"I used to write a lot of love songs, because I used to play the uke, and that's what comes out of the ukelele," Reina of Minneapolis band Reina del Cid shares about the band's new album, The Cooling. "At a certain point, I had this realization that I just had to open the door to a darker side."
On The Cooling, the quartet dig deeper than they ever have in sound and emotion, a depth the band seems to have woven into their being in the three years they've been working on the album.
Gimme Noise caught up with lead singer Reina del Cid and guitarist Toni Lindgren before the band's album release at the Cedar Cultural Center on Thursday night.
As a singer-songwriter plays quietly, yet awkwardly, in the back room in Cafe Latte in St. Paul, Reina and Toni wind their way between patrons to find a spot at a table between families taking advantage of the warm spring weather. Missing in the conversation are Chris Wiberg (upright bass) and Zach Schmidt (drums). The quartet met a few years ago when Reina was still in school and playing with Wiberg in the beginnings of what would eventually be the current band.
In its beginning stages, the music was more acoustic and folk-based; the band wanted to integrate electric guitar into the mix, so Chris suggested Toni and Reina said, "Sure, I'd love to meet him." Turns out Toni was female and didn't fit in any of the stereotypes that lead guitarists often fall into. With her prowess on the guitar, Lindgren changed the sound of the group as they eased into their aesthetic.
The most striking feature about lead singer Reina is her intelligence. Her dark eyes stare out at the world and absorb everything in before making careful observations, something that follows into her lyrics. The singer is a literary major and applies her storytelling sensibilities into all of her songs.
While their last album had del Cid as the principal writer, The Cooling was a much more collaborative effort. The new album was recorded at Pachyderm, where Reina admits to having "a little trouble sleeping in the guest house at night because I was told too many stories of Kurt Cobain's ghost wandering around."
"Everyone in this band can solo well," Reina says of the record. "So I would bring the bare bones of the songs to the band, and they would add their own instrumentation." There were times Toni guided the writing. "When Toni takes the lead, we end up with an instrumental [such as the opening track "Sweet Annie"], but when I take the lead, we end up with lyric-heavy pieces," she continues. "We're still trying to figure out how to collaborate."
The group did flesh out many dark tracks together. Lindgren herself didn't discover just how somber the themes were until she took a closer listen. "Sometimes I would be at practice and suddenly it became clear just how deep these songs were. A lot of times, they will be dark songs in a pleasant package, so it takes you a second to realize what they're about."
Songs like "Where the Sun Always Shines" could fool the listener into thinking of better times, but on second inspection reveals the deceptive façade. Del Cid shares, "A lot of people think it's about dying, but it's actually about heroin addiction and contains a lot darker message than you would think. The character in the song actually doesn't get over their addiction, but rather succumbs to it. It's about being okay with that capitulation."
When pressed if it was about someone she knew, Reina reluctantly confirms, "I feel a lot of what a writer does is harvesting. You're always harvesting things you don't have permission to harvest. It was someone I knew that was going through it that inspired me to write that song. It wasn't so much a personal journey, but you never know where you're going to end up in it. They definitely don't know that I wrote that song, and it's not someone I know particularly well. It was an amalgamation of a lot of people who struggle with addiction.
"I actually try to not influence the way people interpret the music. I really like the idea of people bringing their own story to it and giving it multiple meanings. I have a song called 'Emily' [from the album blueprints, plans] that people always ask me about after shows. 'Who is Emily? Do you know this girl?' I always reply, 'Emily is a girl in your life. That is the girl for you.' It's never a good answer to people. I always integrate authorial intent -- it's a term we use in English literature -- you don't want the author to get in the way of your interpretation. It doesn't really matter what the author intended, you need to guide it on your own."
Reina del Cid will release The Cooling at the Cedar Cultural Center on Thursday, May 21, 2015 with Red Daughters and Pocket Watch.
AA, $12 adv, $15 door, 7 pm
Purchase tickets here.
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