Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lost in the Woods...or in Translation with Naturalesa Salvatge

Photo by Sibila Estruch.

In Spanish, the word “tranquilo” is pretty versatile, being used for “relaxed,” “peaceful” and even the command “calm down!” Although slightly awkward and not a word that would normally be used to describe a band, its false friend (sort of) in English, “tranquil,” would serve as a good adjective for Naturalesa Salvatge. The Barcelona band’s name is in the regional dialect Catalán and literally means “wild nature.” However just like the tranquil example, sometimes the straight translation loses some of the flavor in the process, and maybe a better one would be “untamed wilderness.”

The name goes well with their sound, as their songs seem to take place deep in the woods. The meandering lead guitar melodies cut paths through the underbrush. The droning vocal harmonies sunken into the mix sound like they are being crooned a mile away from behind a thicket of tree trunks and bushes. The poppy moments add that bit brightness to the songs like twinkling and waning light that filters through the thick branches blocking out the sky. The rhythm is tapped out around a campfire where the five dudes are hanging out having beers and making s’mores.

Although their recordings are chill, the band’s live show is a bit of a crescendo. By the end of their set they break off into experimentation, getting loud, turning up the amplifiers and shouting into the mic. It’s just another example of how their name is appropriate, showing the other meaning of “wild nature.” Although, even a tranquil forest can have a hidden viciousness.

Album Cover of Una Llum Infinita.

The band only has an EP out right now called Una Llum Infinita (An Infinite Light). The name is also in Catalán, even though a majority of the songs in Spanish. The band said it wasn’t a conscious decision to mix the languages, but that it’s something that just happens even in every day conversation when living in Barcelona. Although the EP is short, it captures a lot of promising moments. The song “Ancestros” (“Ancestors”) has a strangely addicting tempo shift, where every instrument hits the same pattern of beats and rests. Even the vocals punch in at the same time with “Hay un agujero, y yo el fondo no veo,” (“There is a hole and I don’t see the bottom”) and “en ese agujero oigo un eco, hay alguien gritando” (“In this hole I hear an echo, there is somebody screaming”). Overall, the six songs show a lot of potential for a genuine Spanish indie rock band.

The group did an interview with The Bomber Jacket and talked about languages, playing music in Spain and a bit about their future plans for an upcoming full length. Read the transcript below.

Where does the name “Naturalesa Salvatge” come from?

The name of the group doesn’t have much thought behind it. Arnau (rhe singer and guitarist) put the name on the first demos that he recorded for the group. After that, we simply weren’t able to find a better one or one that all five of us liked. In the end, it’ll be because nature is wild and makes an impression on everything.

Is there anything transcendental to it (like Thoreau in the forest)?

There isn’t really anything too transcendental to the group. We like peace and tranquility that can come from a Sunday in the woods, spending time with friends, lying under the trees, sharing beers and escaping the city for a few hours. Although, we’re not wiccans! I don’t think there’s anything there to compare with Mr. Thoreau. Although I things keep going like they are now in the world it might make more sense to forget everything and go live in a cabin.

What are you listening to now?

Well, while I’m writing this I’m listening to a playlist on spotify with stuff from Animal Collective to Black Sabbath, passing through John Maus, Nirvana, Wolves in the Throne Room, Warpaint, American Football…The truth is that we all listen to a little bit of everything, I suppose it depends on the day.
A few months ago we did a playlist for the radio show HAO and we put some songs that we liked that represented a bit of what we listen to. If you’re interested it’s here: Naturalesa Salvatge HAO!

There’s a mixture of Spanish (Castellano) and the regional dialect Catalan in the music. Why isn’t it just one or the other?

Not everyone in the group is Catalonian. When we are together hanging out and talking Catalán or Castellano, it just comes out naturally and we don’t stop to think if we’re speaking now in Castellano or now in Catalán. I suppose when it came time to sing or write a song the dynamics were the same.

Does it have anything to do with the “Ancestros” (Ancestors) from the EP?

Strictly talking about your ancestors or more accurately, your origins, dictates your language. Let’s see, if you’re from Albacete, it’s difficult enough if you speak Swedish, even if your grandfather Bjorn taught it to you since you were little. Later, it’s up to each individual to use it as a communication tool or a symbol of identity. Or both.

Some songs seem to be guided by the lead guitar and others by the rhythm (like the pointed tempo in “Ancestros”), etc. With so many members and parts, how do you begin to write songs?

The songs come out in a really organic way in general. Someone comes with a melody or a bass line, some picking…and it begins to play itself. The rest of us add layers and layers until we have something similar to a song. After that, we structure it between everyone and change what we think is necessary. Sometimes it takes more and sometimes less, but like I said, it comes out in a natural way.

Photo by Alfredo Bores.

The whole EP is infinitely calm, but there were some heavy parts at the end of a show I saw of yours at Heliogàbal. Is that something that’s always hidden in the underbrush of the naturalesa?

It’s something that’s in there. Almost all of our former groups were more aggressive, more punk. It makes up a part of who we are and most likely continues from there. Now, we play music that’s more chill, but we can get really angry in the moment. Again, it’s something that comes naturally.

We also like this crescendo that happens in the concerts. It’s always fun to scream and go nuts.

Some people that I talked to told me that Heliogàbal is a really important place for the independent music in Barcelona. What do you think?

Helio is something her like the center of the Barcelona scene. It comes from the people in groups that have played there. We were really excited when they invited us to play with Bear Claw and we would love to do it again. They treated us really well and we had a good time.

What’s it like getting a band started in Barcelona?

We’ve all played in groups before. It makes things easier, because you already know a little of how everything goes. But in general, I think that right now in Barcelona and the areas around it is a great moment for independent music.

What other groups in Barcelona or Spain do you recommend?

The list could be infinite, because there are so many groups that we love and that are also our friends. We always say Zephyr Lake as one of the best groups in Barcelona and we continue to be conviced of it, but we also love The Destroyed RoomMujeresAlimentWind AtlasSíctor ValdañaL’Hereu EscampaUnivers… And outside of Catalonia: Lisbaö, Juanita y los FeosTriangulo de Amor BizarroMargaritaPrisma en LlamasAtomizadorFasenouvaAries…and I could put so many more!

Are there any plans for an album soon?

Right now, we are concentrating on playing, but the idea is to go soon to record. There are a lot of new ideas that are already getting old! And a lot of things that we want to polish in the studio. We’re really excited with the direction that the new songs are taking.

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