I can still remember the exact moment I first heard Hinds’ music: I was standing, very stoned, in Isla Vista’s Blaze Pizza, thinking about banana peppers (did I order them on my pizza? why?) and waiting patiently for my lunch when I registered something jangly and delightful emanating from the shop’s speakers. Shazam informed me that I was listening to a track called “Bamboo” off Deers’ 2014 demo, DEMO. This was January 6, 2015—the day before the Madrid garage rock quartet officially changed their name to Hinds following a legal threat from the homonymic Dears.
Since then, Hinds have gone on to release two stellar full-lengths—2016’s Leave Me Alone and 2018’s I Don’t Run—and established themselves as a must-see live act. Tomorrow they release their highly-anticipated third album, The Prettiest Curse, which features their most introspective songwriting to date.
“For the first time—which is something I’m really proud of—we’re not only talking about relationships,” vocalist / guitarist Ana Perrote tells American Songwriter. “It doesn’t mean we always talked about relationships, but if we were talking about ourselves it was because of someone else. I think it’s one of the most terrifying things to actually look at yourself in the mirror without all the blur and noise that can be around, which can be people or distractions. For the first time with this album we’re talking about really good things and really bad things that happen when you look at yourself in the mirror. In general it’s kind of like a diary of two girls in a band.”
Those two girls are Perrote and her longtime collaborator Carlotta Cosials, who shares vocal and guitar duties with Perrote. The duo began writing The Prettiest Curse in early 2019 and would eventually refine the tracks between Madrid, London, Los Angeles, and New York City. Rounded out by bassist Ade Martin and drummer Amber Grimbergen, Hinds initially planned to release the record in April.
“It was supposed to come right when everything was exploding [with COVID],” Perrote explains in an interview featured below. “I feel like now we are all finding a little balance in this new life we’re living. It’s not super new anymore. Back then, a lot of our loved ones were getting sick with the virus. Everything was super new and scary so we felt like it wasn’t cool for us to talk about ourselves and our album—it felt a little selfish to promote an album. At the same time, we didn’t want to put it out without being excited about it because it’s something we’ve been working a lot on and something we really love. I’m happy we [postponed it], because I’m more excited than scared now.”
Perrote chatted with us a few weeks ago from her home in Madrid about writing and recording the record, teaming up with producer Jennifer Decilveo, and collaborating with Spanish photographer Ouka Leele to create a visual that honors the record’s 10 colorful tracks through an interactive band portrait. Check out the full interview below.
American Songwriter: What did the songwriting process look like for The Prettiest Curse?
Ana Perrote: This album was written really differently [than] previous ones. It’s the first ever time we got out of our comfort zones, traveled, and let other people get into our creative process. Up until now it was basically me and Carlotta with acoustic guitars in one of our houses, then taking it to a rehearsal place, then finishing it in Spain. This time we knew we wanted something different, but we didn’t really know what. We were like, “We only have one thing to do: try everything and then decide whether we like it or not and make it our own.”
We started writing pretty early in the year, like January 2019. We started in Madrid, just [Carlotta] and me on acoustic guitars. Then we went to London in February for like a week, then we came back home, then we went to LA for three weeks in August, then we came here again, then we recorded a couple of songs in London again, then we came back, then we did the rest of the album in New York City for like three weeks.
So we traveled a lot and tried different things. You really can tell that it’s more colorful. The previous albums were written in a rush, like “You have two months to do it,” with tours before or after. This time it was totally the opposite. We prioritized writing over touring which is a luxury we weren’t able to do until now.
Can you tell us a little bit about being in the studio? What’s a good recording session look like for Hinds?
I think for the first time we started to enjoy being in the studio. Before it was very stressful because it’s very expensive and you don’t always have time or money to be in the studio.
I think a really good session has to be with someone we feel comfortable [around]. We’re a very emotional and personal band—we suck from the vibe that’s in the room. We feel very uncomfortable when someone’s trying to make us do something we don’t want. We feel super excited and empowered when we click with someone. That’s why working with Jenn, the producer of the album, was an instant match made in heaven. She was as crazy as us, or more. She loved our attitude, she loved our energy. She’s super talented and skilled. She captured perfectly the vibe of the band. She’s constantly recording and has a lot of mics on. She would be like, “Can you do that again?” And you’re not even realizing you’re doing anything and then suddenly it’s already tracked!
How’d you get connected to Jenn?
It was through our label [Mom+Pop]. She was actually the first person we met when we went to LA in August. Back then we didn’t know who we wanted to produce the album. The first day [with her] we wrote “Riding Solo” and the second day we wrote “Waiting For You.” It was absolutely incredible. That was only me and [Carlotta] then, and the rest of the band was flying to do some more writing and to play a couple of shows. We were super excited. We were like, “Guys, you need to meet this woman.” She came to one of our shows and she met the girls and everyone fell in love with each other. She’s just a super cool person and artist.
Carlotta said of your last album—I Don’t Run—that it’s “Not necessarily a breakup album—it’s almost easier to explain in Spanish. In Spanish we have ‘amor,’ which is love, and we have ‘desamor,’ which doesn’t really have a word in English that can describe it. Kind of like, in love and out of it. So, it’s not a heartbreak record, it’s just about when love goes away.” Does The Prettiest Curse build on those themes or do you see it moving in a different direction?
For the first time—which is something I’m really proud of—we’re not only talking about relationships. It doesn’t mean we always talked about relationships, but if we were talking about ourselves it was because of someone else. I think it’s one of the most terrifying things to actually look at yourself in the mirror without all the blur and noise that can be around, which can be people or distractions. For the first time with this album we’re talking about really good things and really bad things that happen when you look at yourself in the mirror. In general it’s kind of like a diary of two girls in a band.
You were initially planning to release the record in April and then kick off a big tour. Was postponing the album a hard decision? Did it feel like a decision at all?
It was horrible. Obviously the tour wasn’t an option at all—it was literally illegal to travel. But the album was tough because our way of working until now has always been like, “Yeah, we’ll do it!” If it’s a show and there’s a storm, we’ll play. If it’s a fire, we’ll play through it. Our motto is “We can do anything.” For the first time it was crazy to think that the best thing was to postpone, take a little break, and not force people to go out. It was supposed to come right when everything was exploding [with COVID].
I feel like now we are all finding a little balance in this new life we’re living. It’s not super new anymore. Back then, a lot of our loved ones were getting sick with the virus. Everything was super new and scary so we felt like it wasn’t cool for us to talk about ourselves and our album—it felt a little selfish to promote an album. At the same time, we didn’t want to put it out without being excited about it because it’s something we’ve been working a lot on and something we really love. I’m happy we [postponed it], because I’m more excited than scared now.
In another interview you said, “Being Spanish, we had the worst beginning as a band in our home town. Now it’s more divided, half of the people like us, half hate us… but until Leave Me Alone came out, it was shit.” Do you think Hinds’ reception in Spain has shifted over time?
If I said until Leave Me Alone, I take it back—it was until I Don’t Run, our second album. It’s been really, really hard, to be honest. I think now everything [has] passed because we’re not so new. I guess people are talking shit about someone else.
I don’t think it’s better because society is better—I just think they’re criticizing someone else, like another young artist. It basically felt like we had to prove our worth and fight for respect instead of having it as a starting point like we did everywhere else. I feel like in Spain because of the kind of music [we make] and being girls and being young and our attitude of being excited about life and not fucking complaining all the time and not dressing all in black—I think that really annoyed a lot of people.
Were there any venues or outlets in Spain that you felt were on your team?
A million percent. We weren’t completely alone—it was just a lot of people really hating us, and then the few people that loved us had to fight for us. I remember, back then, all of our friends had some friends talking shit about us on social media. The comments were so crazy. There were mad theories about how we were chosen by Coca Cola or how Carlotta’s dad is a famous director and did the whole project or that we were session musicians who the label told to play worse so it looked like we were new—seriously the maddest things! Obviously everyone who knew us and liked the band felt the urge to fight against those people.
Since the beginning we’ve had some love from here, it’s just we had more from outside and faster. But now I feel like we have more from here than anywhere else. I’m really happy with the situation now. We love playing shows here.
I wanted to ask about The Prettiest Curse’s cover art. How did that come together?
We wanted to do something more than a picture, ‘cause the pictures from the two last albums were taken on film, and they were both taken right after playing a show. The phases of energy we have after a show—I think it’s cool that you can tell we are sweaty and tired but then proud and kind of sensitive. With this album we knew we wanted to express more than we had done in the past. We didn’t want a picture. We wanted to create a whole image that represented the album and the songs on it.
We had a group where we were sharing reference pictures and artists that we liked. Carlotta was showing it to her mom and her mom was like, “You know who I’m thinking of when you show me that? Ouka Leele.” We started investigating her and she lives in Madrid and she was a big artist with La Movida Madrileña, which was a very big social movement that happened after [Francisco] Franco got kicked out of power—our dictator. Once he got out of power, everyone went mad. A lot of bands and artists were doing crazy art because they had been repressed for so many years. Suddenly everything went wild—it was good for the culture. It was a very important time for Spanish art in general.
We loved everything [Ouka] represented and her art, so we texted her like, “We would love to collaborate with you, do you want to have a chat?” and she was like, “Yeah, of course!” So we met in Madrid and we told her our whole story—what we were talking about with this album, how we had been treated and are still being treated, where we come from, and the fact that we wanted to create a magical feeling surrounding the music and the art. She got it super fast.
We said that the filter we wanted to use in this album was magic—telling everything with a magical sense. She was like, “It’s super cool because centuries and centuries ago that’s how popular knowledge was transmitted between families and generations—through fairy tales.” We said, “That totally works with The Prettiest Curse.” It just naturally happened. We sat down and told her what every song talked about and we all thought about one element—a physical object to represent that song. We purposefully placed them all in the cover, and inside the vinyl there’s a map. Actually we did one on the website, where if you go through the cover you can click on the ten items which are the ten songs. We went crazy.