Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Walking Under Picore's Balls

Photo by Arianne Picón.

Picore say they work hard to make their music “suggestive and danceable” and there are always people moving around at their shows. However, there’s still something about their style that seems like every once in a while it would have to be met with slack jawed staring and drooling while you oozed off into space.

The Spanish band (from Zaragoza) use a few superfluously hyphenated self descriptions that play with the idea that their songs and lyrics could be hymns. For example, “angular-rock-with-sermons” or “danceable-but-not-hype-rock-with-prayer-lyrics-in-Spanish.” The meandering guitar and sluggish tempo force singer Dani Jiménez to chant more often than sing.

The band likes to use the word “Trance,” because it has the least connotations. The same idea applies to the band name and all the "core" genres (although the Spanish pronunciation could lead one astray, "Pee-core-ay"). It’s this sort of ideology that makes the group well suited to the music collective they’re a part of, called Magofermín. The group likewise rejects branding at a basic level, refusing to even accept terms such as “record label.” The idea behind it is to free the people involved to focus just on the music and to try and create a greater distance between business and art. They must’ve been able to focus well, because they’ve only been around for three years and have around thirty releases. One of the group’s only conditions for inducting members is that they have to spread the simple idea that culture is a basic human right. Picore says, “Music shall be free!!! -as every essential-human-activity should be.” All of the band’s recent releases are available to download for free on their bandcamp.

The lyrics on their last album, Imagínate que Acierto, are similarly strongly opinionated. Jiménez is impressively able to create concise one sentence rundowns for each song. The album covers themes ranging from class warfare to the relationship between commerce and art to the collapse and complete fall of civilization. It might be a bit apocalyptic, but the words seem to be calling on individual reason and have hope for change. It makes the music sound all the more like it’s spoken through pressed palms (and thankfully not preached from a pulpit).

Yet, the group isn’t trying to talk to gods that don’t answer back, because communication is important to them. A lot of their songs contain strong political ideas and it seems like their intent is to start a conversation. There are a few themes that they mentioned, but said they’d need more than a few coffees to discuss. The way they talk about it makes it seem like the music is just the beginning part of a process. To complete it Jiménez says, “you should let me know what your ears feel and then we could start talking about it. We'd probably get to understand each other quickly.”

Ironically, there was a communication problem during the interview. I translated the band’s last album, Imagínate Que Acierto, to “Imagine the Success,” assuming that “acierto” was a noun. It was in fact a verb, making it “Imagine that I’m Right” (or maybe "Pretend that I'm Right").

They explain that the idea is a commentary on the justifications people (themselves included) make for their actions. Jiménez says, “It’s something funny when you're joking, but horrible when someone who is in power does it.” The band is able to translate the personal observation to current global issues, saying, “For example, deciding to fuck over millions of people in a minute: ‘crisis, crisis, beware, we need to fix it and we'll kill you all, it will hurt at first, you might suffer a bit, but you must believe this will help you all in the end…’” Although they do concede, “The way we meant it as the title to the album was the funny one though.”

However, the misinterpretation we had just goes to demonstrate all the possible conversations that can emerge from Picore. They sing in Spanish, but also post all their lyrics in English to keep all doors open. They say that even though they speak another language in an English dominated western environment, they think there are still a lot of opportunities and find themselves well received around the world. They explain, “The best experience we can have as a band is meeting people who enjoy our music and feel interested in having real communication through it.”
Art by Munster Estudio. 
 Picore seems to be a group of open minded and nice people, even if their music and ideas might seem aggressive. The juxtaposition is even present on the album cover for Imagínate Que Acierto. A crowd of people moves in front of a giant sitting on a chair with a dog laying beneath. They explain that the dog is a “perrito pachón” or “calm doggy.” Continuing, they say, “It’s peaceful, but it is in fact a powerful man's dog.” In reference to the album title’s meaning, guitarist Thomas House speaks for the giant, saying “Hey, Imagine that I'm right, but whether I am or not, you'll still have to walk under my balls...”

Read the whole interview below:

Picore is:
Cristian Barros (guitar), también responsable de la grabación de Imagínate Que Acierto en Puk! (Zaragoza)
Thomas House (guitar)
Dani Jiménez (vocals)
David García (bass)
Pablo Jiménez (drums)
the last 2 members: aka "equipo" (bass&drums) -private joke.

What does Picore mean?

Nothing. It started just as a joke against this ridiculous labelling (you know, anything ended with "core"), and it sounds similar to the word "itch" in Spanish). Let's say this might be our particular version of the "post-world music" joke invented by Za!...

Can you explain why you call yourselves a trance rock "five piece" quartet?

We are a 5 piece quartet since Thomas House joined us. Now he's our part-time 5th member based up North, in Brighton. It was a "progressive" thing, step by step -first touring together, then recording, finally playing live. "Trance" is the best label we found, precisely because it doesn't sound like a label (maybe a bit hippie, though...). Some others: "angular-rock-with-sermons," "danceable-but-not-hype-rock-with-prayer-lyrics-in-spanish…" or "stricto-sensu-contemporary-rock," to sum up.

Do you see a lot of people dancing at your shows or is it mostly (as you put it) “cerebrum reorganization?”

Just dancing. The “cerebrum” has to work on it as well. In fact we make real effort trying to focus on making our music suggestive and danceable. We really see our music as a bunch of danceable tunes trying to hit your hips!

I guess this quote comes from a description of our music our friends from Dalston (London) wrote some years ago. They have been the best ones to catch and dance to our music, for now.

You’re part of a collective that rejects the term “record label” and labeling in general. Can you explain what Magofermín is and what your role is with the group?

Magofermín is a 3 year old DIY collective based in our city that works for local bands with copyright licenses and has more than 30 releases since the project started. Their work is amazing, not focused on a concrete style, but on music itself. The only condition they ask the bands for is sharing their political ideas about culture as a basic right and what the distance should be between creative activities and the kind of business which has nothing to see with "art" -or however you call music. Power to the people! That's why we decided to join the collective. Our contribution is basically making music, playing, touring and spreading their word around everywhere we can talk about it - like we're doing right now!

I noticed that your music is in the public domain and you offer your most recent stuff for free online. Do you want to say a few words about your philosophy of music distribution?

We do it ourselves: closer, easier, cheaper, healthier and better. Music shall be free!!! -as every essential-human-activity should be.

Promotional Poster for Imaginate Que Acierto.
A translation I did for the title of your last album, Imaginate Que Acierto, was “Imagine the Success!” What sort of success are we talking about here?

Well, there’s a little problem with the translation there. I would say it’s more like “Imagine that I’m right,” (or maybe “Pretend that I’m right”). There’s a subject but it’s not written on it, Imagínate que (Yo) Acierto. In fact it’s a kind of self-homage to the fight against the deductive method (or justifications) in which some of us are involved, willingly or not. The title refers to one of the best ways to explain how that reasoning works. You know, saying/doing something and then trying to build up an explanation for what you said/did. It’s something funny when you're joking, but horrible when someone who is in power does it, I mean, for example, deciding to fuck over millions of people in a minute: "crisis, crisis, beware, we need to fix it and we'll kill you all, it will hurt at first, you might suffer a bit, but you must believe this will help you all in the end…" The way we meant it as the title to the album was the funny one, though.

Is that a pig or a pitbull on the cover?

It’s a “perrito pachón” (calm doggy). It’s peaceful, but it is in fact a powerful man's dog. As Thomas said when he saw the cover, the man who's sitting is saying to the crowd below him, "Hey, Imagine that I'm right, but whether I am or not, you'll still have to walk under my balls..."

There are lyrics in one of your songs that say “el problema es occidental,” or “the problem is western.” There seem to be some ideas like that which repeat on the album. Do you want to comment on some of them?

Well, this is dramatically true: the problem is occidental, don't you think so? I do. Our lyrics are not "explicit," but most of them refer to politics. Trying to "keep our feet on the ground" is an important part of both the musical and the lyrical concept. “Al Revés” (in reverse), on how the poor feeds the rich; “Prisa mata Amigo” (haste kills), on the fall of a civilization; “Navegabilidad” (navigability), on David Harvey's accumulation by dispossession; “Empuja” (push) on a stupid idea of meritocracy; “Milagros” (miracles) on the fakeness of Spanish recent history; “Cómo Están Ustedes” (How are you folks?) on fighting fear and loathing; “Campeón” (champ) on the "market of art"; “Comunico” (I communicate) on cultural trash; To complete the comunication process, you should let me know about what your ears feel and then we would start talking about it. We'd probably get to understand each other quickly.

How does the "western problem" relate to your music? How do you feel about making music in your native language in a western musical environment where English is everywhere? (...and foolish journalists make you do interviews in English?)

It’s perfect, no problem at all with the language. It would be great if the western problem was just related to that. And talking about that environment, I think we found a way to benefit from the possibilities we have from it, in musical terms. We try to integrate the rusty modern environmental machinery in our music and try to be a respectful to that environment. Our native language is the best one in which we can say things. It's as simple as that. We could make it in English, but the words would be much worse, simply "standard and poor" ones -there are lots of bands that already make it. Communication is important, though, and that's why our lyrics are translated into English in our 2 last albums... and thanks to some foolish journalists we have the chance to work on our English...

What is the independent music scene like in Spain?

Quite enjoyable. Most of the "independent" stuff is not really independent -this happens everywhere. And those who want to be really independent have to deal with many other things that make your life harder than it should be. That's why being independent leads you to a permanent struggle and that's why people involved in these underground scenes deserve so much respect and support. They are really saving an important part of contemporary culture, wherever they work and whatever they do. The Spanish scene is younger than other European scenes (this is a social, political, historical... question that would need a few coffees to discuss, I guess), but a wonderful network has been growing up during the last couple of decades.

What have your experiences been like in Barcelona?

Great. We are proud to be part of a big family whose members in Barcelona are the people in Ojalá esté mi Bici, a part of Anteojos BookingFamilea MirandaZa, some Sant Feliu friends and many more lovely dudes. Every time we play music close to them it’s great for us.

Though Sant Feliu (in Girona) will always be the first place (T., B. & Atzavara crew, you fucking legends), Barcelona is our favourite city to play here. The most precious jewel DIY world has in Barcelona is a crazy collective called Ojalá esté Mi Bici. You should contact and meet them!

How is your music received in other countries?

Extremely fine. The best experience we can have as a band is meeting people who enjoy our music and feel interested in having real communication through it. We are lucky we've had the chance to live this same experience in many different places. UK is our favorite territory, but we also like the Basque Country, France, Czech Republic, Austria… We have good mates in many cities, who gave us the opportunity to say, "glad that we were friends" (like Mark Trecka from Pillars And Tongues). Having a successful tour means keeping in touch with those nice people and music is the best tool we can use to make it work.

What are some of your favorite records?

The ones by Make Believe, L’ Ocelle Mare, Cleckhuddersfax, Skeleton Crew, Ben Goldberg, Please, Captain Beefheart, The Bitter Tears, Us Maple, Tom Zè,... Charlottefield, The Ex, Deerhoof, Enablers, Bilge Pump, Lungfish, Big Blood, The Jesus Lizard, Diego Carrasco...

What other "Spanish" bands would you recommend to someone?

What are the band’s plans for the future?
  • Playing a Festival for A Tant Rever Du Roi's 10th Anniversary in Pau (France) on april 14th
  • Touring Spain and France with Enablers (USA) and Fordamage (France) in may 9-19th. The "Conga Tour", it's going to be great.
  • Playing Primavera Sound in Barcelona on june 1st.
  • Playing London, Nottingham (Gringo Record's 15th anniversary) and Brighton in june 7-10th.
  • Releasing a split with Familea Miranda (Chile/Barcelona), Lyssa (Prague) and OTK (Prague) on Silver Rocket Records (Czech Republic).
  • Releasing a split with Shield Your Eyes (London) on Gringo Records (Nottingham)
  • Later on, 2nd half of 2012: play as much as we are allowed to and working on the stuff for our 5th album...

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