A trip far away from the everyday world
A journey to that reality’s identity
An Interview with…
Prologue: When I first heard “Abstracción” through their Bandcamp page, I was so pleasantly blown away, that I ordered the vinyl album, I reviewed it, I aired it through my radio show, I have even blown farther away by the warm sound of the LP, so it was natural to enter my TOP10 Albums list of 2020… And as always in such situations, queries about the band, their influences, etc, kept on occupying my mind… I’d like to thank band member Luis Monge (Electric Guitar, Composer) for helping me out with the coordination and the translation!
TimeLord Michalis: Introduce us, the band, and tell us how it all started with Abstracción.
Luis Monge: We are a psychedelic rock band made up of seven musicians who live in different provinces of Spain. This project was born in 2018 by Catalina and me. Catalina lives in Mallorca and I live in Madrid and we couldn’t rehearse together, that’s why we decided to ask friends to join the project just because of our friendship and their level as musicians, wherever they were living. The band consists of Pablo Bermejo on keyboard, Pablo Abarca on flute, José Gálvez on sitar, acoustic guitars and percussion, Rafa “Chico Jr.” Paredes on bass guitar, Paco García on drums and percussion, Catalina on vocals and I’m on electric guitar. So three members of the band live in Madrid, three more in Málaga (Andalucía), and Catalina stays in Mallorca.
TLM: Did you or any other of the band members have previous band experience? If yes, tell us a few words about the other bands, also, please do mention the kind of music these bands were/are playing.
Luis Monge: Paco plays drums in Mr. Mackenzie, an indie rock band from Córdoba. Abarca leads his own prog-rock project named Tri where he’s the songwriter, guitarist, vocalist, and plays flute. Gálvez plays electric guitar in Glasswork, a progressive rock band from Málaga. Chico Jr. Paredes has played in many rock bands since he was a child. He currently plays in Casablanca, a rock band-orchestra that covers classic rock and pop songs. Cati usually plays with anyone when she has the opportunity, like street musicians, jam sessions… Pablo Bermejo and I play together in a band called El Cuco del Reloj, but there’s nothing published yet.
Abstraction is a mental process that allows anyone to remove everything that’s not determining for something (anything real) to be itself until it’s only its essence: what makes it what it is
TLM: Does the name Abstracción mean something? How did you pick it?
Luis Monge: Abstraction is a mental process that allows anyone to remove everything that’s not determining for something (anything real) to be itself until it’s only its essence: what makes it what it is. I feel it’s like a journey to that reality’s identity. A trip far away from the everyday world.
The name came up very naturally. In the beginning, it was just the name of the short intro of the album, which I think represents that transition process between the “tangible world” and the “abstract ideas world”. Then it became the name of the album because it defines very well the idea that is behind all the songs. Finally, we found ourselves referring to the project as “Abstracción” itself, so it became the name of the band.
TLM: What are your influences, musically and lyrically?
Luis Monge: Each one of us enjoys different music genres and we’ve very different influences, although we all enjoy some classic progressive rock and psychedelic rock bands. I think this is not very noticeable on the album because I wrote almost all the instrumental parts of the music meanwhile the other members made the arrangements of their instruments or rewrote their parts based on my ideas. But obviously, their way of rewriting their music sheets came defined by their influences. Musically it’s important to cite King Crimson, Caravan, Soft Machine, Pink Floyd, Donovan, or Jefferson Airplane. Japanese psych-rockers Kikagaku Moyo also had a huge impact on me since I started listening to their music. And Tool is a band that has inevitably influenced my way of playing electric guitar. Whatever style I do, Adam Jones’ influence is present in everything I play.
Pablo Bermejo: In my development as a keyboardist I must cite Deep Purple’s Jon Lord. Also jazz organists such as Dr. Lonnie Smith, Joey DeFrancesco… but also I’ve been hugely influenced by 70’s progressive rock musicians such as Rick Wakeman or Dave Stewart from Egg, Hatfield and the North, Khan, National Health… and also Spanish prog musicians such as Kitfus from Iceberg, Marcos Mantero from Imán Califato Independiente and the Marinelli brothers from Alameda. In terms of production, recording, and work ethics I should cite Tame Impala and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.
José Gálvez: As a sitar player, my main influences during the last years were Ryu Kurosawa, from Kikagaku Moyo, and Gualberto García, former guitarist of Sevillian band Smash, who merged classical Hindu tradition and Flamenco. Concerning the acoustic guitar, the music of Steve Hackett has always been one of my greatest references (ever), but I think you can also feel some Nike Drake vibes on this album.
Catalina Requena: Couldn’t say. I have grown up with the music my parents listened to and that is why bands like Rush or Pink Floyd have been decisive in my understanding of music. Tool has been another of my great influences due to its solemnity, its violent and primitive atmosphere topped off with a voice that is both mellow and ruthless. Also Majorcan rock bands like Antònia Font, whose poetry and genuineness move me, apart from the beauty of the Majorcan language and the way in which it is used. Recently I have connected with the culture of my native Argentina, and artists like Luis Alberto Spinetta or Mercedes Sosa. I find it difficult to think of influences because absolutely everything I listen to becomes part of my creative repertoire. I like to open up and experiment with what I hear. Sometimes I just let myself be guided by the subconscious.
Paco García: When I started playing drums my main influences were Chad Smith from RHCP and José Pasillas from Incubus. I always loved funk and disco music. Then I started discovering British music and bands I wrongly thought would make the same old pop music. I was introduced to Tame Impala, Talking Heads, Mac DeMarco… artists, and bands that have become some of my greatest references.
Pablo Abarca: Of course Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull. Also Youenn Le Berre de Gwendal, jazz and flamenco flutist and saxophonist Jorge Pardo, Greg Pattillo, James Galway, Salvador Espasa… I studied flute at the conservatory but I always try to go beyond the purely academic.
Chico Jr. Paredes: To prepare for the recording of the album I listened to Soft Machine a lot. Luis discovered them for me. Also Pink Floyd and Earth, Wind & Fire. But my biggest influence is my father, who is also a bass player and he always helped me. He’s the “primal bass player” for me. Also, I really enjoy listening to Vulfpeck’s Joe Dart, Level 42’s Mark King, Bee Gees’ Maurice Gibb, Grand Funk Railroad’s Mel Schacher, and many other virtuosos such as Nick Beggs, for example.
We try to synthesize the psychedelic experience with all the layers of sound that we can put together
TLM: Can you describe the music of Abstracción?
Luis Monge: We try to synthesize the psychedelic experience with all the layers of sound that we can put together. Thus we begin to create a sensory journey that is still in its early stages. Guitars, keyboards, flute, sitar, bass, percussion, drums, voice are the tools with which we try to build this experience.
Abstraction is a prologue. A declaration of intent. An experimental exercise in abstraction in itself. The music, the titles of the songs and their lyrics are independent faces of the same prism
TLM: Tell us a few things about your self-titled debut album, released in 2020. Why was it a mini-album and not a full LP?
Luis Monge: Abstraction is a prologue. A declaration of intent. An experimental exercise in abstraction in itself. The music, the titles of the songs, and their lyrics are independent faces of the same prism, but each one had a different origin. The instrumental parts have one meaning for me when I wrote them, the titles have another, and Catalina’s lyrics have a different one for her. Each thing was inspired by what the song conveyed at a certain moment. We want the listener to be able to shape his or her own abstraction, to give meaning to our music. We do not want to explain what the songs mean to us because it is something very personal and we don’t want that to influence what they can mean to each listener.
Regarding duration, I believe that music has to be as it comes up. A song should feel natural, it should last as long as it needs to last, have the time signature changes and sections that it really needs to have… whatever the song needs of natural form, and not force it to be more complex or longer or shorter. Well, something similar has happened with the album. I really knew what I wanted to express and those six songs came out plus the final improvisation. Adding more songs to take advantage of the 12” running time would have been forcing it. It has a meaning and it’s as it should be.
TLM: You decided to self-release the album. Why’s that?
Luis Monge: We don’t consider taking it to any label. I wanted to have full control of the physical production of this album. At all times I’ve felt that it was something very personal and meaningful to me. I wanted only a limited and very neat vinyl edition. I’m not sure if with a label we would have had this. Too many risks for them considering it’s our debut. In any case, we did the promotion for the album together with Nooirax Producciones, who also have their own label, and the truth is that we almost feel like part of the family of bands that make it up.
TLM: Is there a scene down there in Spain? There are many “interesting” bands that are hailing from your country the last years… I can mention at least 5-6 really cool Spanish bands!
Luis Monge: Yeah, sure! There’s a very powerful psychedelic and progressive scene in Spain. Now and in the past. Since the end of the 60s, we had bands like Los Brincos or Smash that got into beat music, British and American psychedelia, and progressive sounds. During the 70s we had an amazing outbreak of progressive bands but sadly is not as remembered as that of other European countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, or Germany. In the big cities like Madrid and Barcelona, the American and British influence was very high so it was a tendency to imitate what came from outside. But there were scenes with a very defined identity: in the south Andalusian rock proliferated and in the north, psychedelia fused with native folk music… There was a variety and huge wealth. Bands such as Triana, Imán Califato Independiente, Bloque, Crack, Gòtic, Máquina! or Haizea deserve to be better known.
In the last decade, with the digital age, we have had an explosion of new artists and bands. Bands like Melange, Los Estanques, Mohama Saz, Magick Brother & Mystic Sister, Moura, Naqued Family, Cró!, Frutería Toñi… the psychedelic and progressive scenes are very powerful right now.
TLM: Would you like to name a few “new” bands that you like? From Spain and from all over the world?
Luis Monge: I want to recommend the Finnish band Oranssi Pazuzu, who makes a fusion of psychedelic and space rock music with black metal. A very genuine, experimental, and amazing fusion. They sound raw, dark, and aggressive but with that organic sound from 70’s psych music.
Pablo Bermejo: I think one band that everyone should listen to is Los Estanques. They are, without a doubt, my current favorite band.
Paco García: I’ll say Ferrán Palau, Vera Fauna, Nuria Graham, Andy Shauf and Parcels for example.
José Gálvez: Rosario la Tremendita is a Flamenco singer who also plays bass. Her album Delirium Tremens is my first choice, an absolutely innovative piece of music. My second choice is A la Vida, Al dolor by Gualberto García, his first solo album. And last but not least, Monstre by Courtney Swain. I just can’t describe it further from “I love it”. Very emotional and refreshing album.
Pablo Abarca: Pinhas and Sons is an Israeli group that sings in Hebrew and makes an approach to modern jazz and progressive music, with a very original proposal. They are similar to Snarky Puppy, less well known but of great quality.
Catalina Requena: AURORA is an incredible Norwegian artist who has a wonderfully sweet voice and she mixes folk music with synths. And Jack Stauber is another great American artist who also uses synths in his music and he has a really theatrical and histrionic style. They are both very experimental and quirky.
Chico Jr. Paredes: Vulfpeck, Boy Pablo, and Living Camboya, which is a funk-rock band from Malaga.
TLM: How are you coping with these strange pandemic days? What about the band’s future plans?
Luis Monge: We are currently writing our second album. That’s the next step for Abstraction. Due to the fact of living far away from each other and having different agendas, it’s not feasible for us to get together and give concerts. At least for the moment. In fact, we’re pleasantly surprised because all vinyl records have been sold out in just one year without ever having performed live once. So the pandemic has not been an inconvenience for the band but for our personal lives. Like any other person.
TLM: Anything else that you’d like to add?
Luis Monge: Thanks for all the support you are giving us, it’s very gratifying to discover that they value our work outside of our country. This is very special to us.
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