El Guincho

El Guincho
The recording project of Barcelona’s Pablo Días-Reixa, El Guincho, combines jovial, smile-inducing Tropicalia with swelling found sound and elaborate composition. The project started as a bedroom recording project for Días-Reixa but, thanks to well-received appearances at SXSW and a universally positive response to his debut album, Alegranza, released on Australia’s Discoteca Océano earlier this year, he’s achieved worldwide success. This month, XL Recordings and Young Turks will finally be issuing the album to Europe and North America. Exclaim! endured a crappy phone connection with Días-Reixa in Barcelona to find out about his first experiences with the U.S. and how he’s dealing with the boredom of his old songs.

What are you up to right now?
I’m trying to remix songs. They sound a bit cooler because I got a new synthesizer. I’m not bringing a sampler live with me anymore because I got bored of it.

Did you make Alegranza with just a sampler?
It had live instruments like drums, and guitars, but essentially the album is made of samples.

What will you use live instead of your sampler?
I’m going to bring my synthesizer, and I’m going to be using a mixer with a hard-drive, so I’ll have the rhythm tracks. It’s like having a rhythm machine with you, but instead of just pressing play I’ll have this hard-drive. It’s kind of like an eight-track mixer. I’m bringing my friend to play bass parts on a sampler pad. That’s what El Guincho will be now.

What is Coconot?
Coconot was my old band in Barcelona. We recorded a new album, but we’re not playing live anymore. I used to play drums and sampler and sing. And I would also play a little guitar that I got from the Canary Islands. We toured around Spain and Portugal for 2005 and 2006.

What did that band sound like?
It was pretty cool. When I was writing my material for the band, it didn’t always fit for the style, because we had guitars and stuff. It was something really different than what we were playing, it sounded really jammy or something. So that’s how I released my first solo record as El Guincho.

On Wikipedia there is an album listed before Alegranza. Was that the first El Guincho record?
I think you’re talking about a CD-R I recorded one night when I was really high. It wasn’t an album. It was like a demo. I wrote all the songs in one night and recorded it quickly.

How did you arrive at this sound?
I really don’t know. I was really into Tropicalia when I moved to Barcelona six years ago. I was pretty obsessed by that sound, and I kind of wanted to copy that. I used to play in punk bands and stuff like that, and I wanted to bring the Tropicalia and Caribbean influences to my sound, but it ended up being the main thing. I was really obsessed. I got really into the 5/4 rhythms. People started to know who I was with Alegranza, but I’ve been doing this same kind of thing for four years now. I’m ready to change it now and go for a cooler sound.

You often get compared to Panda Bear, probably because you both make sampler-based music. Do you feel like that’s an unfair comparison?
Not at all! I love Animal Collective and Panda Bear. I think it’s more of a U.S. thing, because in Spain everyone compares me to Manu Chao. I’d rather be compared to Animal Collective than Manu Chao. They’re awesome. I saw them play, and their show was amazing. They synchronized the sound with the lights, and it was amazing.

Did you get many offers from record labels, and how did you choose to go with XL Recordings?
I got some offers. I know the guy who is the A&R at XL. He came to meet me in Madrid, and we started talking about records, and we really built a friendship instead of a working relationship or something. It was pretty cool. I love XL Recordings, and he loves Alegranza. He had some really fresh ideas. The deal offered a little bit less money; it wasn’t the biggest offer I got. But I really like the people, and they didn’t put any pressure on me. It was really cool, because in Spain I had major labels offering me tons of money and stuff like that. But I just want to be in my room playing with my synthesizer, that’s it.

Are you at a point where you can do El Guincho full-time?
I do this full-time. I used to work in a studio, I used to compose for advertising and movies in Barcelona. So I’ve been doing this for three and a half years. I wrote three movie scores. I have songs in the new Woody Allen movie.

Are you a classically trained musician?
Yeah, my grandma was a singer and she was a teacher at the music school here, so I went there for four and a half years.

When you’re writing for a movie or television, how is it different than writing your own stuff?
In every way. When I wrote those songs for El Guincho, it was a way to leave behind all the pressure from work. When you’re working and writing music for other people they want it to sound exactly how they want. I wanted it to sound really simple and, I don’t know the word in English, but light or something. I just wanted to have fun in my room.

How did you get discovered in North America?
That’s a good question. I don’t really know actually. I guess it’s from blogging. One blog posted a song, and then another blog posted another song. I went to SXSW in Austin, so maybe that’s where some other record labels got to know me. But the Young Turks and XL offer came before SXSW. I think they heard me on MySpace.

Did you even try to get signed?
Not at all. My friend Philip pressed 1000 records first, and then they sold out really fast, so we did another 1000, and then it happened again, so we did another 1000.

Before SXSW, had you been to North America before?
I was in New York as a kid with my family.

Did you feel a lot of culture shock coming to SXSW?
Oh yeah, lots. I think Austin in Texas is really different. It seems a little bit exotic for me. If you’re from America and you go to Morocco it’s shocking because it’s exotic. For me it was the same, going to America and eating tacos was really insane. It was fun. I love New York, and in some strange way I really love Austin too because it’s really different from where I come from.

Are you going to move to the States?
I don’t think so. I really love where I am. When I went on tour to Australia I really fell in love with the country. Maybe if I move somewhere I’ll move there.

When do you think you’ll put out a new record?
When I write new songs for the live shows, I don’t want to keep those songs for the record. At least not the way they are. So I think when I’m done all my touring in March I’ll start writing a new record.