Oihana Herrera of Spain-based Dreamy Garage-Pop band Melenas on new album Dios Raros: “It talks about strange days… wondering things about the past or wishes about the future”

Original photo: Sharon Lopez. Handmade collage by B.

Pamplona band Melenas have released a beautiful sophomore album – Dios Raros – full of sweetness, melody, sparkle and shimmer. A perfect soundtrack for spending a carefree summertime with your best friends making memories that will last a life time. Jangly guitars, cascading vocals, a lushness and atmospherics make this an unforgettable album. Sung entirely in their native Spanish the LP transcends linguistic borders, the emotion and sentiment present in every note played. Gimmie recently spoke with guitarist-keyboardist-vocalist Oihana Herrera.

OIHANA HERRERA: I work as a graphic designer here at my place, so I’ve been working a little bit until we have the interview. My day is usually from here where you see me working at my computer. I have a set up with my guitar and keyboard so sometimes when I am bored or I want to rest a little bit I go and play. After I meet with the girls sometimes and we rehearse or I go out and drink something.

How did you first discover music?

OH: I remember because I have some videos to remember it, when I was two years or so or three, I already spent so much time singing and dancing on the sofa with all of the family around singing with them. I was super young when I felt this interest for the music. When I was three my parents decided that they were going to take me to violin lessons. I’ve been surrounded by a very musical family, kind of a classical music mood. Afterwards when I was a teenager I started looking into other styles. My father and mother used to listen to the Beatles and classical rock, after that by myself I started discovering other styles too.

Is Melenas your first band?

OH: Yeah, it is. After I started learning violin, I went to the Conservatory and I have a very classical background but, I really wanted to play in a band. I didn’t see how with the classical music I could have this experience that I am having now. One day a friend of mine leave me a guitar and I started messing around and learning by myself and I felt more free because I didn’t have various tricks or ways of learning it was free. I started composing and felt like I could start a band or something, then I met my bandmates in a place called, Nebula, which is the rock n roll bar in our city. We live in Pamplona it is a very small city. It was a very cool place and it has lots of shows there. We became friends because we used to go to the same shows. One day we decided with these songs I had started composing with a guitar for six months, we started rehearsing. Some of the girls had played in other bands. For me and Maria it was the first time we play in a band.

Can you remember what your first impressions of them was when you first met them?

OH: It is a small city so we spend time in the same bars, when we started talking to each other is when we first met. I remember us dancing in the first row to the bands that would come. I felt we had the same energy. From the bar Nebula you would see the same thirty to forty people in different bars; we nurture each other, we share a lot. I think that has created this burning thing that made us want to have our own band. We share the rehearsing space with another friend of ours, another friend has the recording studio where we play, so it’s kind of like a little community.

That sounds similar to the music community that I grew up in. What was the first concert that you went to?

OH: I can’t really remember but maybe it was some classical music show when I was young and I was surrounded by all of this atmosphere.

Can you remember a favourite rock n roll show you’ve been to?

OH: Nebula Bar has this basement where they have the shows, they were so cool. We saw a band called Holy Wave, they are from Texas, we become friends with them. There was no space to dance and the walls were sweating. There was this energy all together that was very cool. It was a very special show because of the energy, and the contact we had with the band afterward; the human experience, the knowledge and the sharing. I really like this a lot.

Melenas have a new album out Dios Raros; how long did it take to make?

OH: When we made our first LP, then we started playing a lot. When we were playing we were also composing but we didn’t have a lot of time to practice the new songs. It already start when we were touring the first album. Last summer we spent two months rehearsing a lot the songs and thinking a lot; how did we want them to sound like? Finishing all of this work that we started when touring. Mostly last summer was the time we spent really composing and finishing the songs, three months deeply doing that.

Is there a song on the album that’s really special to you?

OH: Yeah, I will say “El tiempo ha pasado”, it’s the fifth song. It has no drums. It talks about being in your bedroom remembering someone that you don’t have contact with anymore and you wonder what this person will be doing. In this space I am talking about a guy and what he will be doing, if he will be the same person or different, where will he live. With the music, the music for me is very heart-touching. Do you say that in English?

Yes. Even though I don’t speak much Spanish, I’m still happy that I can in a way understand your songs, I can still feel the sentiment behind it.

OH: I love that. That is very special to hear. Some other people tell us that too. I think that the music will represent what the lyrics talk about a lot of the time. The lyrics are usually the last thing we do and we try to relate it with the mood of the music; maybe that’s why you can feel it.

When you were making the album did you have any challenges?

OH: We have our level high always. We like to have some kind of quality. We have our limits, I know how I play but I want to do the best I can. It’s sounding better I think. Trying to find special sounds for each songs was the most challenging thing for us.

Why do you like writing songs?

OH: I love music so much, I am always listening to music. It’s another form of expression after that, playing it for me. I can start playing and spend so much time and I don’t even notice that, that time is going. It’s very relaxing for me. A lot of times doing a song is like, it cannot be from me somehow! I take this nervousness and whatever that is happening to me and filter it by the music I play.

I really love the seventh song “3 segundos” on the LP, which translates to “3 Seconds”. It talks about how things can change in just a few seconds; is there a moment in your life that something like that has happened that you could share with us?

OH: With the band I feel like that happens a lot. For example the last time I remember that happening is when we received an email to see if we wanted to go play New York Fashion Week! It didn’t happen yet but just the proposal is like, what?! It marks something very big in my life. There have been so many moments for me like this one that is just, WOW! It means something very big. The song talks about the power of some people to make some things change with their persons, someone who has that energy that makes you do things. They have some special energy, no?

Yes! Why did you decide on “Vals” for the last track on your record?

OH: We thought a lot about the order, we tried to keep our rhythm with the whole record. We thought that was a nice way to finish. Somehow I think this song makes you think a little bit about the rest of them and a little bit you let them go. I like that song because of that, it talks about spending time with a friend and just being together, not talking just being a companion and just sitting and the time go by. It’s a cool way to finish the album. It talks about strange days and days you were thinking about your own stuff in your bedroom and wondering things about the past or wishes about the future. This song is about being with a friend, time goes by and I’ll see you tomorrow. I like that.

Why did you call the album Dios Raros? Rare Days?

OH: Yeah, Rare Days or Strange Days, something like that; I don’t know the little differences in English. It talks about these days where you feel somehow disconnected to what is going on outside, you are in your bedroom in your world. This is what a lot of our songs talk about.

How has being in isolation because of the pandemic been for you?

OH: Our record has been released during isolation. We’ve been working a lot on the promotion not having to combine it with playing or rehearsing, which has been good and let us focus on that a lot. We are very happy because the record has worked very well. At the same time we have plans to play and we can’t play. That’s a little bit frustrating because you put a lot of energy into creating the album and all the work behind it, like the videos and promotion; you need that energy back from playing. Playing is what we love most! It’s good to have the feedback from the people, knowing it’s helping them and they’ve been happy because they could listen to it!

As well as music, as you mentioned, you also do art; what made you want to express yourself that way too?

OH: As a graphic designer?

Yes.

OH: My father is an architect and I felt that I really like that world but I felt that it was too technical. I didn’t like all the technical part, I thought it was too hard for me [laughs]. One of the partners of my father had a son that was a graphic designer, I didn’t even know what one was! After he explained to me one day when I was trying to choose what I wanted to do, I thought this is what I want to do. It was something creative but I like the functional thing also. Graphic design is communication and it has function—I like that combo. I didn’t see myself creating art with no function, different parts of the brain, rationale and artistic.

You also mentioned before that you have a setup in your room with keyboards and guitar; have you made any songs lately?

OH: Yeah. I’ve been composing a little bit, so there are new songs on the way. We will be rehearsing the new record and preparing the new songs. Sooner or later we will do something with these new songs.

When you’re writing songs do you write more on guitar or keyboard?

OH: When I started I felt free when I started playing guitar, because I didn’t have to read notes; I never composed with a piano or violin, it’s difficult. When I played guitar with no teacher or reading notes I felt free. After I play it on guitar myself for a little while I start playing it on piano too, with the keyboard. I did something that I couldn’t do before, it was to compose with it. I spent five or six years learning piano after violin. On this record we’ve got songs composed with guitar and some with two keyboards and no guitar. It’s a different feeling in different songs, I love that. I love growing and experimenting with new stuff. I just got a new little synthesiser two days ago and I’m trying new things with that, experimenting and putting them in new songs and see what happens.

Please check out MELENAS; Melenas on Instagram; Melenas on Facebook.

Pleasure Symbols’ Jasmine Dunn: “Colin Wilson’s The Outsider and.. Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help.. ended up proving to be great influencing texts”

Original photo by Pierangela Hidalgo. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

Brisbane’s post-punk, ethereal, goth rockers Pleasure Symbols levelled up and really came into their own with last year’s release Closer And Closer Apart, a moody dream-pop affair. We’re excited to see where they go next, the band have been writing new material. We interviewed bassist-vocalist Jasmine Dunn.

How did you first discover music?

JASMINE DUNN: Slowly, it was always more of a background noise in my earlier years with some significant moments of discovery thrown in. I remember watching my parents dancing to Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ in the living room and realising that people can have sentimental attachments to music. On the flip side to that, I grew up in the 90’s so there was a lot of really cringe worthy pop music on the radio and on TV. I learned to dig deep!

How did the creative process begin with your first full-length, Closer and Closer Apart?

JD: I reached out to Steven to see if he would be interested in helping me record what I originally anticipated to be a solo body of work, we had only met once prior to that conversation so the direction for everything was still very unknown. The idea of a solo record quickly moved into talks of a collaboration between Pleasure Symbols and his project Locust Revival, which then evolved again into having him come on board as a guitarist to work on a Pleasure Symbols album, so we began writing and getting to know each other from there.

Photo by Pierangela Hidalgo.

Sound-wise Closer and Closer Apart is quite different from your first self-titled EP, you’ve gone from a more synth-based dark-wave style to a more guitar-orientated dream-pop, shoegaze style; what influenced this evolution?

JD: Four years between writing and then bringing in Steven on guitar meant Closer and Closer Apart was never going to sound like anything previously released under the Pleasure Symbols name. The EP is very primitive overall and I was keen to push the sound further to better represent our influences and songwriting capabilities. We still have a lot more to learn and a lot further to reach, but we’re getting there!

‘Image Reflected’ is one of our favourite tracks on C&CA; can you tell us a little about writing it?

JD: On the weekends I’d drove over to Steven’s place and we’d start with nothing, maybe a very loose idea and have a song or two close to completion in just a couple of hours. It was kind of surreal how easily we were writing together and I kept wondering if these songs were going to turn out horribly because of how easily they were coming together! I’ve never had such ease in songwriting before and I think a lot of that comes down to the trust and respect we have for one another. For ‘Image Reflected’ Steven had programmed the drums the day before I had come over and a good portion of the song really wasn’t changed much from the first take we did.

Do lyrics come easy for you? Who’s one of your favourite songwriters?

JD: Unfortunately not, I hesitate because I want the lyrics to perfectly articulate a feeling or a mood that’s driving each song. Sometimes there’s too many thoughts or it’s a lost moment in time and trying to catch those fleeting moments can be difficult. When it happens though, it’s an incredibly satisfying feeling. I mostly read to inspire lyrics and to get myself into the right headspace and I was pouring through a lot of Roland Barthes in particular while writing for the record. I came across a very well loved, second-hand copy of Colin Wilson’s The Outsider and my best friend had lent me Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help. Both of these books also ended up proving to be great influencing texts for me at the time.

We love the Closer… album cover; what’s the story behind the cover image?

JD: The photograph was taken by a friend of mine Haydn Hall who would hide out inside this restaurant on the Lower East Side in New York. The photo resonated with me as writing had already begun for the record so I had some idea in which direction we were heading sonically. It’s simple and unassuming with a soft focus. It feels like the calm before the storm.

Multiple Man did a remix of the song ‘Endless’; how did that collab come about?

JD: Chris Campion is an old friend from when we both lived in Brisbane, plus he recorded and mixed the very first Pleasure Symbols demos so there is a bit of history there! He asked to do a remix a while back but it took a little while for me to bounce it across to him in New York.

Last year PS toured Europe; what was one of the coolest things you saw in your travels?

JD: We drove the whole leg so we were exposed to a lot, but we saw so much and loved our time spent there, it’s hard to narrow it down! We hope to be back as soon as we can.

Is there anything you’ve been listening to a lot lately? We love finding new things to listen to!

JD: There’s some new Locust Revival tracks that more people should hear, as well as the new SDH record I’m really enjoying too. Still spinning the latest Tempers record too, that’s an incredible album.

Have you been working on anything new lately?

JD: Yes! We’re currently writing for the new record.

Lastly, what do you love most about making music?

JD: It’s a love/hate relationship for the most part, but it’s a vessel to create and a compelling medium to capture a moment in time and that has to be worth something.

Please check out: PLEASURE SYMBOLS. Closer And Closer Apart out via AVANT!

Surf-gazers The Double Happiness: “Life is short, have courage and be kind to each other”

Original photo by Mark Cranitch. Handmade collage by B.

Brisbane’s The Double Happiness are comprised of two couples that play spooky-surf reverb-a-riffic dream-pop! Their music is joyous, fun and makes you want to dance. Every time we’ve seen them play we’ve had the most fun. They have a new record Surfgazing forthcoming on 4000 Records. We caught up with them to find out more about it, as well as their love of surf and shoegaze, their first concert and more.

I know that creativity, courage and connection are important to The Double Happiness (us too!); why?

MEG (bass/vocals): These are the values that we all hold dear. (Alongside with dancing like maniacs – also very important). Courage is backing yourself, putting yourself out there and not giving up, stretching yourself creatively by trying things that keep your energy up and your vibrancy levels elevated.

Keeping your connections strong is vital right now; we are nothing without other people. These are all good messages during these strange and unsettling times, and the music industry has already begun creatively connecting with audiences through online hangouts and events like Isol-Aid and Couch Choir. Life is short, have courage and be kind to each other – finding new ways to be creative is the upside of these weird times.

How did The Double Happiness come into being?

KRISTIN (guitar/vocals): We’ve been friends for over 20 years through mutual friends, and attended parties and gigs, always loving the same kinds of bands. We met up at the 40th birthday celebration of 4ZZZ at the Spiegeltent, as we were SO keen to see Ups and Downs. We got the set list, and Meg had the brilliant idea of suggesting we get together to have a jam. Meg and Simon were a ready-made rhythm section, and Pete and I were guitarists. We jammed some songs we knew and loved like ‘Candy’ (Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson) and ‘Doused’ (DIIV). Before you knew it we were writing our own songs. ‘City’ was born shortly afterwards, and the songs and the joy just kept coming.

Photo by Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie zine.

The Double Happiness have a “surf-gaze” sound; how did you first discover surf music?

PETE (guitar/vocals): I have always had a long love affair with surf guitar. We all love The Pixies and I was inspired by Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago, The Shadows and the killer Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

KRISTIN: I grew up listening to my Dad’s surf guitar records – he was a huge Cliff Richard and The Shadows fan.

PETE: We’ve never been fans of guitar chords played at lightning speed. The key to our kind of surf riff is minimum notes – maximum melody. The Pixies were always a surf band in my book.

How did you arrive at combining surf and shoegaze to make your sound?

KRISTIN: Our influences and inspirations are shared which has made song writing such an easy and fun process. We all loved shoegaze bands such as RIDE and My Bloody Valentine in the early ‘90s, yet we have a soft spot for 60s sounds as well.

SIMON (drums): There’s been a revival in recent times of shoe-gaze through bands like Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Froth, Beach Fossils and with Slowdive coming back with a new album which we dig. Locally we also love Relay Tapes, Ultra Material and Pleasure Symbols.

PETE: It was becoming apparent that some of our songs were very surf, and others had a dreamy shoe-gaze sound. It made perfect sense to combine the two!

The surf influence is very apparent in your music, is there any non-obvious influences that might surprise listeners?

KRISTIN: The jangly guitar sounds are reminiscent of bands like The Sundays and The Go- Betweens, but the indie-folk influence of Jose Gonzales is present in our theme tune – Double Happiness (I Want My). We can’t underestimate the impact table tennis has had on us either!

PETER: I’m the true table tennis tragic of the band. It’s a highly complex sport. The competition bats generate so much spin. Check out the high level stuff on YouTube kids! How good is Stereolab’s Ping Pong?

MEG: I hear elements of Stereolab in our songs which is surprising as we don’t have keyboards in the band, but sometimes we get into a heightened rhythmic groove that they capture in their songs.

In the beginning, who or what inspired you to first pick up your instrument?

KRISTIN: Sister Margaret playing Abba songs to us on guitar during wet lunches in Year 3.

MEG: Teachers are so influential! Mr Stanger in Year 5 introduced me to acoustic guitar. Finding an “Archie” comic-style bass guitar in the instrument cupboard in Year 8 sealed the switch to bass guitar.

SIMON: Friends at school gave me a window into the drumming world. Realising that I could imitate the music I loved listening to in my teens like Joy Division, The Cure, The Smiths, REM and The Clash was encouraging.

PETE: I fell into classical guitar lessons in Grade 6 but that only lasted a couple of months because I didn’t know what classical music was. I picked up the same guitar at age 20, learnt to play “Skip to My Lo” and “Venus” and the rest is history.

What was the first concert you ever went to? Can you describe it to us?

KRISTIN: U2 Festival Hall 1984. It was everything.

MEG: Midnight Oil and V Spy V Spy at Byron Bay Arts Factory (when it was known as “The Piggery”) I think it was 1985. I went with my Mum, sister and brother. My Dad sat in the car park reading the newspaper! It was so energising to be part of a big crowd and experience such a strong performer like Peter Garrett.

SIMON: Johnny Diesel & The Injectors on the back of a truck parked at the front of the Narrabri Golf Club. Slim pickings! Next was Rat Cat and the Violent Femmes at the Byron Bay Arts Factory.

PETER: I ordered my first pot of beer in the early 80’s at the Victory Hotel then went to see Howard Jones at Festival Hall. I wouldn’t rate his music these days but at the time the performance blew my teenage mind. There was this Jamaican guy with a wall of percussion instruments. Amazing!

Two couples make up The Double Happiness; what’s something important you’ve learnt from your significant other while making music together?

KRISTIN: That Pete has an incredible ear for recording and mixing. He’s completely self-taught, very focused and is doing such a fabulous job.

MEG: We have such respect for each of our multiple roles in the band and how they interweave. We do all our own recording, mixing, artwork, t-shirt design, networking, social media and more. I really enjoy everything that we all bring, but I do really get a buzz watching Simon drum on stage. He is a phenomenal drummer, laying down creative and complex beats that drive the songs.

SIMON: That Meg is a bad-*%$ bass player! She obviously loves the stage and playing to a crowd. She is also a social media power house.

PETER: That Kristin comes up with the coolest riffs. A lot of the lead writes itself. It’s always fun and exciting jamming. She’s great out front on stage and enjoys the spotlight. Kristin and Meg both create such a great vibe together with the crowd.

You have an album coming out, Surfgazing; what was inspiring you when you were writing for it?

MEG: Tides, crashing waves, soundwaves, sandy toes, great riffs and rolling beats.

KRISTIN: We have a strong connection with The Great South East and often include references to local landmarks and places that hold fond memories in our hearts. Bribie Island features on the new album in the song “Red Beach”, “Coochie” was written on a ferry to a resort on Moreton Bay, and “Snapper Rocks” is a nod to the thunderous surf down near Coolangatta. So surf and beach references are very prominent in this next batch of songs, but there are other themes – completionism vs perfectionism in “Finish”, and clear communication in “Not What You Said”.

The first single from it is Wild Bikini/Spooky Tiki; can you tell us about each song please?

MEG: “Wild Bikini” is a magic carpet ride spliced with a B-Grade beach movie from the 60s with a sprinkle of I Dream of Jeannie.

KRISTIN: “Spooky Tiki” takes me back to The Brady Bunch Hawaiian Vacation double episode from 1972. Peter and Bobby Brady found a Tiki in a dig that their Dad was working on, but they didn’t know it was cursed until Greg wore it surfing, and all hell broke loose.

Filmed and edited by: Simon Welchman

Can you give us a little insight to recording the record? You recorded at Kristin’s work the Music Industry College and at home, right?

KRISTIN: Yes. It’s been so good to have access to the studio at MIC as well as the assistance from the music dept at the school. The drums and vocals were recorded there, but the majority of guitar tracks and mixing has all taken place at our place, mostly in the walk-in wardrobe.

MEG: I have a lot more insight into Pete and Kristin’s relationship through recording vocals in their wardrobe. They have some very cool outfits in there!

We love seeing The Double Happiness live your shows are SO music fun! We love that Kristin and Meg wear super cool outfits on stage; who are your style icons? What’s your favourite outfit you’ve worn so far?

MEG: Audrey Hepburn, The B-52s and Nice Biscuit. The boys always look good too – Simon sports some killer paisley. Pete has a ripper ‘50s bowling shirt with a Tiki detail.

KRISTIN: My style icons are Serena from Bewitched, Agent ‘99’ from Get Smart. My favourite so far (and this is so tough) was what we wore at The Outpost in January to launch “Wild Bikini” – A-line dresses made by Grace from Nice Biscuit from vintage bed sheets, with a Flintstones bone in our beehives for good measure.

Photo by Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie zine.

What have you been listening to lately?

TDH: Relay Tapes, Majestic Horses, Film School, It’s Magnetic, Loose Tooth.

Lastly, in the spirit of your band name The Double Happiness; what’s something that makes you really, really happy?

MEG: This new album. It is really going to be everything you need in the world right now.

KRISTIN: What she said!

Please check out: THE DOUBLE HAPPINESS. TDH on Facebook. TDH on Instagram.