Interview: La Bien Querida

by Juan Manuel Torreblanca
Pics by Mariel

It might have been an odd sight for Ana. Though I don’t know if there’s something to expect typically when you’re about to meet an interviewer overseas. But, I suspect that a hotel lobby invasion, with a colourful Lido Pimienta bouncing from sofa to sofa under that dark cloud of hair and speaking in that incredibly loud & high-pitched colombian melody of hers. The petite & elegantly silent gorgeousness of Mariel (in her sorta latin pin-up style). And my own strange mix of post-gig outfit with not-enough-sleep and too-much-heat scruffiness… and my nervousness, that might’ve been an odd sight.

Still I tried to be as professional as possible. I got there right on time. Even a bit before everyone else. (I must confess I’m only bragging because I almost never achieve that). Soon after we arrived (Mariel was my photographer and Lido… well, lido was just Lido.) Ana Fernandez-Villarde got there too, walking alongside David Rodríguez & a couple more persons of her crew. But she lost them at the door to greet us alone. I didn’t know whether to wait for the record label people or just to start the interview. I asked her and she wasn’t sure either. Her big black sunglasses made it impossible for me to get to her eyes. It was still early, scorching hot, a morning that one should spend in bed, and it was also the morning after her performance opening for Julieta Venegas’ big concert at Mexico City’s Teatro Metropolitan (in front of around 3,500 enthusiasts)… I didn’t want it to be a drag. And I was very curious and eager to meet this mysterious and enchanting woman and hear about her experience. I hadn’t been able to attend the show (as it was also the night of the IMAS and my band was nominated) but I had heard about La Bien Querida suffering some serious technical difficulties. So I asked if it was ok for me to record and I, then, asked if she wasn’t too tired after everything she’d been doing.

I had read a bunch of interviews to prepare myself and I was afraid she might find my questions dumb and give me icy, one-word answers. But she was very warm, generous and open. She told me everything that had happened the night before right away; basically, the guitars that were available for them that night hadn’t been properly setup and their intonation was out. I’m not a guitarist, but I understand that that is a problem that you can’t solve immediately, so (in the rush of the moment) it made it very difficult for them to enjoy the show as much as they wanted to. She was a bit sad, a bit disappointed, and she even told us that she had needed to take a pill to help herself stay calm about it afterwards.

We spoke a bit about her other gigs in Mexico City during her visit, a previous one at El Imperial (celebrating Elephant Records’ arrival to México) and a following one at Centro Cultural España. I explained a bit about my collaboration with Club Fonograma and how much the blog loves her. She was gladly surprised about it.

My Garage Band was then ready and I proceeded to begin the formal interview:

Juan Manuel Torreblanca: I heard that the gig at El Imperial was good, I actually went there but couldn’t get in.

Ana: El Imperial was a very good show! It was packed. Yes, very good.

JM: So… I wanted to ask a couple of questions that interest me as a musician first, I’m sorry if they’re a little abstract or strange.

A: Let’s see…

JM: What’s music to you? How would you define music?

A: Well, um… I believe that music is… feelings that one has inside, and one has to get out. And… that’s it.

JM: And I would also be interested in knowing, what pleases you the most: composing, the process of recording or playing live?

A: Composing. More than anything. More than anything, the songwriting is what gives you the greatest satisfaction. To make songs.

JM: Could you talk to me about some of your influences?

A: Um… well, I have so many… Songs. Traditional. Popular songs. Many within the Indie-Pop scene. Some more mainstream too. A little bit of everything. Everything interests me.

JM: And we are talking basically about songs in Spanish, or could we talk about influences in English or other languages too?

A: Well, in English… there are groups that have had a big influence on me, like los Cure or los Magnetic Fields… And… I don’t know…

JM: Yes, I feel one could say there’s a sort of similar essence there, I am a huge fan of the Magnetic Fields, I love them…

(She nods courteously after my interruption.)

A: mhm…

JM: So, moving on towards more traditional questions: what’s the future like for La Bien Querida? What’s next? In which direction would you like your music to evolve?

A: Well, the idea for the next record… mmhm… I would like to make it a little more modern, so to speak. (She smiles sweetly.) And… and a little more guitarrero, more electric. Something like that…

JM: And… I’m sensing maybe a little more aggressive, too?

A: Yes, more aggressive.

JM: Good… is there someone that you would like to collaborate with, someone that you might not have worked with yet?

A: Well I’m not really thinking about that at the moment. Because… I don’t know… with friends of mine who… like Los Planetas, that I like very much, I have already worked with, with Joe Crepusculo, with Sr. Chinarro too. I don’t think about who I will like to work with in advance, instead I just let myself go, I let things happen, and… very nice things seem to come to me. I try not to aim too high, so that anything that comes is more pleasant.

JM: I like that! I also ask this, I guess, because I think that nowadays, with the new technologies, and this constant discovery of people and projects in a more personal and immediate way; you might suddenly find friends, artists or musicians that you might feel you want to work with… you know? even if they might not be something that you’d been listening to before…

A: Yes. Of course.

JM: Well, so, before your coming to México, how close did you feel Spain’s new Indie scene was to the Latin American scene? This new breed of Spanish sung Indie (coexisting with that sung in English too), all these things that have been emerging…

A: Eehm… Well, as I understand it… here… because, el Indie in Spain has been coming… it’s a little older, no? But Indie here, in Mexico at least, from almost 6 or 7 years ago until now, its reemerging and it’s really strong, I see lots of people with many interests and an urge to do new things and such…

JM: Yes and the arrival of strong Indie labels such as Elephant is helping too…

A: Yes, something’s being born here.

JM: And, which, would you say, are the main obstacles when it comes to music making from the independent world?

A: (She sighs)… well… of course, you need money, to make a record, you know? Because… if you’re lucky you might do it at home, and you might achieve something interesting with those means; but then, it’s not only making the record, you need someone to distribute it and to make it known, because… there are plenty of interesting artists doing interesting things but still… they don’t…

JM: They don’t have that platform?

A: Yes.

JM: Well… I’ll go back to the hippy questions now.

A: Let’s see… those are harder for me.

JM: It’s just that I don’t want them to be boring… but… ok… have you ever been to a therapist?

A: No. I did it once but… no…

JM: You didn’t like it?

A: No… but, it was basically because I think that… a therapist, for example, is… well, the psychiatrist, what he does is give you pills, right? But the psychologist is the one that’s going to want you to talk, who’ll want to talk to you. And he’s just human; he’s just a person like me, so… mmh…

JM: I guess I was asking this because in a world of songs, sometimes from the listener’s point of view, you relate to them and they allow catharsis to happen and… they can be a rather therapeutic experience too… so…

A: Sure! And… no… well, the songs, I make them in a very therapeutic way, and… um… I am the character in the songs, but, at the same time, that’s not me, because… I am not as bland as the songs. And in the songs I say things that, in real life, I would not dare say. So that’s me, but that’s also not me.

So, after that one, I ended the proper interview with La Bien Querida and we just talked some about Mexico, Ana told us that she likes it so much that she’d even like to live here, she told us about her family in Mexico (who she’d come to visit in Torreon before). And we talked about how Mexican audiences are a bit warmer compared to Spanish or European audiences. It’s a personality thing, she said, and something you hear often I might add. Ana told us that she really wants to come back with her full band before the year ends.

I always get really nervous when I have to interview someone, and I noticed upon hearing the recording again and again that I unconsciously tried to keep things going at a fast pace. Ana’s answers came slow and thoughtful, while sincere and generous. And often followed by shy and intelligent smiles. I tried to avoid uncomfortable silences, but now I regret that maybe I missed a couple gems when I pushed things forward like that. She is and isn’t the character in her songs, but the same thing happens to me with her music, if I give it the time, if I let the poetry sink in slowly, it captivates me much more. And as my final note I will say that Mariel, Lido Pimienta and me, we all agreed that Ana, in person, parallel to La Bien Querida’s character, is really bien querible.