About a week before Xmas 2020, the Spanish collaboration of Madbil / Hanky Panky Records almost surreptitiously slipped an album onto Spotify and all those streamy places that young folk click, as well and released some lovely CD’s. It was a real case of no real fanfare from an act that deserved to be screamed from the rooftops.
All at Janglepophub towers (basically me and my son in our man cave) have barely stopped listening to it since then. However, we got all fanboy and stalky and tracked down Pablo and Javier from the band and made them talk about everything from gratis red elctric guitars, inequitable streaming revenue distribution, musical pandemic antodotes, the ‘physical music experience’, regional Spanish indie aestehtics and all manner of other things.
Thanks so much gentlemen and good luck with the new album you are working on !!!
For the (sadly) uninitiated, take a couple of paragraphs to tell us about this Madbil project?
JAVIER – It all came together very naturally and without any real foresight. Pablo and I were working on different projects and I showed him some of the songs I was working and ended up giving him a red electric guitar in the process !
We began to combine our rehearsals with no other purpose other than having fun and to give some form to some ideas we had been working on in our home cities of Madrid and Bilbao. Conequently in the summer of 2016 we finally decided to hire some recording sessions to record a song called No Hay Valor.
Again, quite by coincidence. Pablo’s friend and owner of the Hanky Panky Records label, Iñaki Orbezua, loved the track and released it as a digital single. The name Madbil was created for this purpose and is simply the amalgamation of our Madrid / Bilbao homes.
PABLO – Yes. I went to Javier’s home some years ago and there was this amazing brand red electric guitar glittering at the living room. He said: “It’s yours…”. We did not know then, but that is what started it all for Madbil
Effectively Madbil is a joint venture that bring our creative energies and influences together. It is the creation of music at it’s most purest, most indie, with no boundaries and no label interference.
One day we may do something with flamenco vibes (e.g., Lo que quisiste tener) and the next day we may be doing something a little bit funky (e.g. Desierto y Mar). All we can really say is that we have the core of a pop / rock band, but only the future will tell where we go from there.
The Noches De Agosto album is perfectly eclectic? What influences do you feel surface in the release?
JAVIER You cannot hide who you are, or what influences you may have and any how, we have no intention of trying too, as we are perfectly comfortable with them.
In our case they are undoubtedly eclectic. At first the diversity of our sounds and styles scared us a bit, but then we thought it would be better to be transparent and not only let our influences be, but bring them with us to the recording sessions as well.
PABLO – Our influences may probably vary from month to month, but there are some solid and well known names that are always with us like the very best of cherished friends.
In this album New Order, The Cure, The Beatles, Belle and Sebastian, The Church, The National, Nacha Pop, Giant Sand, Arctic Monkeys, The Eels, The Smiths, Los Secretos, David Bowie, Blur, Psychedelic Furs, Radio Futura, Echo &t Bunnymen, The Pixies, The Beach Boys… to name just a few.
What is your songwriting and recording process?
JAVIER – There are different formulas, mainly because we usually are in different cities. For us, the songs are a preamble to the show, so there is something exciting and very creative in the process.
It doesn’t matter whether we want to show to each other a melody, a guitar riff, or a lyric, the important thing is that we get excited creating.
We usually record a demo and send it to each other. We then talk about how to make it better in a ping-pong dynamic. Sometimes we may also rescue an old song that we started together a long time ago that remained unfinished for whatever reason.
It is a weird thing because, when that happens, we are both drawn to it and think of it as something new and fresh (e.g.Cuerpo de algodón from our previous album Magia con Precisión released in 2018, or Noches de Agosto from our most recent release)
We also want the recording sessions to be very fresh and creative. We would hate to bore people, or get bored ourselves. That’s why we try to be creative in short bursts, rather than over extended periods. Kike Mora, our producer and engineer, ensures we stay true to this musical ethos and imbue a sense of originality and energy in our music.
We both agree that we’d rather just record songs that make us feel excited rather than search for some sort of trendy angle that we have no real conviction for.
PABLO – We are also very clear that we want to be listened to and enjoyed by a lot of people. We try to avoid being whimsical and boring. We are conscious that this would only serve to narrow our fan base to just ourselves and maybe a couple of freaky musicians !!!
Are there any recurring lyrical themes within the release? If so, why do you think you may have concentrated upon them?
PABLO – Despite the strange pandemic times in which the album was recorded, the songs have remained bright and warm. We just wanted to release something contradictory to the general malaise of the times, as a kind of dedication to all the victims of the pandemic.
As such we decided to call it ‘August Nights’ (Noches de Agosto). We tried to imbue the tracks with that feel of sunshine, relaxation and general la dolce vita, that would ordinarily have been associated with the summer month of August in ‘normal times’.
JAVIER – As Pablo intmates, each of the 11 tracks includes lyrical concepts around nights in August. Maybe we should have titled it “11 August Nights”…
What are you favourite tracks from the album and why? Do you feel that this may differ from the possible fan favourites?
JAVIER – El cielo puede esperarand Cuando me miras and without a doubt Good Days.
They have an energizing effect on us and we’ve had a lot of fun recording them. It has been a very exciting process as songwriters and as musicians. I think that during and after the recording sessions, each of us had different feelings and memories of what had just happened.
As such there is the obvious possibility that the fan favorites may differ to ours because they are missing the fun of the recording experience especially in tracks such as Como las flores al Sol or No todos los ojos cerrados.
PABLO – Cuando me miras, No todos los ojos cerrados duermen and Lo que quisiste tener are my favourites.
Cuando me miras, because it feels like the perfect equilibrium between the music and the vocals and because I love the counterpoint dynamics between the rhythm guitar, solo guitar and keyboards. Forgive my modesty but it feels like the perfect song in that sense.
No todos los ojos cerradops duermen, because of the vocals contribution of Rita Ojanguren and María Ruigómez. They sing like angels and we are so pleased they both agreed to collaborate with us. Also I like the acoustic guitars wall of sound effect we did, with one being played like a mandolin.
Lo que quisiste tener because I like the flamenco vibes infused within our style of pop and I also like it’s poetry.
Also I should mention Good Days (see below) because we had the honour of collaborating with Geoff Smith (Palace of Light, Mabel Joy) who contributed vocals and to the song writing process, alongside Jacky Garratt.
People’s favorites may differ because the insight we have about some tracks is logically different. Sometimes it happens that you work on a song very hard to get it right and therefore, you are particularly fond of it, or maybe it’s just because of that harmonic solution you came up with that day, or just because it simply flowed from start to finish within a very short time as some sort of divine gift and ends up being everyone’s favourite.
The indecipherable logic of what ‘appeals’, is part of the fun of the song writing process !!!
Janglepophub lend you there famous time machine. You can go back in time to any musical decade and be successful. Which decade would you choose and why? Also what would you consider success within that decade?
JAVIER – For me, it would be somewhere musically balanced between the 70s and 80s. Technology was still limited, but burgeoning and it enable the undoubted talent of the ear to take on a new context and simply flourish in so many different directions.
Creativity was more important than technique. Every day was a new discovery. A new sound, a new emotion, a new way of communication.
PABLO – Artistically, I would go for a mix of the 60´s and 80´s decades as I consider these to two creative explosion decades and the driving force behind so much of the 70’s / 90’s perfection.
If it was purely from a financial perspective I would go for the 90’s because it was the time where Vinyls and CD’s (and digital being still limited), lived together in harmony and sales of music products and events were breaking all manner of sales records.
The current century is digital which has got a lot of advantages but also some disadvantages like. The main disadvantage is being unable to find a manner in which both artists, labels and listeners have a more equitable slice of the revenue and or availability of product.
This is especially applicable to the musician who is the most necessary part of the equation and the most undercut. Hopefully it might be naturally adjusted soon.
In a digital age, you still released Noches De Agosto on a physical format CD. Why was this? Do you feel there is an actual ‘need’ for the physical format anymore that goes beyond the nostalgia of the experience?
JAVIER – We think we still need to make things tangible, sounds, lyrics. We released the album Noches de Agosto in a physical format CD because we wanted it to reach out to fans in different ways.
There is also something romantic and nostalgic about the experience of physical releases. But above all it is about experiencing sensations, being able to see, hear, touch, smell, etc. This said, we also released in most of the regular digital platforms as well.
PABLO In this digital era where music is a mouse-click away, paradoxically physical things become more valuable.
Initially, in the radio, vinyl and tapes era, TV images, video clips, later CDs and DVDs were seen as an improvement. Similarly, in this computer era, there was the p2p illegal platforms, the Ipod explosion and suddenly, everything was at a click, first through Mp3 and later with streaming.
Suddenly theatre, cinema, live concerts, vinyl especially, but also CDs and even tapes, live and physical acts, garnered increasing value and became more cherished especially after the initial digital craze subsided.
Personally I like vinyl with all the art and information packaged in one. I like to read the credits of the album, to see the big pictures and read the lyrics. I like to know who did this or that, who wrote this or that, etc. At least with the music I care about.
Of course you have all that information in the net, but it still is not the same ‘experience’ when it comes to enjoying the things you really like.
What are the challenges and opportunities today’s ‘streaming world’ present/offer to aspiring acts?
JAVIER – Beyond the aforementioned issues, there is also a great opportunity to bring the group closer to the fans.
In the next few years we will attend concerts by video-streaming from the very stage. Live the rehearsals as a member of the band. Enjoy recording sessions in real time. In short, bring the band reality closer to the fans.
Do you feel Spanish indie/twee/jangle-pop have an obviously definable sound?
PABLO – It’s would be easy to assume there is a Spanish sound. Perhaps it is a warm sound, passionate rhythm / singer that makes it so.
Perhaps it easier to identify a regional sound. Rosalía for example is highly influenced by Flamenco sounds whereas, Nacho Vegas from the north, is more influenced by the celtic tradition kind of melodies.
They have nothing to do with each other but perhaps they will all continue to flow together like interlinked rivers to form a more recognizable Spanish indie sound. We’ll have to wait and see.
What other jangly Spanish acts deserve our attention right now?
JAVIER – Currently there is a lot going on. Just to mention a few, you have TUYA which are incredibly innovative and creative. Also I like The New Raemon and MacEnroe to name a couple of bands.
PABLO I am, currently, in the awe of TUYA. It’s musical technology brought to art. Nacho Vegas or Christina Rosenvinge have been around for a lot of years with excellent vibes that I like. Also I love to listen to our beloved friend Rita Ojanguren or bands like Sidonie or The Secret Society.
What were the last five pieces of music you acquired?
JAVIER –Two Lanes (Phases), Cigarettes after sex (Cry); Tuya (A war is coming) ,The Cure (40 live: Cureation) and Band of Horses (Everything all the time).
PABLO –The Palace of light (Beginning here & Travelling Outward), Paul McCartney (McCartney III), Cotton Mather (Kontiki), The Beatles (Abbey Road – 50th anniversary), The last shadows puppets (Everything you’ve come to expect).
The musical community seemed to really unite over the Black Lives Matter movement? Is the juxtaposition of politics and music something you advocate?
PABLO – We prefer to leave aside politics from music. We are more centered in poetry and ordinary living.
There was something rather close to a politic protest song called Venus o Marte from our first album Magia con precision (see below) but even then, we probably hid the political message behind it for the benefit of universality, so that various meanings could be derived from it.
It’s not that we dont care, we do and a lot. After all, everything in politics affects the life of a community. If we ever do an explicit political song, it would probably would be a furious and rage-filled record. Madbil on punk !
What is next for Madbil?
JAVIER– We are well into new material. We are close to finishing the writing of what it may be our next album and may well go into the studio in the next couple of months to start the first recordings. Also, whenever it’s reasonably possible. we will start planning several gigs which is something we are DESPERATELY wanting to do.