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Musos' Guide Interviews Los Retumbes

  • Written by  Debbie Sheringham

Los Retumbes are a tumultuous twosome from the Basque Country (which, for those who don’t know, is neatly nestled next to the southern French border in northern Spain). Formed in 2017, Mr. & Mrs. Retumbes recorded and released their first single earlier this year.

To give you the reader, some background, Ana and I met on Facebook a few months ago. We got chatting, and the rest is history. Luckily for me her brother lives near Edinburgh, and she and Andres are regular visitors to the city. I met with them during their recent trip ...

Ms B: Los Retumbes is a fairly recent project for you both, and you have cited your sound as ‘between Link Wray and The Clash’, could you expand on that for the readers?  

LR: Our influences are from early rock and roll, Link Wray, Bo Diddley, Little Richard to ‘70’s punk. But also surf music and ‘60s garage. There are many kinds of music in Los Retumbes!

Ms B: ...but what style of music was it which really got you into what you’re doing now with Los Retumbes?

LR: (Andres) Punk rock, because in the town where we are from (Barakaldo) the musical scene is punk, punk and punk.

Ms B: ...does that include ‘60s punk, or is it more ‘70s driven?

LR: ...from ‘70s to now. It’s a very particular style of punk, only from our city, but there are punk bands in the town (Distorsion, Parabellum) who are famous all over Spain. One particular band (Parabellum) are still playing to the present day.

Ms B: ...are they a political punk band? (thinking of the Basque conflict 1959-2011).

LR: Today no, but in the past yes. There was a thing called Radical Basque Rock, it was very important in the ‘80s/’90s, and the place where we live was very influenced, and there were many bands playing that kind of music. It was not only political lyrics, and they sang in both Spanish and Basque.

Ms B: ...so how did you get into the music of the ‘60s?

LR: Since the beginning (Andres) mostly listened to punk bands, about 20 years ago he started to listen to other styles of music.

Ms B: ...did you have garage bands visiting your town, or did you have to travel?

LR: We are the only garage band in our town! There is a band called The Paniks from (Bermeo & Barakaldo) who are ‘western’ garage, and The Lie Detectors, but in our town/Basque Country, there are no other bands. The bands that make garage music are based more in the East and South of Spain.    

Ms B: Your other band, The Brand New Sinclairs, seem to have a distinctly Mod flavour …

LB: We started Brand New Sinclairs 11 years ago. We were in the Mod scene, and the music in the beginning was more rhythm & blues and beat, and very accepted by the Mods. With the years, maybe because we are more open to other music, we have changed. The drummer and bass player are different from the originals, and they have bought more rock and roll and garage, so we’ve changed. Although the music is still very ‘60s, it’s changed.

Ms B: Let’s talk about your Los Retumbes new EP. I see that it’s produced by Jorge Explosion aka Jorge Munoz-Cobo, formally of the formidable Dr. Explosion. Wow - that’s pretty impressive indeed. I saw them play at the Frat Shack in London about 20 years ago, and they were pretty crazy. Big fan of Dr Explosion.

LB: Us too! We were very pleased to go and record the EP with Jorge. We wrote to him, and Andres (all the time) was saying ‘this band has to record with Jorge - this is a must’. It is a great move for this kind of music. We wrote to him, and we didn’t know if he would respond because Jorge only works with the kind of music he likes. If he doesn’t like it, he won’t do it. We were no-one, we were very young (in terms of how long the band had been together), we wrote to him and we thought he was not going to write back. But he liked it, and he’s brilliant! When we were recording he said ‘you are going to do this’ and he makes songs ‘bigger’. (Andres) ‘I say he’s a freak and he’s a genius!’.

Ms B: Wow… Super. Has Jorge helped to push you into the wider garage world?

LB: Jorge speaks several times a year on a radio show called (El Sótano, Radio3) he talked about Los Retumbes and our track ‘Surfing Fukushima’ as he likes it very much, and on Facebook he wrote about us; ‘pay attention to this band’ etc. He’s helped very much. He’s put us on the map, no one knew us before, so it was very important to us.

Ms B: ...yes, I can see why. He has a lot of credibility, and contacts all over the world.

LB: Yes, that’s right.

Ms B: So, when you were recording with Jorge, what was the process? What kind of equipment did you use? Was it recorded in Jorge’s own studio, Estudios Circo Perotti?

LB: Yes, it was his studio, in a basement. It’s very small. He has two levels, the second level for reverb. He has a big tank for reverb. With Jorge, you start recording, and as you are playing, he’s thinking about what he’s going to do with those songs. But the first thing he did was check our equipment, (Ana) and he took my toms and he started playing and he was an hour deciding what was the correct formation, and finally he said ‘hmm, we are not going to use your equipment, we are going to use mine’. That’s why I have bought (from Ebay) the same equipment that I used to record, because he didn’t like mine.

Ms B: Did he get you to record live?

LB: Yes, it’s all recorded live. I was in the sound booth, Andres was with with Jorge in the office, one amp was in the wardrobe, and one in the toilet! (Andres) Because when recording with the amp in the toilet, it sounds great because of the echo. (Ana) To play at the same time was difficult, because I was playing in a different part of the studio, so I had to twist around to see him.

Ms B: ... was it all analogue equipment?

LB: Yes, all analogue, vintage equipment. Recorded on magnetic tape (shows a picture of reel to reel tape machine). There was no digital equipment, just at the end of the mixing he had to put it on the computer to give us MP3’s. (Showing pics - Ana) this is my set-up, and I had many microphones!

Ms B: ...what an amazing experience!

LB: Yes. A very good experience.

Ms B: Moving onto band No.3, Anita y Los Peleles ... I’ve seen pictures - you’re all in stripes. Very traditional.

LB: (Ana) We are a rock and roll band for the family. Not just for kids, but parents. We have the same lineup as The Sinclairs. Years ago there was a project called ‘rock n roll bands for kids’ so that kids can listen to another kind of music, not the horrible kind of music they are forced to listen to. They called the Brand New Sinclairs three or four times, and asked us to play our music, but particularly aimed at kids. So we played our music, and two or three covers. Kids liked it very much. It was very different and very beautiful. So, as we liked it so much we said we don’t like that people think that BNS are a band for kids, so why don’t we prepare another set list, and have another band just for that purpose. So, Anita y Los Peleles, it means Anita and the Fools. A fool that does everything I tell them to do, it’s funny and sweet at the same time. We do all covers, rock and roll songs from ‘50s to ‘70s, twist, and we change the lyrics to be suitable for children under 18. I change them completely. If the lyrics are okay, then I just translate them (to Spanish) for songs that are Latin, they are perfect, we don’t change them. It’s a different experience. It’s rock and roll, but it’s not rock and roll, because you have to measure every movement and measure your words, but I like it very much. I like playing with kids, because not for them it’s with them, and they dance with you. So there’ll be a kid who goes home and asks her parents for a guitar.

Ms B: ...that’s brilliant. Sowing the seeds…

LB: Yes, and the parent’s like it as well.

Ms B: Tell me about the record label, Family Spree Recordings.

LB: They are a new label, but they are working very hard. They run it as a family. There is very little distribution in Spain, or specialised record shops, but you can buy it from Family Spree Bandcamp. There’s a limited run - and half have sold already. The label promotes us, and we’ve been played in France and Greece, but no one knows how they came by the recordings!

Ms B: What does the future hold for Los Retumbes?

LR: First of all, we’ll release our new videoclip made in Scotland (you saw it first!)

Then we are going to have some gigs to introduce the EP everywhere we can, hope in Edinburgh soon. And after that, play, play, play and play, and meanwhile record again!

Ms B: Lastly, in your own words describe your band…

LR: Los Retumbes are a married couple who live in a house full of books, records and guitars. They kill boredom by playing music fast and loud!

Ms B: Thank you to Ana and Andres, it’s been a pleasure.

Please check out their Facebook page here, and their EP is available from Family Spree Recordings bandcamp page. Los Retumbes will be playing in Edinburgh early next year, date TBC. I hope you’re as excited as I am.

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