Janelle Borg (of Maltese punk band Cryptic Street) reports on the women at the forefront of the Madrid’s thriving music scene, exclusively for LOUD WOMEN
From the first time I landed in Madrid, its music and its people captivated me so much that the city left a permanent imprint on me, and a constant yearning to hop on a plane and go there again. The area of Malasaña, with its colourful aesthetic, picturesque cafes and rowdy crowd at night, encapsulates the essence of the Madrid underground scene. With the meteoric rise to fame of bands like Hinds, I couldn’t help but wonder: who are the women driving Madrid’s scene and what is their story? To explore this, I approached three artists from this thriving scene, and this is their side of the story:
- Elena Nieto – a young multi-instrumentalist who’s a member of the Madrid-based Yawners and Estrogenuinas
- Hickeys – a glitter-punk band whose latest release is called ‘Diamond Munch’.
- Mad Girls – a collective of badass women who run Mad Girls Magazine, in addition to promoting and hosting events in Madrid.
>>Can you introduce yourselves and your involvement in music?
Elena: I started playing the guitar when I was 10 or 11. Finally, after constantly pleading for it, my dad got me my first electric guitar when I was 14 or 15. I started playing and recording myself non-stop since I couldn’t find anyone to play with. I founded my first band when I was in my second year at university… playing drums in that band. I never stopped playing and experimenting with different instruments in several bands at the same time ever since. Now I’m focused on my main project, Yawners, while also playing the drums for the punk band Estrogenuinas. I also work at the record label and booking agency, La Castanya, so my life pretty much revolves around music!
Hickeys: We are basically a group of friends who started playing music while drinking beer at Marta’s two years ago. We know each other from university; all of us had dreamed about the possibility of being in a band, but it wasn’t until the four of us started playing together that we saw that this dream could turn into a reality.
Mad Girls: Currently, we’re Mimí, Virginia and Ana. We also have an occasional collaborator, Celia, with a foodie column. It all started about two and a half years ago when Mími and Elvira (the other founding member) were too broke to get into concerts, and so, they decided to start a gig photo blog. Virginia joined some time after, with Ana being the most recent addition to the team. We immediately had a lot of very positive feedback and Mad Girls organically evolved into what it is now.
>> What do you think makes the Madrid music scene different from other scenes out there?
E: I think the guitar bands scene in Madrid is huge right now. I’ve lived in different cities and countries and I can tell that what is happening here is special. The local scene is very strong as there are many well-established bands that sell big venues, but also a never-ending flow of newer bands. There is a solid scene of local bands – not only in Madrid but everywhere in Spain – that is touring the country and playing in festivals.
H: We don’t know any international scenes directly and in-depth but, in relation to the Spanish ones, we are noticing fresh sounds coming out of the different neighbourhoods, a variety of genres and very young artists that have a lot to say. Madrid is a great city where people from other parts of Spain come to make a living and that makes it a perfect cradle for creativity and fusion.
>>What attracted Mad Girls to get involved in Madrid’s music scene?
M: We have always been connected to the music scene in Madrid. Most of our friends are musicians so we spent most of our free time attending concerts or jamming at someone’s place. We wanted to have an active role in the music scene, and after some of our best friends performed at our first-anniversary party, it encouraged us to start promoting musical events.
>>Describe your perfect night out in Madrid.
E: It always starts with a show for me. Lately, I’ve been going to Tempo bar (Malasaña). It’s a sketchy but really cool old cocktail bar run by classic-style bartenders … you really wouldn’t expect to find them in such a place! You get a weird bowl of peanuts mixed with gummy bears with every drink.
Also, if the weather is nice, there’s a big chance that I end up hanging outside drinking beer. If you’re around Malasaña, that’d probably be in Plaza del Dos de Mayo.
H: Fortunately, there isn’t one specific type of a perfect night. It can sound cliche but we don’t really care about where to go or what to do. In the end, the magic happens when we are with a group of people who are in the same mood, are open-minded, and you can talk and dance with them without being judged. One of the feelings we like the most takes place at the end of a night out when we walk down the streets of Madrid in the early morning during those hours when the city is still quiet and peaceful.
M: Our perfect night out would definitely have a lot of music involved. First stop would be a place to eat tasty food and gather all together to drink and chat…most likely at the delicious Italian restaurant Menomale. Then a concert, of course! You can often find us at Siroco or Costello – small venues where upcoming bands often start their careers. Then we would most likely stop at Lucy in the Sky where we occasionally DJ, and where the underground music scene gathers. We’d probably end up dancing to rock ‘n’ roll and 60’s beats at FunHouse Music Bar. At the end of it all, we’d grab some churros ‘con chocolate’ while watching the stunning Madrilenian sunrise.
>>Do you feel that women and non-binary folk are well-represented in Madrid’s underground scene?
E: I believe that in Madrid’s underground and punk scenes, women have been well-represented and supported for a long time. Also, at the moment, there are quite a lot of active female-fronted bands in the local scene such as Las Odio, Repion, Hickeys, Hinds, Estrogenuinas, Lady Banana, Pelícana, Cariño, Yawners…to name but a few. In the urban music scene, female artists such as La Zowi are being acknowledged for their work. Another good example is Clara Te Canta: she creates internet pop, sings openly about ‘taboo’ topics, and speaks up for women in general… she’s fun!
H: We have seen an increase in female presence in the underground scene, and also in different bands and musical ensembles. In the past, women were usually cast as the singers in a band, as opposed to playing an instrument. We think (or want to think) that little by little prejudices are being destroyed and that is being reflected on the stage too. Nevertheless, being perceived as a woman performing in a woman’s body in this patriarchal context is still coupled with some comments and judgements relating to our body/face/movements that wouldn’t be commented upon if we were male musicians. We are progressively conquering this field with our presence but, at the same time, we are still referred to as a Girl-Band when a “Boy-band” is an obsolete term that died with Backstreet Boys era.
M: In the past few years there has been more attention drawn to women and non-binary musicians. Nevertheless, we’ve still got a long way to go. We always try to promote bands with female/non-binary members in them. Also, we don’t only focus on the band members themselves…. For example, sometimes it may be an all-male band, but with a female manager. We like to give attention to the women behind-the-scenes who sustain the industry since it can be a very sexist sector. We can vouch personally for this.
>>Any upcoming plans you’d like to tell the world about?
E: We’re releasing Yawners’ debut album in March 2019. I’ll be performing at SXSW, touring around Spain and doing festivals here. Hopefully, we’ll also have some dates in Europe and in the UK by the end of the year. Can’t wait!
H: Right now, we’re focusing on songwriting and not that much on performing live (even though we’re planning a couple of shows abroad in early 2019, mainly in the UK and the US). Three of us are going to finish their studies, so this is going to be a really exciting, twisted and spontaneous year because, in addition to the above, we are also preparing an LP! It seems as if 2019 is going to be full of surprises. A British record label, perhaps?
…and finally, Mad Girls, can you give your recommendations of some Madrilenian female musicians and artists that we should definitely check out?
M: Our favourite female musicians emerging from this scene include Rayo, Melenas, Hoax Fellows or Hickeys, amongst many others. As for other artists… photographer Sharon López!