Guitarist Domingo García-Huidobro answered our questions about the Chilean band’s timeless and abstract music.
Interview by Cem Kayıran, Illustration by Vardal Caniş Su
The start of the 2000’s, bought a slew of new bands looking to the 70’s psychedelic and krautrock movements for inspiration. Though many of them ended up sounding like pastiches of these scenes, Chilean trio Föllakzoid managed to forge their own sound. With their third album, III, released on Sacred Bones, the band has once again proved that they can build their own vision and ideas on the back golden eras.
We had a chance to speak with the guitarist Domingo García-Huidobro, about Föllakzoid’s music, live performances and past.
You are all childhood friends. Do you remember the first shared musical tastes between three of you?
It’s childhood you know. Juan Pablo, our bass player is one year older than me and Diego. He had his band, which he played bunch of stuff like Deftones and that sort of thing. He invited me to play with them and I was one year younger. I was telling them “Tell me what to do!”. And around that time Diego was in a school punk band. That was the thing for school times. We didn’t play music together till we were 18 or 19. I actually quit playing guitar. I was tired of playing chords and whatever. I think I was probably listening to Sonic Youth records. And I was like “We should try this again…”. And only guy I knew who was playing bass was Juan Pablo and the only guy I knew who was playing drums was Diego.
What were the first sounds you got from that trio?
It was hilarious! It was actually more than a trio. At first we had another guitarist and a guy that sang. It went basically like this: We met outside of a place to rehearse and drink some beer…a bunch of guys meeting for the first time. We started tuning loudly in the rehearsal room. And then when we got to the D chord, and with just two more strings to go, just started droning. And didn’t stop for two hours. That was the dynamic for the rehearsals for the next six months.
Can you tell us about the music scene in Santiago? How was it back then when you first started to play?
Juan Pablo’s brother Ignacio plays in a band called La Hell Gang. They both run the record label called BYM Records. And it started with the first album we recorded in the house of Ignacio Nes. He was studying sound engineering and he had to make a record for school. So we did that. Since then, it’s been six years and BYM has put out bunch of records. With the spectrum of psych music and rock music. Some were poppish, others were more dreamy or dark. Then they started to release the records of the bands from past ten years. They reissued all the albums they listened to when they were young.
You are part of the movie scene and also one of the members of the band is into photography. Do you see any bond between your music and other types of disciplines?
Absolutely. You know you have literal songs and not literal songs. You have literal movies and not literal movies. Abstract movies for example. Our approach to music is pretty much like abstract and atmospheric. It’s the same approach and the same search I do in my films. It’s basically the same thing. I’m just trying to delete the time with elements in order to alternate the perception.
You directed the video for “Pulsar”, right?
Yes, that’s a tribute for another filmmaker, Béla Tarr. It’s the opening scene for his last film, The Turin Horse. It was a Serbain guy riding a horse, with violins and it was like three minutes long. We extended and made reversion of it with a Chilean guy on the horse for fourteen minutes.
You don’t use visuals in your live performances as far as I know.
Sometimes we do. But mostly we don’t.
Do you think that using the visual distracts the focus of the audience? Or do you prefer to create something unique for the audience with just the music?
I’m not a big supporter of visuals, as an element. I’m strongly against the pre-set, technological light systems in a robotic weird way. I think that takes you out of the experience. You need to be careful, because there’s so many things that you can do. If you do it in a minimal approach, it’s fine. If you don’t, it’s better to turn it off.
It’s been a year since the release of your last album, III. When it comes to Föllakzoid albums, I always feel like it’s just a mark in history. Like “In this period of time, songs were like this”. But they evolve and change in live performances.
Songs are never finished. We never get into that composers’ perfectionist way of thinking. Like you can’t get out of the studio because it’s never done. But it’s never done! Because of that, all of our albums are recorded in one take. We rehearse of course, but we prefer just one take to record. In a way it preserves the moment and also it’s impossible to replicate entirely. And every time you recorded a song like this, the day after you figure out a way to do something really better, then you’re fucked! It’s just something personal I guess, nobody says that. You need to purify it. I guess that’s the main search in our music. Pull the same kind of thing with purer and purer elements.
Repetition is one of the key elements of your music, which I like a lot!
Is it some thing you look for as a listener as well?
No, not that much. I love all sorts of music but definitely in trance-like music, repetition is a must. It’s a thing from our ancestors. We didn’t invent it. Cavemen hitting rocks for example. Hashtag repetition, hashtag cavemen! We made a remix for Soulsavers, which was sort of a minimal techno. I really like that kind of stuff as well. But at the same time I like Ariel Pink and Kurt Vile.
What about the song writing process? Do you guys just jam in rehearsals and let the songs come as of their own?
It’s something that we really want to change but we really don’t rehearse much. We used to rehearse when we had no shows. And right now, after touring three or four months, almost playing every night, when you go back home, you really don’t feel like going and playing the same music you played 60 times recently. But most of the variations and the themes happen while either in sound check or in the shows. You can figure something that you didn’t do but you could do. Then you tell the guys about that idea, for example “What if we stop here and do this thing?”, talking about it and trying it… It’s weird, I don’t really know how it happens. It’s pretty much like a conversation when playing. I don’t speak when you’re speaking, and you don’t speak when I’m speaking. Because otherwise, we couldn’t understand each other. For instance yesterday there was a broken cable, linking my amps. I just told the guys that I’ll change the cable but when I was doing that, no one was like “Oh, chorus is coming!”. They keep it holding. It happens like that.
I think Föllakzoid’s music gets bigger as it is shared. How would you describe the experience in your own live shows? Do you think people share the same state of mind when listening to your music?
More than sharing, what happens is something paranormal. It’s like another conscious. It’s not mine, I’m not a prophet, I’m not telling people what to think. I’m just a part of this. Also, I’m not thinking about it, us or them. In a way I try to transmit that, the out-of-body experience or whatever.
On the stage, do you share the same feeling as well? Do you have that sort of out of body experience?
Completely. At the beginning, I never looked at the audience. Not because I’m shy or something. I was just in the zone. I had friends in the first row in some concerts. After the show I was realising they were there, “Dude, hey!”.
On your last album, III, you did a collaboration with your German neighbour, Atom TM. How did that idea come up and how was working with him?
I’ve been fan of him for a long time and he has lived in Chile for a long time, which I didn’t know. I saw him eventually at shows. We were about the record III, because our record label was hassling us. If they didn’t do that we would never record albums! We were on that point. I was thinking like if we have to do a record, working with Atom would be good but he was totally unreachable. So we decided to do it on ourselves. We started to recording and Atom played a show in Chile and I went there. The manager told me that Atom likes our records. And he asked me if we are planning to record something! I told him that we just started to work on a new record. And then he told me that he’s keen to do something with us. We finished the one-take recordings, the rough versions of songs. Working with him was like going into a new theme. We had like a week or something to understand each other, this colder, darker and very abstract way. We really got along. He’s like a master, super scientific man.
His additions are so minimal but so effective.
Yeah, we set the limits of what we wanted to use. Concrete sounds instead of harmonies or samples. Really concrete stuff to create scary emptiness. It was fun, the album came out great. But we only had one chance to play live with him on stage. That’s the shit! You think like he’s like a techno robot but he’s not, he’s super chill and loose guy.
Your records came out on one of our favourite labels, Sacred Bones. How’s working with them?
They’re super cool. So cool to be in the same label with David Lynch and John Carpenter as a filmmaker. And the other bands are amazing too. It’s really interesting how they curate different sorts of bands but we all share a dark view of things. Even though music is not alike. They started out as the same time we did. And they reached to us from Myspace when no one really knew us. It’s really cool.
What’s next for you after this tour?
Probably I’ll make a video for this album. We have some more tours to do – we’ll head to Australia and Mexico next year. And after that, we’ll make another album. Our new album will be out probably in two years. Number four!