The Ecuadorian-Swiss instrumental brothers talk songwriting energy, inspiration & soups before their show in Tucson
It was a beaut of a crowd of bright-eyed and fashionable folks. The young and the seasoned alike helped to sell out the intimate 191 Toole on March 23 with the promise of a singular musical experience. The entertainment for the night delivered an opportunity to travel space and time into worlds foreign and familiar.
Hermanos Gutiérrez, a pair of Ecuadorian-Swiss brothers marked by calm swagger and incredible boots, compose retro Latin-inspired instrumental pieces that immediately transport you to another place. Alejandro and Estevan Gutiérrez cultivate romance, heartbreak, and imagination with two emotionally charged guitars. For example, it doesn’t take long after “Mesa Redonda” starts until you subconsciously paint yourself onto the back of a horse on some distant Western horizon, tipping your hat to a partner, a town, and a life you’re leaving behind. Their tunes are potent vintage visions, whether they are colored by sweet, sinister, or searching impulses.
On the night, 191 Toole was the center of the universe for every fan in attendance as the brothers grooved through their set, playing off each other’s energy and nurturing the crowd with their wordless stories. “What else?” is a good question, though, because everything seems to be in alignment for the brothers as they slide through the US, Canada, Mexico, and Europe through the dog days of summer.
Their fifth and most recent record El Bueno Y El Malo, released on Easy Eye Sound last year, acts as a portal to all of your cowboy dreams. An official music video for “Hermosa Drive” was also released a couple weeks ago. If you haven’t been fortunate enough to join these brothers on their journey, now is the time. These are songs that should fill your kitchen, meet you at the top of a mountain, and compel you to drive somewhere far and fast with your lover riding shotgun. It was an honor to chat a bit with them about this magic.
I just wanted to check in with y’all. How’s the energy mid-tour?
Alejandro: Great. We had so much fun in Texas. It was just amazing. It was the first time for us to play at SXSW, and we had an amazing gig last night in San Diego. And I mean I have a personal experience here in Tucson – I came here three years ago by myself, and now I am just super happy to be here with my brother because of music, so energetically, we are feeling super great.
Excellent. You mention Texas, but when you think of highlights of this tour so far, what comes to mind?
Alejandro: I think it was the show in Houston. That was super cool, the whole city’s vibe is nice. Half of the crew is from Houston, so it really felt like a local thing. You know, we are hanging in those favorite spots, and I had my best breakfast tacos ever from a family owned business from Laredo, and it was just beautiful.
What’s been bringing y’all comfort on this tour? It’s gotta be difficult, every night, some place new.
Estevan: Yeah, but I think the most important part is that it feels like we’re traveling around with family. We are a good team. We trust each other. We know what everybody needs. It makes everything much more easy.
It’s a beautiful thing. I know I always worry…you look at artists and they’re just spinning their wheels and grinding away, so that’s awesome. How is this tour different?
Alejandro: It’s smoother in so many ways because we learned from previous tours. We just want to do the best things, things which are meaningful to us, so I think it’s more mindful.
Estevan: Yeah, we’re traveling a lot, but every step has a reason, and I think it’s just a cool feeling to be on the road this time.
Alejandro: It’s not stressful, it’s fun. It’s way more fun than previous tours.
What meal do you dream of returning to? When you return home, is there a meal that you’ve been dreaming about?
Alejandro: Yeah, my mom does very good soups. She is the soup master. I can’t wait to have my mom’s soup.
Estevan: Yeah, me too.
What kind of caldo?
Alejandro: Caldo de pollo.
(Estevan groans in a longing agreement.)
So excellent. And do y’all write on tour?
Estevan: Sometimes. Sometimes we jam on the soundcheck. Sometimes we get new ideas, new little loops or drafts that we save and then we go back and work on them. But it’s not actually writing because you have to be focused on playing at night on tour. So I don’t really find time for writing on tour.
Alejandro: Yeah, me neither. I think it’s pretty hard, you know? It’s not my thing. Maybe others, different people, get inspired by being on the road, but for me, they’re different spaces. It’s hard to mix them. You want to be good on stage, be creative, and not have any pressure at all, but sometimes, as he mentioned, we find something we like and we take it with us and we see what happens.
I definitely had some questions about your processes. I’m sure you’ve heard it a lot, but your tunes transport people so easily. Do you guys have to be in a special place to write, spiritually or physically?
Estevan: It’s something very special that we have, that when we connect through the guitar, we just start to float. And we don’t have that every time we play. Sometimes, we find that magical moment and we forget about everything and it’s just the music and the guitars and it’s amazing. Sometimes, for example, “El Jardin,” we wrote that song in 20 minutes and we never changed anything, you know? We have a lot of these moments, and it’s pretty cool.
It’s funny because I bought 8 Años, and every morning this past week, “El Jardin” is the one that gets me going, so that’s incredible to hear.
Estevan: Yeah, that was a one-taker on that record. We played it one time, and that was it.
That’s damn impressive. And speaking of tunes I can’t stop listening to, you guys put out a playlist on Spotify, Interstate 45, of tunes you’ve been listening to. Whose idea was that to put that out there?
Alejandro: It just happened in the moment, you know we were talking about music, collecting vinyls, and we felt like maybe we should share a playlist with the fans. Sometimes it’s funny to discover 45’s I had never heard of. I check them on Spotify and find this old stuff on these new platforms, and then we discover even more, which is kind of crazy. So we thought it was pretty cool to share.
Thank you guys because my cooking playlist is killing me now. But do you guys have any musical disagreements? It seems like you’re one entity during your show. Are you usually on the same page?
Estevan: Sometimes there are different types. But at the end, that’s what we are, you know? We are two different characters and we find each other playing the music. So I have the influences, maybe from the salsa, and he has influences from cumbia, and at the end, we combine and we create the source of Hermanos Gutiérrez.
Are there any pre-show rituals? On tour?
Alejandro: You know, I don’t think so. Maybe 10 minutes before the show, we’ll keep it just between the two of us, just to make this space where we are ready to perform and have a good time just to have your mind clear. Besides that, we like to have good food, healthy food, maybe. Not too much mezcal, but that’s hard.
Estevan: (kindly interjects) The mezcal is kind of our ritual. We have a glass, and it sort of gives strength and warmth.
Chasing the conejo. Lastly, and then I’ll let you guys get to it… what’s the future hold? To me, it seems like there’s no limit. Are you guys thinking movie scores, features with different artists, or are you just in the moment right now?
Alejandro: It’s important to be present as much as possible. We are just doing things which are fun to us. We don’t want to think too much about stuff and we just want to follow our intuition. From there, we just want to let it flow and see what happens. No pressure. We just really want to stay true to ourselves. The present moment is pretty good already. Sometimes, it’s hard because you always want more and more, but actually, right now, it’s so good, you know? We are healthy, we are here in Tucson, and it’s beautiful. We’re in the desert, and this tour has been so good so far. What else, you know?