Born in Bilbao (Spain) in 1976, Ainara LeGardon was vocalist and guitarist of the Spanish rock band Onion from 1994 till 2003. Ainara LeGardon’s solo debut “In The Mirror”, was considered one of 2003’s best albums in Spain by the media. In other words, here’s yet another great band from Spain that has flown under the American radar. Currently claiming to reside in Antarctica (color us gullible), she continues to fashion songs filled with beauty and subtlety. If you ever wonder why our blood pressure rises when we see the success of the Lady Gaga’s of the world, while brilliant music like this is ignored, take a listen and it will become obvious. TDOA writer Ravin accurately describes her music as the songs you would hear driving down a dark, desolate road while David Lynch looks over your shoulder. Ainara took a moment from feeding the penguins to talk about her love of PJ Harvey, Leadbelly and Nirvana among other things.
TDOA: So your MySpace says you’re from Antarctica. How’s the music scene up there? Do you jam in igloos? Have you lived there your entire life or did you move there more recently?
AL: I´ve just moved here and I´m still trying to make some new friends among the penguins and start a new band!
TDOA: When we do interviews, we try to give our readers an idea of what band X sounds like by relating them to other artists we enjoy. But I have a hard time placing your music in a tidy little box… You seem to touch on a wide breadth of influences, from Neil Young to Fiona Apple to American post-rock to jazz and rustic blues. Could you give a brief summation of your musical journey over the years?
AL: That´s right, I´ve been touched by a lot of influences. Neil Young is one of my main references, but I also love artists like Bonnie Prince Billy, PJ Harvey, Karate, 16 Horsepower, Nick Drake, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Fugazi… the blues of Skip James, Leadbelly, Kelly Joe Phelps… the experimentation of John Cage, Fred Frith, etc… and of course I can´t forget I spent my teenagehood listening to bands like Pearl Jam, Afghan Whigs, Screaming Trees, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Melvins, etc… Now that I´m 34, I still feel moved by some of those records which used to sound in my room over and over again when I was 18.
TDOA: For me, the term “singer-songwriter” conjures images of some corny, melodramatic “poet” over-emoting over bland chord progressions. You completely defy that stereotype. What’s your opinion of the singer-songwriter tag, and do you see yourself in that category? Is that an ideal you wear on your sleeve?
AL: Thank you, I love to defy that stereotype. Many years ago I took part in a “singer-songwriter” contest and I felt that world of poets with acoustic guitars had nothing to do with me (with all my respect). I met a couple of interesting people making interesting music, however.
TDOA: What would you say are the dominant lyrical themes in your songs?
AL: Love, loss, hope, search, despair, regret, forgiveness, gratitude… Fortunately I have been able to leave some of my recurrent themes behind and the new record I´m working on is about finding and not losing, about desire and passion.
TDOA: Your music is haunting. It seems suited for late-night drives to nowhere, dark alleyways and abandoned buildings. Where does this sense of melancholy and despair originate? Are your songs in any way autobiographical?
AL: They are all autobiographical. Writing about my own experiences lets me move ahead and, as I say in the opening song of my last record, “take a step forward and feel weightless”.
Maybe the fact that a bunch of my songs have been written in trains, planes, or faraway from home, gives them that sense of nostalgia and homesickness. Many of them (all the songs of the first record, for example) are inspired in people that have left a deep mark on me and that I won´t ever meet again. Having that in mind during the composition, gives the songs a sense of melancholy, too.
TDOA: Although you live and write in Spain, your music exudes a “southern gothic” charm that wouldn’t be out of place in any of the thousands of small, dusty country towns of America. Did you have a rural upbringing? And has American roots music ever played a role in your musical education?
AL: I was born in Bilbao, in the Basque Country. Now I live in Madrid, the biggest city of Spain, and I hate it. I would love to move to a small town and enjoy a less hurried and complicated life.
Some of my songs, such as “The Winter Sun” or “Before Waking Up”, are inspired in my Basque roots and in some of my friends who live there, in a small town called Gernika. Some of them played in my two first records and have joined me in countless shows over the last years, so I guess their influence is there, in the songs and also inside me.
Regarding American roots music, yes, I guess that it has played an important role in my musical education. I´m still learning from it.
TDOA: Relating to the two previous questions, what I enjoy most about your music is that it has a cinematic quality that evokes a scene, a time and a place. I could easily see your work appearing in the next David Lynch film. Do any of your songs ever originate from a visual framework?
AL: Well, maybe my music evokes you a scene, a time and a place, because it has been inspired in particular scenes, in their very moments, places and with persons with their own names. I always do my best to describe the situations and my feelings towards them. Feelings that are universal and can be shared with the one who´s listening. You just have to let yourself fly and imagine your own scene.
The cinematic quality of my music that you mention maybe is the reason why many film directors have counted on my music for their films and documentaries. One of the film makers I use to collaborate with is Alvaro Sanz. Some of our works are shown here:
He has also directed my two videoclips (http://winslowlab.wordpress.com/home/videos/) and a documentary about my last album, which is still unfinished.
TDOA: As mentioned earlier, one of the many qualities that distinguishes you from the Jewels of the world is your unique guitar work. In your music, the guitar isn’t just a bunch of stock chord progressions– It’s carefully crafted to create a mood and to give the words more dimension and color. Would you agree?
AL: First of all, thank you for your appreciation. That´s what I intend with my guitar work. I usually play shows on my own, so I try to play guitar lines that creates a certain atmosphere, sometimes with my thumb playing bass lines and with the rest of my fingers creating an abstract melody. Silence is also very important in my music. I also play with different dynamics and try to create a special mood. Sometimes I even suceed!
TDOA: At TDOA, we’ve featured some amazing underground rock groups coming out of Spain, such as Boat Beam and Havalina. Are you familiar with these artists? And what’s your opinion of the Spanish rock scene? Any other artists you’d like to recommend?
AL: Yes, I know these bands. Particularly, I feel more close to some of the artists from the Basque scene. I would recommend you bands like Audience (my good friends from Gernika), Lisabö, Love Division, and artists like Anari or Mursego. Also The Grave Yacht Club and Flying Pig Matanza, from Alicante, in the Spanish east coast.
TDOA: Is there a new record on the horizon? And any plans to tour the U.S.?
AL: Yes, I´m working on a new record. If everything goes alright it will be recorded this summer and released early next year. Regarding a possible tour in the U.S., I don´t think it will happen in the next year, but who knows? I enjoyed very much the shows I played in NY in 2006. It was a wonderful experience and I would love to repeat it very soon.
To learn more about Ainara Legardon, visit her MySpace page.