Fresh of their new single Cigarette Burns The Parrots let The Sir’s Corner into their kaleidoscopic world made of post-Franco Spanish underground, trap and Godard films.
Cigarettes burn and Beck’s is spilled while I sit in a Brixton backgarden with The Parrots’ Alex and Diego and their photographer Neelam (whose shots already graced Hinds’ album covers). Despite the festive atmosphere, worry spreads for the closure of several Dalston venues. The struggle to keep venues open against the will of the gentrified neighbourhoods has gone as far as forcing promoters to give lollipops away after shows to keep punters away from chatting and in the night. Gentrification is threatening London underground scenes and the teenage urge of finding spaces of congregation and expression is mirrored not only by a sold-out Windmill, but also by the audience craze as soon as Parrots drop the first chord of Let’s Do It Again.
If I’m transcribing this interview is because I was lucky enough to find myself standing on the bar’s bottom metal rod and avoid that my 5”4 got swallowed in the audience with irreparable consequences for my ribs.
Back to the backgarden the interview soon becomes a face-to-face chat with Diego in the realm of post-Franco Spanish underground, trap and Godard films.
Lorenzo Ottone: You’re part of a Spanish indie scene that is becoming pretty popular. How did it happen?
Diego García: When we started playing about nine years ago the Spanish indie scene, though, was restricted to those people who had grown up in the 1980s and they were quite snobbish towards us. They were looking at us just like kids, they weren’t coming to our gigs, but with time we’ve managed to get a reputation and we’ve come to create a new scene (Los Nastys, Hinds, etc.). Things have changed a lot. Now they come to see us.
LO: You’ve built a strong fanbase in the UK and US too…
DG: We’ve always been inspired by English and American indie-rock from the 1990s/00s. Now the world has become smaller, so it’s very interesting to look outside and maybe you discover that your favourite artists are from Africa or South America. It was impossible before.
Alex de Lucas: It’s the Internet, baby!
LO: Which other influences define The Parrots’ sound?
DG: In Spain there’s a massive garage, yè-yè scene, but most of all we are into the post-Franco 1980s punk and new wave scene especially from Madrid and Galicia. There was some amazing stuff inspired by DEVO, The B52s, Kraftwerk. Take Esplendor Geométrico, for example, they were so ahead of their times.
LO: Was it a creative period for Spain?
DG: After the end of the dictatorship everyone was going crazy, because you could do even the most simple things that weren’t allowed before, like setting up a band that was provocative and inspired by British punk. My parents lived through all of that. You had so many artists making mind-blowing music without censorship, without having to stick with what was pop and acceptable like what happened to beat bands like Los Brincos.
LO: It sounds like it was an euphoric period. In the rest of world there was a lot on nihilism in music…
DG: It was euphoric, yes, but the music was nihilist. Post-punk and new wave represented liberation but at the same time mirrored Spanish youth. There were lots of drugs, heroin was a massive problem, especially in the Bilbao area. Lots of people lost their life. They say it was allowed into the country to “destroy” young people and avoid they became threats for the government.
LO: You mostly sing in English with very positive results, considering that English-speaking audiences are usually sceptical towards foreigners…
DG: We’ve used Spanish two times in a very spontaneous way. I have to say that helped us a lot to gain home fans. Since then (single No Me Gustas Te Quiero) we started becoming popular in Spain too.
LO: And now you’ve covered Soy Peyor by Bad Bunny. It looks like you’re not afraid of going pop…
DG: We’re not scared to say what we listen to with our friends and we don’t make music to demonstrate something. In Spain both trap and reggaeton are massive and if we don’t play it it doesn’t mean we don’t like it. The young trap scene is incredibly interesting and creative, it’s more rebellious than rock’n’roll in this moment. Take Cecilio G., he’s got a punk attitude that I love. He goes on TV and says: “I’m the f***ing king!”
LO: It’s post-modern society in a way. You are legitimated to mix genres, styles, like a suit with Balenciaga trainers. The odder you are the better…
DG: There’s nothing bad about it, you have the freedom of being truly creative but I don’t know if today everything can be accepted. Take Sex Pistols using swastikas in a mocking and derogatory way, I doubt people would get those provocative actions now. There’s still a lot of morality.
LO: Sometimes it just depends on perspectives. Like people abroad using the Union Jack and still glorifying Britpop in club nights as a way to distinguish themselves from the pop masses…
DG: I guess it happens in Spain too. Even consider how using the Spanish flag some years ago would immediately identify you as right-wing even if you weren’t at all.
LO: Changing topic. How’s been working with (The Horrors’) Tom Furse?
AdL: Really good, loved it!
DG: He helped us to give shape to our ideas. We knew he could make our music sound like we wanted to. When you’re playing in the band it could be hard to give an objective judgment on your work, so we wanted to have someone external we trusted to feedback our work. Especially if you admire that person. I recorded the two singles (My Love Is Real, Girl) in my bedroom and sent them to London and Tom did the production in his studio.
LO: Who looked for who?
DG: A while ago we played a show in London and then went to an afterparty in a house that was just next to Tom’s studio. A friend we were with that night told us about his studio and since we’ve always been fans of The Horrors we thought that sooner or later we should have worked with him.
LO: Your first record was called Aden Arabie. Was that a reference to Godard or what?
DG: [Showing his Anna Karina phone screensaver] It was! I’m a big fan of him and I think La Chinoise is one of his best films. (The terrorist group in the film is called Aden Arabie). If you think about it, the film was from 1967 and the student riots happened in 1968, so he was incredibly ahead. His films from that period are about things that are still happening today. It was 50 years ago but he was brave enough to be coherent and go against the system.
LO: Which artists would you recommend to our readers?
DG: Cuco, Los Zombies and Cariño.
You can listen to The Parrots’ new single Cigarette Burns here