features, music,

#featured: nacho umbert, stories granted by feeling

Monday, September 5th, 2016 | T: lamono

Nacho Umbert was, back in the ‘90s, the singer and composer for the indie band Paperhouse. After its dissolution, Nacho didn’t sing anymore for fifteen years. Then he met his wife, Irene, a naive and entrepreneur woman in equal amounts, who pushed him to yield back to his vocal chords. That’s how “Ay…” was born, in 2010, an album with acoustic pop traits, which was followed by “No os creáis ni la mitad” (Don’t believe even half). Both of them contain songs about universal topics with tints of poetry and folklore. After remaining three years inactive, by the end of last year he surprised us all with “Familia”, another LP where through family stories he ends up talking about politics and society as a whole. Who better than him to second the certainty preached by Jim Beam: History is written by those who dare to be themselves and delve in emotion. We rendezvous at Collage, a cocktail bar in the Born district, in Barcelona, where we got served a Jim Beam with Ginger Ale and orange twist while our conversation unfolded as a confident whisper. T: Eva Villazala, F: Clara Cumpián * find this interview in the #108 YOUNG & FAST issue


Tell us about “Familia”, your most recent album.

The starting point to it was a family anecdote that I was telling Irene, while we were talking about Barcelona’s football team. My grandparents were very close to Kubala, as a matter of fact, my grandmother was Mrs. Kubala’s -who was a dressmaker- associate. It’s a beautiful story that starts talking about my grandmother, her associate, the dressmakers, Di Stefano, who I was always told signed with Barça, and ends up talking about sports, politics and the groins of this country. Conceptually I liked it since the beginning. It was a challenge to use family stories as a mean to talk about feelings, history, politics and society.

Do you talk, in the album, about other family members with such enthusiasm?

About my sister, and a beautiful love story she had with her boss; about my relationship with my brother and how we used to talk about sex, while we were discovering it; about how I could listen to him having sex on the room next door with her girlfriend, with whom I eventually fell in love… using my family as a pretext I’ve been able to introduce more global topics. I think the end result is a very beautiful record.

You go back in time with this album, like an absolute introspection into your past.

Yes, I also talk about my mother, who died long ago. I talk about the movies she used to like and use a lot of references in that respect.

When you are working on a song, do you write and compose at the same time or separately?

Usually I have sketches of the songs without lyrics, which tend to work for some type of stories or for another. For me the lyrics are fundamental, and I focus a lot on them; they are the drive behind my work. I put a lot of time on them; I have come to spend two years writing a song dedicated to my grandfather. I’m a perfectionist and that makes it hard. I then take the raw songs to Raul Refree, my producer, who changes some things in the melody and on how they are supposed to sound. I rely on him in many aspects.

Do you guys disagree a lot?

Sometimes I have trouble understanding his arrangements, and vice versa. But even though, there’s not too much struggle. On this last album I’ve had more time than usual, there was no hurry, which offered me more time to compose and write the music. But the recording process went on pretty fast, a lot of times at night, and very straightforward. Raul and I, we are very different, he comes and goes, while I’m more lineal. But we get along just fine. It’s nice playing with him; he improvises a lot while I’m more tied up to my script.

Is there a song about your son

Yes, sort of… Honestly, in this album there are a lot of love songs, some dedicated to my wife, Irene, but none of them specifically to my son, since he wasn’t born back then.

For me the lyrics are fundamental, and I focus a lot on them; they are the drive behind my work. I have come to spend two years writing a song



Have you enjoyed more the whole process around this album than with previous ones?

Yes, this time everything has been more fluent, and has been more related to literature. It wasn’t easy, and many of the topics have already been talked about, though I’m not pressured by originality, it’s not something I strain upon. For my next album I would like to find a subject beyond my experience or my personal influences.

Like what?

I don’t know! I’m not too worried about the format or the composition; I’m more focused on the subjects. But I should stop worrying at all and just start writing, like now! And I don’t do it. It’s been almost two years since I last composed or wrote something. I just became a father, and usually I don’t have much time at the end of the day. There’s no time to be serious about it.

Is there someone with whom you would like to collaborate?

Not really, my songs are very intimate and personal. Regarding production, yes, I could work with someone different. But when it comes to writing and composition I need my space, my alone time, in order to find the ideas, but I’m not in a hurry.

As Jim Beam says: In order to go down in history you need to take risks, always having fun surrounded by your family. What has been the best thing about exposing yourself and showing your true colors?

I’m happy about having spent three years without playing and coming back, the effort I needed to overcome the nervousness before a show. I had a certain feeling of panic; the stage has always been an uncharted terrain for me, but always, after a performance, I feel more comfortable. The highlight is that I have enjoyed the music and the audience.

What aspirations do you have now? Where would you like to play?

I have always enjoyed playing in small venues, theaters and stuff like that. Like jazz concerts; an intimate space with people seating down, relaxed and listening. My songs need attention; they must be able to be well heard. I like the songwriter vibe because, eventually, that’s what I am. I would have liked to play at the Primavera Sound, but my performance is very intimate for that. I will play at the Vida, a festival much closer to my style, calmed.

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