Barcelona (ACN).- ‘Els Amics de les Arts’ may not be a household name all over the world but, in Catalonia, this pop band from Barcelona has been an enormous success since 2009. Founded in the Catalan capital in 2005, their most important success came with their last-but-one album, ‘Bed and Breakfast’, which was a complete sell out in the music lists. A few weeks ago, their new album ‘Espècies per catalogar’ (it translates as ‘Species to be catalogued’) came out on the market, with a complete track list of twelve songs. Their first single, ‘Monsieur Cousteau’, became a success. This April, they have started the concerts to present the new disc.
In February 2011, ‘Els Amics de les Arts’ (a name that literally means ‘The Arts Friends’) finished their ‘Bed and Breakfast’ tour with two concerts at Barcelona’s Palau de la Música concert hall. A year later the group talks to ACN in relaxed fashion and with lots of news to tell. An improvised ‘set’ with some beer boxes as chairs is built and the dialogue that kicks off shows that, despite their success, they are still the same. Their new album, ‘Espècies per catalogar’ (Discmedi, 2012) takes some topics to pieces: how doubts in love build new families and how ‘losers’ succeed. We want to check if it’s true as they say, that returning is always the best part of the adventure.
How do you face the expectation generated by your new album?
Eduard Costa: When we finished the ‘Bed and Breakfast’ tour, we knew we wanted to do another album and that we had eight months to devote to it. We have isolated ourselves from this pressure and have lived in our bubble doing creative meetings to make up songs. Now, we are looking forward to sharing our work, we want people to hear our songs.
Has it been a long time for you all away from the stage?
E.C: In a group there is always a balance between the creative part and wanting to be near to the fan. We have our blog, which allows us to connect to people, but it always has to go hand in hand with concerts. The excitement of being able to present our songs, go to greet people after the concerts, listening to their experience while listening to your music... This is a very much needed input.
You have made the album very quickly...
E.C: Well, the quickest album we have made is ‘Bed and Breakfast’ and we devoted less time to it. For us, it has been a luxury to be eight months just thinking on our album. We are hard-working people and while we were doing the Palau de la Música concerts we were thinking of our new songs and looking forward to sitting all together and say ‘What do we have?’ so that we could start setting songs.
Being four in the group, speeds up or makes the production even more difficult?
E.C: It enriches everything. We notice it when we are in a meeting and one of us is not there. We like to make decisions as a group. We, the ‘Amics’ are four, and we work this way.
The new album seems calmer...
Joan Enric Barceló: We have made songs trying to tell things that we are experiencing now, things that are different from two years ago. The previous albums were made in creative moments when we relied on our capacity to make up a joke or anything that makes us connect to people. On the new album we have not gone this way choosing to devote time to the songs, in a traditional craftwork style and by taking care of them.
It seems that you have a lot to say but there is no chorus.
J.E.B: Yes, there are a couple of songs with choruses, but the chorus must be understood as a sum of the whole, not a repetition of what you have said before. For instance, in ‘Els ocells’ (The birds) the chorus always says something new with the same tune. Maybe, this new album is not as easy to sing as ‘Bed and Breakfast’, which has very clear tunes and anyone can sing them.
It also seems like you tried not to think so much about your audience, but rather you tried to do what you really wanted.
J.E.B: It is what we had to do. If you start to think about recording an album to maintain some audience and to make someone happy...We could not do a second version of ‘Bed and Breakfast’. We knew it and what we did was to take the Lego pieces, scatter them around the floor, break everything we have and, finally, build it again. There will be people who will be confused, people who will think it is different, but also people who will know how to value it and think it is new and different from what we did before.
What is the deal with Bruce Willis?
Dani Alegret: Well, Bruce Willis is a myth. No one has had a childhood without having seen the film ‘Die hard’. But, apart from this fact, it was a very useful person to explain the mirror effect there is in the song. It seemed an attractive idea to compare the man who doubles Bruce Willis, a common man, with the hero he acts as, who lives adventures...
As ‘the man who killed Liberty Balance’ or ‘the man who works as a dog’ (songs in ‘Bed and ‘Breakfast’), this man neither is very lucky...
D.A: ‘The man who...’ is a very useful formula to portray these losers without naming them. It is a resource, not an obsession.
We are not very used to optimistic ends of songs, but we find it in the first one. Do you like happy endings now?
Ferran Piqué: We have always liked them, but we owed ourselves a song like this, in which the main character is a man who, without being a winner, becomes successful, he is a ‘loser’ that triumphs.
There is a song devoted to breaking topics: ‘The person who will patent the hugs in the airports will be a multimillionaire and the best part of a journey is always coming back’...
F.P: We came back separately from Germany and when Dani returned, he sent us the sentence “coming back is always the best part of the adventure”. Firstly, we reproached him, but later on we thought: and if it was true? Which character would be the best part of the adventure coming back? Maybe, it is the marriage that we portray here. He wants to be at home, it is an adventure for him. The airports are another thing, they are breaks but also some things meet. The most powerful hugs are in the airports, a public place. Yes, these sentences break topics because sometimes, behind these kind of sentences, it seems that everything counts, and things are not always like this.
Why is the name of the album ‘species to be catalogued’? Is it a preview of what the listener can find inside?
F.P: The process of choosing a title came up from some ideas: explorers, travelling, and not only physically... One day, Eduard searched on all the lyrics every sentence or word that has something special. And, in the song ‘Cousteau’ one of these sentences is ‘Species to be catalogued. We liked it as it could be read in many ways, the characters are some way specie to be catalogued, and they live new experiences, so they need to be catalogued. It fitted in the concept of adventure and the idea that here are some things still not discovered. We are alive, so there are still things to do, it is an opening, like if we left the students apartment in which we were on ‘Bed and Breakfast’ to discover things.
And the man-dog, where have you left him?
F.P: He is retired (laughs). He did the tour with us and now he is tired. Nowadays, he is in Las Vegas doing his own show.