their debut was released under the pretence of being allowed to try their tracks out on a live audience for the better part of two years, the approach to Don’t Run was completely different. Written during a time where the band had a lengthy break from touring, Don’t Run enabled the quartet to take a deep breath, take a step back, and actually get a chance to write. The result is a record that sees the four-piece hone in on the strengths that made their debut so loved while managing to tighten instrumentation, take more risks with song structures, and strengthen lyricism.
“It felt like I was putting everything into that recording,” says bassist Ade Martin. “It was the first time we were doing it, so I put more to it. I think we were so excited about the new songs and you can really tell! I remember the first time listening to the first song we recorded. It was shit, because we weren't used to listening to it that much!”
The raw, unpolished nature of Hinds is what makes their music all the more endearing. The band incorporate all aspects of life and how they mix in with each other – the good, the bad, the ugly and sad – as they believe in being as honest as they can.
“Being on tour makes me understand every single part of the musician personality,” Carlotta says. “The loneliness. The feeling of being heartbroken all the time. The being filthy and dirty and having no money! Even the feeling of not belonging anywhere. You're just floating in space. That's weird to a human being because we have to belong to something. But on tour, you belong to an ethereal thing that is music. You need something to hold on to.”
“Yeah, but when you're playing you forget about that stuff,” agrees Ade. “That's the only moment that matters. After everything you've been through, if you've had a bad day – playing is the only moment that makes sense.”
The quartet aren’t afraid to make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of them. Instead, they choose to be embraced by their obstacles and use them to their advantage. “I think what's cool, when you're not English, is that when you look for a word [during songwriting], you look at different options,” says Ade. “And I think you [Carlotta] use words that may be an English person wouldn't use. You go to the dictionary. And English people wouldn’t.”
“I mean, one thing I wish is to speak better English,” Carlotta admits. “That, I have to tell you. I don’t think we can avoid it while singing. But I wish I had better accent and better vocabulary – to have better grammar and to be more fluent.”
I tell her that ultimately, in the grand scheme of their music, that level of perfection or fluency is unnecessary. With Hinds, the quartet make sure that each and every element of their instrumentation is an extension of their lyricism. The message they convey doesn’t lie solely in the lyrics or the verses – the drums, bass and guitars work together to evoke whatever sensation. Carlotta executes feelings just through her guitar solos – longing in ‘Easy’ and even restlessness in new track ‘Finally Floating’. Her jangly solos, which help to anchor and guide each song, somehow manage to act as separate verses on their own. “It's a challenge every time we play it,” Carlotta chuckles. “But I love it! I feel like an awesome guitar hero when I play that song! I don't feel like that with other songs.”
At the heart of Hinds is Carlotta and guitarist and vocalist Ana Perrote’s songwriting partnership. In their songs, the two rotate between lead and rhythm guitar duty. They alternate singing on verses but sing the choruses together, reinforcing a sense of female solidarity. It’s a Beach Boys and Sleater-Kinney approach. Carlotta and Ana write their songs together with each other’s voices in mind, and never write separately - their layered vocal interplay is a key part of the Hinds sound.
“We always write together,” Carlotta says. “I think that's why our lyrics have a lot of perspective. We’re good at seeing the mistakes we both make in life, and I think our lyrics go both ways. You're not only talking about how you feel about the world, but also how and relate to certain problems or emotions. It’s about making the meaning deeper.”
In ‘Finally Floating’, Ana and Carlotta scream their verses atop one another’s melodies, and their voices manage to act as support – both literally and figuratively – for each other. The song denotes the frustration of being unable to stop thinking about someone so much that they seep into your dreams: “I need to stay awake tonight, because you’re slipping in my mind,” they echo. It’s fuller, more complex and more intricate than anything they have released before. For Carlotta, her love for solos are due to their ability to convey emotions that you can’t with words. Guitar solos, to her, form a universal language that can be appreciated by everyone.
“I work on my solos a lot,” she says. “If I have a little part I like, I play around with contrasts. If I'm suddenly doing something fast then I want to do something slow. I don't mind keeping it easier if I think it goes better with the melody. I also like to include notes that don't really fit in certain moments.”
Carlotta pauses. “I wouldn't know how to think of it as other than something like another language. The guitar is speaking to me. It sounds weird, but it’s like a conversation between me and the guitar. We understand each other, I guess.”
Lead single ‘New For You’ is a sunshine-drenched lo-fi tune helmed by Ade’s vibrant bassline. In it, Carlotta yearns to become a better person – ”Because I wanna be somebody new for you” – be it for her lover, her friend, or for her bandmates. As Ade was a guitarist before she was a bassist when she joined Hinds, she only freshly discovered her bass-playing style during the recording process for ‘I Don’t Run’. Frustrated with the fact that she was only expected to support the chords, she founded her own style and musicianship as a bass player.
“I did it through listening to a lot of music,” she says. “For the first album I hadn’t been a bass player. I was trying out guitar solos on the bass and sometimes they didn't fit! On the first record that's what I did – basically just guitar solos. For this one, I started listening to music and listening to the bass more to the point where I did both at the same time. I was putting the bass parts down to form the ground of the song – which is something a bass has to do.”
'New For You’ is the only song on their latest record that features just Carlotta on lead vocals – something, she says, that she asked Ana’s permission for specifically.
“Of course she said yes!” she smiles. “On the first record, she has ‘Easy’. During the process of writing, we say things like, this fits better with your voice and this fits better with mine or whatever. Suddenly when we did the lyrics for ‘New For You’ and we didn't read it out yet in the studio I was like, ‘Could I have it? Would you mind?’”
When I ask Carlotta if her close friendship with Ana and knowing her so well makes the songwriting so much easier, she nods. “Definitely. I mean, having friends with you. They make me know who I am and what I'm doing and where we're going. You know what I mean?” she says.
This ethos of friendship has grown and developed with the band. Naturally, the most rewarding part of Hinds’ career didn’t come from releasing the records. It didn’t come from supporting idols such as the Strokes and the Libertines, or by embarking on headline tours across the world and re-imagining “guitar music” as we know it. Instead, the most rewarding thing that Hinds – merely four girls from Spain – believe they have accomplished is introducing the Madrid garage-rock scene to the world and vice versa.
Hinds’ first-ever show (and fourth in total as a four-piece) outside of their native Madrid was a sold-out Sebright Arms in London in 2014. Shortly after the then-duo of Carlotta and Ana put their demos up on Bandcamp, they attracted the attention of the UK press and were invited to play outside of the Iberian peninsula. Suddenly, Hinds were living proof that a Spanish garage band were able to be successful in foreign waters – and their DIY approach has formed a stable blueprint for their musician friends based in Madrid to follow. The quartet, seen as the first Spanish act to succeed as a rock and roll band outside of the country – they were the first Spanish band to appear on a main stage at Glastonbury, are signed to UK label Lucky Number, and have thrice played South by South West festival in Austin – are viewed as a Madrid success story by their peers.
“It’s hard for a new band to break through in Spain in general,” Carlotta concedes. “To me, it’s a very weird thing to say that we were the first Spanish band to break out or whatever. We don’t want to be selling ourselves like that. But in a more objective way, we definitely opened a door in Madrid.”
Based around the Malasaña district, the Madrid music scene – like most others – is a close-knit and tight community. Hinds share friends and apartments with other Madrid garage-rock contemporaries such as the Parrots, Los Nastys, and Baywaves. Hinds’ first-ever demos were recorded by their close friend and compatriot Diego Garcia of the Parrots, and also released a split single with the band in 2015 (Davey Crockett/ All My Loving).
“It feels great because all of them are our friends,” adds Ade. "It's always satisfying to see a friend's success. It feels like we're doing this together, even though we were the last to form the band. It’s awesome.”
“People didn't think about it, but we started doing it,” continues Carlotta. “The first time we played in London all our band friends freaked out. They didn’t understand.”
Madrid’s rock scene is a lesser-known open secret, but it’s one that does make sense. Carlotta and Ana shared a love for American garage-punk so it was only natural they would spearhead a movement in a city that was so deprived of the kind of music they loved listening to. The Spanish capital itself is also a main ingredient of the community – with its tight city centre and urban vibrance, it’s a welcome area for emerging artists.
“The garage way of living [in Madrid] is that everything is cheap,” says Ade. "You can be on the street all the time because of the great weather. You get to meet so many different people and it’s a very garage way of life. So you wouldn't think that it is, but when you do, it makes sense.”
“It’s also not about representing the Madrid scene, but about opening a path for other garage bands,” adds Carlotta. “It's about giving them this idea that wouldn't be in their minds if it weren't for us. No one ever thought before that you could actually play in London if you were a Spanish band.”
"We went to South by Southwest last month and they were so many Spanish bands,” says Ade, her face lighting up. "They didn't only play South By, but they went to California. They went to New York. Suddenly, they know it's an option. And that's the only thing that we did for them – putting that idea in their minds.”
The fact that their musical tastes have always belonged to bands not from Spain, however, is something they wear on their sleeves. “We always go back to Bob Dylan when we’re writing songs,” admits Carlotta. “And Alex Turner. We love his lyrics.”
That’s when her eyes widen.
“Somebody told me yesterday that the first line of the new Arctic Monkeys album is: ‘I just wanted to be one of the Strokes’” she says. Ade, sitting on the pavement next to her, returns her look of soft-eyed wonder.
“That’s crazy,” she replies. They both nod knowingly, as if to say: He’s totally right. Who doesn’t?
Me, for one. I’d much rather be one of Hinds.
Don’t Run is out now via Lucky Number. For more information about Hinds, including forthcoming tour dates, please visit their official website.
Photo Credit: Neelam Khan Vela