Top 5 Gear Essentials with Ana Perrote of Hinds
Ana Perrote walks us through her gear journey with Hinds, from beachy beginnings to their latest album.
Whether it’s their music or outlook, Hinds always walks on the sunnyside. Formed in 2011 on the Spanish coast, Ana Perrote and Carlotta Cosials took a beach trip with borrowed guitars and zero expectations, and they returned home to Madrid buzzing and determined to start a band—unknowing of just how far they would go.
After the release of their EP Demos in 2014, the duo brought on Ade Martín (bass) and Amber Grimbergen (drums) to create a lineup that has released three studio albums, opened for the Strokes on two days notice for a handful of European shows, collaborated with Chai on “UNITED GIRLS ROCK’N’ROLL CLUB,” and toured the world. This summer, Hinds released their third album, The Prettiest Curse, which saw the band expand both their instrumentation and production. The result was their finest work to date, evolving their bright and warm sound to include more keyboards and more Spanish, both lyrically and musically.
Tell me about your beginnings in music, about the initial spark.
I started out with an acoustic guitar, and my first was a gift from my boyfriend when I was maybe 13. I always liked listening to music and wanted to play, so he gave me a Rochester acoustic, and for a 13 year old that was a very big deal—an expensive teenage gift! I remember I went to one month of classes with my brother and didn’t really like it. The teacher was very boring, and it didn’t excite me that much, so I dropped it. And then it wasn’t until I was 17 or something when I started playing covers—just three chords all over again—and that’s when I met Carlotta [Cosials, vocals/guitar]. Our boyfriends had a band together, and we used to be obsessed about them: mega supportive, go to all of the shows… I remember spending so many hours watching them rehearse and [neither of us] mentioning that we could pick up a guitar or try doing something together.
It was actually when Carlotta broke up with her boyfriend that she was like… [it was] one of those moments where you just want to live in the city you’re in and have fun and get some fresh air, so we drove to the Spanish coast. We had a lot of space because we drove Carlotta’s mom’s van, so we brought a classic nylon Spanish guitar that my uncle gave me and a guitar of Carlotta’s brother. My uncle’s guitar is the prettiest one [I have]. The [tuning pegs] are literally impossible to turn from how old it is; I need a tool to do it. It’s all beaten up and has so much sentimental value because this is the one I started the band with.
The first night I taught her the three chords to play “It Ain’t Me” by Bob Dylan. I remember repeating it and repeating it together, singing different parts and doing dynamics—one of the most signature things of Hinds that we still do. We got totally obsessed, and when we went to the beach we were rehearsing and had sunburns with the shape of the guitar because we were so addicted to the feeling. It was literally just one song, but for us it was like we were discovering such a magical thing.
That’s basically everything we did on that trip. Everytime we went to the beach and started playing, people started giving us money, and that money paid for the gas—it was already so exciting. We could have totally spent those days partying, you know, that’s usually when you would, when you’re going through a breakup, but I just remember spending hours playing and playing. It’s so beautiful because we didn’t realize what was happening. It was so natural and spontaneous. At the end of the trip we set a goal, which was to play a show by the end of the year, and we did.
Can you talk about Hinds’ songwriting process?
Usually we come up with them together. It starts with me and Carlotta: what we prioritize in this band, and it’s always been like this, is voice melodies. We realized that it takes less time if we start with the melodies, and once we know in some chords or rhythms that we have melodies, then we can change it a bit. Sometimes we write the whole thing with lyrics before we go to the rehearsal space, or sometimes we have an idea and some melodies and it’s ready to be played with the four of us. We’re meeting to write rather than jam with ideas.
Hinds released The Prettiest Curse in June, the band’s third studio album. In an interview with BBC News you say, “Everything felt really different and exciting. We worked with different people and there’s different instruments…” Can you talk about this progression of Hinds?
Great question, because it has been such a journey…
On Leave Me Alone, our first ever album, we recorded and mixed the whole thing in 10 days. I remember going to the studio—up until then we had been writing songs and playing shows, never been to the studio—and that feeling of your first album that’s like, “I’m going to change the world,” such an empowering feeling. And I remember totally seeing my whole world falling apart with all these questions and options… it was so overwhelming. We wanted to maintain the Demo sound, our first two songs we released: lo-fi, trebley, very DIY, very raw.
The Epiphone SG Special I had been using, Carlotta’s brother’s old guitar—something I didn’t even choose, it was basically the only free available electric guitar. It’s so light, literally like a feather. At some point, one of the screws from the pickup started falling out, and anytime we played anywhere and it started feedbacking, the tech guy would come up to me and be like, “What the fuck?” and I was like, “It’s the only guitar I have!” [Laughs.] I actually played Glastonbury Festival with this guitar—I didn’t care, it was my guitar! So it came with me for a year and a half or so when we first started touring, but I knew it wasn’t good enough for recording.
The Epiphone ET was the first guitar that I bought, which was such a big moment for me. It was right after Leave Me Alone came out, and I bought it at a second-hand store in the East Village. I still didn’t know what kind of sound I wanted, and we were there with [Donald Cumming] from the Virgins—we used to be incredibly big fans of him even before we were a band—and he was a friend of a friend of a friend, so he came on the guitar shopping day that we had. To me, it was so scary, and I was trying a couple, not really sure, and I picked this one up and it felt good. I asked him, and he was like, “Do you feel powerful when you play it? That’s the most important thing you need from a guitar. Sound is nothing compared to how you’re going to feel and how it’s going to make you feel on stage. You’re going to play and sound how you feel more than any technical thing.” That piece of advice just stuck with me to this day, and I bought it and recorded with it on I Don’t Run.
In between Leave Me Alone and I Don’t Run we toured for two years. It was complete madness; we didn’t sleep, we didn’t breathe, we didn’t do anything that wasn’t touring, touring, touring. On I Don’t Run, what we wanted to prove, because we had gotten a lot of shit in the Spanish press and media about our sound—being DIY, how bad we sounded, couldn’t keep a tempo… Basically everything we did was shitty, so I feel like subconsciously (it wasn’t something we talked about) we were like, we’re going to prove that we know how to play like a rock band. We took pride in the fact that we didn’t need production—meaning like, we were just going to sound how we sounded live, and recorded with the gear we toured with. That’s just how we were, pure rock. But obviously, that was with a bit more confidence [than with Leave Me Alone].
With The Prettiest Curse everything has been shaken up. We were like, [our past records are] mega cool, but we’re not even there anymore. I think that’s something that happens with musicians: you take so much time writing and working on a piece, and it takes so long to be released that by the time it is you’re already miles away from where you were. So we were like, fuck it, we’ve already proved we can do a good album, we want to experiment. We had never tried writing on top of a beat, a keyboard, or literally nothing that wasn’t two guitars, bass, or drums. And very quickly it started taking us in different places, and we started realizing that even if you play the same chords on guitar or keyboard, you write different melodies. The vibes are different, and tempo is such an important thing. For example, I noticed that because we weren’t writing all the songs in our rehearsal space (ours is really bad—classic, shitty, can’t hear any vocals, that wall of sound) and were writing in the studio where we weren’t playing live, the tempos were much slower and the tones were lower. Little things like that make such a difference.
I got my Fender American Performer Jazzmaster not too long ago—I haven’t properly toured with it—and I’m really, really happy with it. I feel like I finally found the guitar for me. Like I was saying before, it’s something that really stresses me, and I have many skills, but picking gear and sound is not one of them. It takes me so long to realize if I like the sound or not, and with this guitar finally I feel like I found the one. It sounds strong and heavy. Also, it’s very easy to slide for solos, and I never realized how hard the Epiphone was to slide with. With the Jazzmaster, it feels like swimming. I think it works really well with Carlotta’s Gibson that’s more sharp and straight to the point. With The Prettiest Curse and these two guitars, we found the two different sounds that compliment each other. Before we were both going in the same direction, with a lot of reverb and very similar to each other. Gradually I took the role of being the heavy bass and she’s more like the sharp knife.
We also knew that we wanted someone new, to include someone in the writing and producing from an early stage for The Prettiest Curse, because we’re very stubborn. Usually, when we finish songs and say, a producer dare give their opinion, we’d be like [gasps] so offended! Because we were already so attached to those things we had been working on for months. We were like, we need to stop and listen—let’s trust. And it worked really well. We found Jennifer Decilveo, the producer of this album, and the day we met we fell in love with her. She’s a very good keyboard player—that’s her instrument, synths and stuff—so it was perfect because that was what we wanted to try. I feel like an angel appeared to us; it had been so many years without having someone fully to rely on. It feels like a bit less of a weight on my shoulders because I had a professional producer telling me her opinion.
You started playing keyboard with The Prettiest Curse, and I’m wondering what initially drew you to it.
The tickle in my stomach started when we started writing some songs with beats or other sounds that were so different with Jennifer. Again, like I was saying before, even if it’s the same chords it sounded like a different thing. It was so interesting to me when I saw people play those notes [on keyboard]. The sound is so magical, and it’s everything together in one. But also, I think I had too much respect. I thought it was going to be so, so hard. In all my surroundings, I never really knew anyone who plays keyboards, it was always guitars, bass, drums—pure classic rock. It seemed more posh. I had such a weird conception of what keyboards were.
My best friend has some keyboards, and one day we were chatting about them… I started being curious about it. For my birthday last year, my friends—my best friend, all the girls in the band, my roommate, friends from school—all pitched a bit of money to give me a Casio CTK 3500. It took me so long to learn and to feel confident on my guitar playing, I thought it was going to take another six years to get confidence on keyboards. I don’t know if it’s because guitar is harder or maybe it’s just me, but keyboards are so much easier to progress on. It takes months for you to really scale up on guitar, and on keyboards, from one day to another, I really feel such a big difference. Three months in I was already really confident and getting obsessed and excited about playing keys.
During quarantine, I started investing in stuff, because I can’t really tour with the little Casio. I started asking around, and decided I wanted a Nord Electro 6D 61. Jen, our producer, was like, “If you get an amazing keyboard, it’s going to sound so good that you’re going to get obsessed and want to play more.” And that’s literally what happened. I was very nervous about such a big purchase, and a bit stupid as well—it has so much shit inside, it’s almost like a computer. It’s such an advanced and professional keyboard for someone who had literally just started, but lucky me, I had a friend who would come for a beer and [teach me].
About the new album’s single, “Come Back and Love Me <3,” the band describes it as “our most romantic song doesn’t need an explanation, it only needs Spanish guitars.” Can you tell me about the two guitars you used on this song?
On the demo, we used Carlotta’s guitar, and we wrote it straight in her old house, just her and I on Spanish acoustic. It was the first time we were like, “This sounds perfect. I don’t think it makes sense to do electric.” It’s such a romantic, almost classical Spanish song. So we were like, this definitely has to be a Spanish guitar. So when we chose Bunker Studio in Brooklyn to record, we were like, “What do we do? Do we bring a guitar?” It’s so expensive to fly guitars, and Carlotta’s nylon-string acoustic sounded really good but it’s not technically the best. So when we went to the studio we asked, and they didn’t have any nylon guitars. So we texted our management in Brooklyn and asked them to find us a guitar: “Ask all of your friends! It has to be nylon, it can’t be acoustic, it’s not the same!” [Laughs.] So they found one—where it came from is a secret—and we recorded the solo and gave it back.
On Leave Me Alone we added a rhythm layer of nylon guitar on top of every song in the background. It’s something we’ve stuck with, and I think it became part of the spectrum of Hinds’ sound because it’s obviously Spanish, and to me feels sunny and warm. Sometimes we put it so low [in the mix] that it’s hard to recognize it, but on “Come Back and Love Me <3” it’s very there. We used the same magical secret guitar.
OTHER ESSENTIAL GEAR
Mooer Ensemble King. This one is my oldest pedal, and I love the fact that it’s so small for traveling. I think all of my favorite solos that I’ve recorded were with this pedal. On I Don’t Run, I love the solo for “New for You”—I did it with a distortion and this one. On The Prettiest Curse, I did the rhythm guitars of “This Moment Forever” to give it a really big spacey sound, and also the solo of “Take Me Back.” It’s really, really precious to me. I think I also have trauma from many years of playing tours and festivals—you know, when you borrow gear, you don’t bring your amps from Spain—and I don’t know what it is with Fender Hot Rod Devilles and Deluxes, but the reverb is always broken, and I really like it to fulfill the atmosphere. It was such a frustrating thing for so many years, and we tried a lot of reverb pedals, but it altered too much of the actual sound or sometimes the volume would drop a little bit. I feel like this pedal has saved me a lot for solos.
Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive. This is a new purchase. I’ve had like five different distortion pedals, and I’ve never really liked them but wasn’t sure what I was looking for. We recorded “Riding Solo” [The Prettiest Curse] in London at Strongroom Studio and they had this pedal there, and I tried it and was like, “Whoa, that sounds so big.” And it holds the note a lot, which I couldn’t really find with the pedals I had before. The more I listened to that song, the more I was like, “I really need that distortion.” When I was looking for it, I realized there was the same pedal but for guitar, and that I had recorded with the bass one. I was like, “Am I wrong? Are you meant to do this?” so I texted the engineer and asked if my guitar was going to explode. [Laughs.] Like I was saying before, I like my tone so low I had to go to a bass pedal.
Fender Hot Rod Deluxe IV. The first ever Fender Hot Rod I bought, when Hinds was transitioning from acoustic to electric—obviously these amps are very expensive—I was a student so I didn’t have an actual job, so I did this thing of testing medicines… you know, test trials before they can be put out and sold. I’m absolutely panicked about hospitals, needles, even pharmacies… I have an irrational fear about it, so this was a very big deal to me, but I heard it was very well paid. So I did it, went to the hospital, stayed the night, had a tube of constant blood coming out, horrible… But everything went well, and that’s how I bought the first amp. That one broke from touring and stuff, but I got the same one again. Very classic, very easy. I keep everything to 7 except volume.
Audix OM7 Dynamic Mic. The guy that does sound for us sometimes in Spain suggested using this because I have a much lower voice than Carlotta. Her pitch is much higher than mine, and a lot of times I struggle to hear myself on stage and it ends up doing feedback. He suggested using this one, which apparently you can push it a bit more than a classic Shure that you would find at a venue. So my boyfriend got this for me for the release of The Prettiest Curse. I haven’t had the chance to use it a lot, especially now with COVID.