Two friends with no other ambition than to make “relaxed pop” to have fun and entertain people. The Besmaya formula seems simple, but behind it is a lot of talent and many hours spent together.
Los Estanques & Anni B Sweet
Comfortable bubble and unexpected elephant
When well combined, musical talent lights up real gems. The latest example is the album Burbuja cómoda y elefante inesperado [Comfortable bubble and unexpected elephant], the result of the collaboration between Los Estanques and Anni B Sweet. To discover the origin of this work, which both critics and the audience have fallen for and which will be presented in the upcoming months, we chat to Iñigo Bregel, leader of Los Estanques.
The first thing that stands out about the album created by Los Estanques and Anni B Sweet is its title: Burbuja cómoda y elefante inesperado [Comfortable bubble and unexpected elephant]. A title that Iñigo Bregel, leader of Los Estanques and main author of the LP alongside Anni, admits came about spontaneously: “We play with spontaneity because we believe that’s where freshness lies.” The rollercoaster soundscape composed by Iñigo and guided by the voice of Anni invites listeners to travel accompanied by psychedelia, without giving up on other styles, the colourful 1970s. The album closes with a song Vuelve a oscurecer [It gets dark again] and that’s what really happens because for 37 minutes, Iñigo and Anni’s talents light up our present, making us feel as light as an elephant peacefully sleeping inside a bubble. The good thing is that we can listen to it again... in one sitting.
How did the paths of Anni B Sweet and Los Estanques cross?
Marcos García de Ayuken [manager of Los Estanques] heard that Anni had been listening to us and was quite hooked. She’s always been influenced by the 1970s, but had never achieved that sound. When she discovered us, it became a possibility. We’re quite free spirits and hadn’t heard of her. Our surprise came when we listened to her and discovered an enormous talent. Not just her voice, one of the best in Spain, but also her music and lyrics.
And what was the album’s creative process like?
We started talking and she sent me a song: Tu pelo de flores. I took the liberty to change everything, and she flipped out. Then she sent me others, like He bebido tanto (que) or Caballitos de mar, and everything started flowing from there. We were going to do one song together and have ended up with an album with thirteen tracks, so imagine. We recorded the album together; I took care of all the instruments, and she did the voices and some guitar. We worked on some songs remotely, and others we wrote together, like Bla, bla, bla. Then there were some songs that I’d already recorded, like No te preocupes or Yo me voy de aquí, where we added Anni’s voice, and they took a leap in quality. God gives some a voice and others not (laughs)!
“It’s an album that hasn’t come from money, but from our hard work. Which is why we decided to self-publish it”
You’ve self-published the album, how important was it for you to preserve that creative freedom?
We’ve always had creative freedom. Anni and I started working on the album without anyone else in the world, and we’ve pulled it off with a lot of hard work and eagerness. It’s an album that hasn’t come from money, but from our hard work and, at this point, the last thing we wanted was for it to end up at a record label. Which is why we decided to self-publish it.
It’s an ambitious and complex conceptual album, full of arrangements, but at the same time it’s also light and unpretentious. How do you achieve that balance?
I do nothing but music in my life: I study it, learn it, compose it... I always want to know more. Los Estanques has been thinking for some time that, to not become overly refined, we have to find that balance. Make concessions. Anni’s voice and songs, even an image like hers, help us make our music more palatable.
The album has strong seventies vibes, which were your influences?
Inspiration sneaks in through the cracks and if I start to think I’ll come up with 800 bands (laughs), but I can quote a specific album: Philwit and Pegasus, by Mark Wirtz. It’s a kind of rock-opera and that’s where the double drums that are in some songs come from. Another direct reference is the song A Day in the Life of a Tree (The Beach Boys) in Tampoco estoy tan lejos. There’s also a strong classical music influence, for example when layering the backing vocals to make them less linear, so that there are harmonies.
"Mutual understanding is the bare minimum required to pull off an album like this. If not, no matter how talented we are, it wouldn’t have worked”
Other Spanish bands like Rufus T. Firefly, Derby Motoreta’s Burrito Kachimba, Califato ¾ or Alien Tango, are bringing back psychedelic music. In Los Estanques case, where does this passion come from?
From way back... when my father played his records or when Conti's father (drums) played him Italian progressive and psychedelic music. But there’s also Germán’s father’s jazz albums (guitar) or Dani’s jazz studies (bass). Somehow it’s our language, more to communicate than to campaign. Although when you make something that’s out of fashion, there’s always a radical edge to it.
At your first concert together, in Noches del Botánico, you could feel the mutual understanding between Los Estanques and Anni B Sweet. Has this been the secret to the success of this collaboration?
Mutual understanding is the bare minimum required to pull off an album like this, being in cahoots with the other person, being buddies. If not, no matter how talented Los Estanques and Anni B Sweet are, it wouldn’t have worked. If we didn’t get on well or didn’t believe in ourselves, we wouldn’t be so excited. Our only arguments have been about whether or not to turn the air conditioning on in the van on the way to a show (laughs).
During the live shows, you’re playing the album in order and all in one go, why?
The reason is simple: we’ve tried to make a record that can be listened to from start to finish. To give it a common thread and for one song to lead into the next. Now, many people talk to us about the transitions between songs and I’m glad. We demand that you dedicate 40 minutes of your life to yourself, not even to us. Now, during the concerts, we have to suffer and spend those 40 minutes almost without a sip of water, even we’ve got notes in the set for when we can drink (laughs).
This record combines the talents of Anni B Sweet and Los Estanques. What have you learnt from the experience?
A lot of things. Who’d have thought that Anni B Sweet, the best singer in the country, would teach me, a producer, how to make arrangements. And she doesn’t give lessons. We've also learnt how to make a live set including everything that was recorded in the studio and make it sound fantastic. I’m just missing a bass drum on my back! (laughs).
“Talent is a kind of intuition within a field that can give some humans an advantage over others”
Speaking of talent: what does that word mean to you?
Talent is a kind of intuition within a field that can give some humans an advantage over others. But careful, because if you don’t work on that talent, it can even be counter-productive. It’s like starting a few metres ahead, but that doesn’t mean that you get to the finish line first if you don’t make an effort during the race.
Is this collaboration a one-time thing or will it withstand the test of time?
I don’t know if there’ll be another record or not, but we have five songs. That’s all I can say. Life takes many twists and turns, and both Anni and us are really busy and things come up. Los Estanques will release another record shortly. But, as we were saying, as long as there are good vibes and people respond we’re here to stay. The concerts are going really well [29th of September in Madrid, where they sold out a month in advance, on October 8th in Lugo, on October 14th or 15th in Valencia as part of the Love To Rock Festival, on October 29th in Vigo and on December 9th in Seville].