Around The World: Hinds’ Guide to International Touring
The Spanish indie rockers share tips for successful globetrotting.
Hinds have learned how to think on their feet.
Shortly after posting their first singles, "Bamboo" and "Trippy Gum," online, they were getting written up by NME and The Guardian, and then an offer came in to play a show in London. It wouldn't just be their first show outside their native Madrid: It would be their first show ever, just two months after their first singles hit the web. With encouragement from their manager, Hinds went for it, "even though we didn't have enough songs to actually play a proper show," remembers singer/guitarist Carlotta Cosials. "We played some songs that weren't even finished. Everything was kind of messy. But people liked it."
Not only did the group not have enough songs for a proper set, Cosials didn't even quite have a full band when she agreed to the tour dates. Cosials and co-singer/guitarist Ana Perrote handled drums and bass on their first singles, but they soon recruited bassist Ade Martin and drummer Amber Grimbergen and began rehearsing seven hours a day. The cramming paid off, even if Cosials remembers that on the day of her first show, "I was so nervous that I couldn't even talk," she says. "I was completely blocked, like my face and my body were not even able to move. It was one of those shows that you're shaking from the first song to the last song."
Since then, Hinds have filled out their repertoire substantially, releasing two acclaimed albums, 2016's Leave Me Alone and this year's I Don't Run, and touring the world many times over. From the start, Hinds decided they wanted to be a band of the world. "We made the decision of trying to grow … not only in Madrid and then outside Madrid, then maybe Barcelona, and then maybe France," she says of the initial approach. "We decided we were going to do everything at the same time."
Cosials has accrued a lot of wisdom about playing outside your home country. Here are some of her tips.
Tip 1: Get Your Papers in Order
After that London show went over well, they booked a New York date. And then had to cancel it when their travel Visa "didn't come back in time," Cosials says, which was a headache for all parties involved. So try to get your necessary paperwork squared away before making any commitments. If you are based in Europe, you can usually travel to other European countries with just an ID, though Cosials says that might change once Brexit actually takes place. But wherever you’re based, if you’re crossing borders, make sure to factor in enough time for your passport to arrive (usually about eight weeks).
Tip 2: Don't Fear the Language Barrier
Cosials finds that no matter what country you're in, if you speak even passable English you can muddle through most situations, from dealing with club owners to ordering dinner. "I think English is the basic. You go to Vietnam and you're speaking English with the people," she says. "It's kind of crazy. Like, learning English is the best passport you can have."
You might have to communicate with gestures at times, she says, but "everybody that books an international band kind of knows basic stuff." So if you're feeling apprehensive about not knowing the language, don't. "We've never felt that was a barrier for us."
That said, a little bit of preparation never hurt anyone. To bond with the crowd and boost the energy of the gig, Cosials will learn a few key bits of banter, just to show that she cares. "In Germany we said, 'Willkommen aus Madrid. Und that is Hinds,'" she says. "In Japan, we said, 'Odoritai? Odoro yo!' Which means, ‘Do you want to dance? Let's dance!'"
Tip 3: Pack Only What You Need
One of her most regrettable rookie mistakes, Cosials says, "was carrying a too-big suitcase that doesn't even fit in the van." On their first American tour, Hinds traveled by minivan, and Cosials' stuff was taking up too much room. "It was just a nightmare every morning, every night, every afternoon because you're carrying your stuff all the time to the venue, out of the venue, to the hotel, out of the hotel."
Since then, she's learned just to pack the essentials. "At first, you're like 'Oh my God, I need a lot of stuff if I'm gonna be three weeks on the road.' And then, in the end, you realize that the most important thing is to have clothes for the shows, and that's all. When you're in the van, you can be in your pajamas, and it doesn't matter."
Tip 4: Remember It Takes Time To Build A Fanbase
You create a fanbase one show at a time and one fan at a time. So if the turnout for your New York or Paris or London show isn't what you wanted, or the crowd wasn't that amped, remember there's always next time. Cosials admits that sometimes the big-city audiences can be "kind of more shy or quieter." Just push through. "It changes a lot from a show to another one," she says, noting that their recent New York gig, at the Brooklyn venue Warsaw, "was beyond incredible, was like a dream…. The whole 1,000 people were fucking singing and dancing and feeling free."
And don't just focus on big cities. There are music fans all over the world, and even if the crowds aren't as big, the people that live in smaller towns will show you their appreciation.
"We play a lot of small cities, and it's kind of weird, that sensation. Like you come from a 1,000-capacity venue to 300," she says. "It makes you stick your feet in the ground."
Tip 5: Hold On To Your Money, Literally
Spend enough time traveling and you'll start to accrue currency from all over the world. Exchange rates can often be so lopsided—and some places will flat-out not accept coins—that it's just smarter to hold on to your euros, yen, or dollars for next time.
"I have a very big box back in my house in Madrid that saves money from the world. And I have you can't imagine how many currencies," Cosials says. "We just don't change it because we feel like we're gonna come back someday."
Tip 6: Plan Ahead for Plugging In
Because electrical currents differ from country to country, you're going to need to buy a wall outlet converter so you can charge your phone and other necessities. A lot of European countries have the same outlet type, and Canada and America's outlets are pretty similar, but do some research before you travel.
Also, you may need a transformer (different from a converter) so you can plug your amplifier into the venue's power source. And sure make it's installed by someone who knows what they're doing, because otherwise the outcome can be a microphone that shocks your mouth, Cosials says.
Tip 7: Take Care of Yourself
No one likes getting sick on tour—and yet, everyone does. Even when it's summer in a generally warm climate, making certain that you have a jacket or scarf in case the temperature drops at night can help you avoid a cold. (Cosials learned this lesson the hard way.) Try to rest as much as you can between sets. When you get sick, Cosials says, "it's just like your body is like asking for attention. Like, 'Hey, you're crossing a limit, so please take care of me a little bit.'"
Tip 8: Don't Make a Brouhaha About Brew
American teenagers and 20-year-olds that get a chance to play Europe might be delighted to learn that the drinking age overseas is 18. And under-21 Europeans will likely have the opposite reaction when the situation is reversed. So, if applicable, steel yourself. Cosials remembers being surprised when her bandmates got underage stamps on their hands at an American venue they played.
"It feels crazy for a foreigner, because like, 'dude, I'm old. I'm an adult in my country. Suddenly, I'm not an adult in your country?'" she says. "We like drinking a beer while playing the show, so we just sneaked it in and drank beer in a cup of coffee."