by Sophie Pay
In September 2017 Ludwig’s Method, a rock band from Madrid, Spain came out with their debut EP The Mistake. They recorded, mixed, and mastered the EP by themselves in their friends basement. Their song “Failure?”, represents the band’s sound. The song starts with an acoustic guitar and goes into a great guitar solo, and is accompanied by a clean rhythmic guitar. The drums plays the role of holding the song together by keeping a steady beat. Overall, the song is very catchy and it lures the listener in. You can find yourself listening to it on repeat, lost in a trance of thought. If you would like to give it a listen, check it out below.
I also got the chance to ask the band some questions about their journey as an independent band in Madrid, Spain.
For starters, would you like to introduce the members of the band?
Ludwig's Method is a band from Madrid, Spain formed by:
Juan María Herrera - Lead vocals, piano and harmonica.
Sofía Cortés - Bass and backing vocals.
César Membrillo - Drums.
Noé Celestino - Guitar and backing vocals.
Lucio Lupano - Guitar.
We make music. We think it’s good. We hope you do too.
How did the band form? What’s your story?
Okay so Juan and César went to highschool together. They tried to form a band during Junior year, and in fact they did; but since they couldn't find any guitar or bass players it was a piano - drums duo. Let's just say it was too conceptual...
During this time, César's cousin, Noé; started learning guitar and practicing every day, and by the end of Senior year we decided he was good enough to join us. We only needed a bass player, but oh boy is it hard to find a bass player in the city of Madrid. We literally had to ask every single one of our contacts if they knew a bass player that could practice with us during the summer. After a couple of weeks we found a guy (Jorge) and we rented a place to practice for the whole month of July. (Since we live in the city we had to rent a soundproof room to avoid being sued by angry neighbours). We practiced every day of the month in that place, sometimes we would even sleep there on the floor. This is where we wrote "Failure?" and "Ludwig Had a Plan".
When the month was over we were sounding pretty good, we felt like we needed to add more punch to our sound. Noé knew Lucio from highschool and so he invited him over one day to get a feel and we decided to add him to the roster.
Then some bad news came, Jorge had to move to England, and so we were stuck without a bass player again and we had to ask every single one of our contacts if they had met one by chance. In the end it turned out a friend of a friend of an acquaintance of a friend knew a bass player: Sofía. We called her over, played with her for a while, and she was in.
After that, with our current roster formed, we started practicing at Lucio's, since renting a soundproof room every month can be an impossible feat for 5 college students with barely any income. His father is a musician and so he lets us play in his soundproof basement. This is where we recorded The Mistake, our 5-demo EP, using his old recording equipment.
Are there any musical influences you guys have?
We have a very varied set of influences. For instance, Juan is obsessed with Transformer and anything else Lou Reed has ever done but Noé and Lucio are more typical Beatles fans and also like to get down to some funk. We believe that influences themselves aren’t the most important thing, the crucial part is how you build on top of them, and most importantly how you get a cohesive mix.
When we write songs normally everyone has a different idea on where the song should go based on their own influences. The most difficult part is to try to integrate a little bit of everyone’s ideas into the song without losing a sense of direction. Sometimes things don’t work out and you have to go back to the drawing board, but when they do, we feel like we get a much better song than if we all listened to the same music and just wrote something that fell within that style.
How would you describe the sound of the band?
This is a tough question. We mostly try to make songs that we’d listen to for fun, or songs that we’d enjoy playing. We do try to unify the sound but it’s always positive to have variations. You don’t want all your songs to sound the same and at the same you want to be recogniseable for your own sound and not have people remember you for who you sound like. We definitely think we have some glam in our songs: “Failure?” ‘s solo for example, but we also have songs that people might say lean closer towards alternative rock. We think it’s better for people to just listen and decide for themselves. We’ve had people describe our sound in many different ways; and we can say we sound like the Pope in Rome, but at the end of the day, if nobody thinks that, do we really? And so if people like it, let them have it and not worry about our own description.
What were some of the challenges of self-recording the EP?
Probably the biggest challenge was learning how to record, mix and master from zero. It really is harder than it looks. Mainly because when you are inexperienced, you might record something and think it’s okay, but then when it’s time to mix and master you might realize you really should record it again. It really was trial and error for us.
We had to record individually by tracks since we didn’t have the mics to pull off a good live recording. When you do it this way you really have to pay close attention on how everything ends up coming together. When you play live you can tell what’s happening around you and most importantly you can react to it. When recording by tracks you are pretty much blindfolded; you have to put your trust on the mixing, and the difference between a good sound and a bad sound might be a 3dB increase in the lower frequencies of the drum track, for example. It sounds exaggerated but this is what we found to be true in our case.
Then the hardest instrument to record was obviously the drumset. This was mainly because of its acoustic nature, loudness and the radically different sounds you get by just slightly changing the position of the mics.
When we record again (probably this summer) we feel like we’ll do a much better job thanks to the experience we got by doing these 5 demos.
Do you guys find it hard being teens and booking gigs?
Not necessarily, the hardest part about booking gigs here is just the lack of involvement of the venues. How it works is, if you want to get paid you can either play for free and earn a commission off of drinks people buy while you‘re playing or rent the venue and start selling tickets.
The first option is usually a no-go because venues won’t give you more than 15% per drink, which is ridiculously low. Like they could really do better than $15 for every $100 they make thanks to our fans buying their overpriced alcohol. The good thing, though, about not selling tickets this way is that you get to be heard by not only your fans, but just random people that might walk by and come in.
The second option can be challenging since to rent the venue you need to pay around $200 in advance and then estimate how many people will be coming to set a reasonable price on tickets. We usually pick this one, because we’ve found that if you get together with one or two other bands and throw like a mini festival you can make some reasonable profit. The downside to this is that very few people can stumble upon your show (appart from the fans of the other bands) since you’re charging admission.
You guys are from Spain, is there a big local music scene there that is supportive of independent bands?
There used to be a scene here in the 80s during “La Movida Madrileña”, venues would help bands grow and there were TV and radio shows to promote independent bands; but right now all of that is gone.
Basically if you want something done you have to do it all by yourself and if somebody offers you some help they’ll probably charge you afterwards. You want to play? You have to ask around to friends of friends for other bands to play with. Like we mentioned before you have to pay in advance the venue’s rent and if you don’t make the money back, well, tough luck, kid. Most of the time the venues won’t even announce that you’re playing there unless you pay them for promoting. You also have to design the pamphlets or flyers yourself and spread them around the city. At the same time these things force you to be creative because if you have to rely on others, you’re going to die waiting.
We’re not saying there aren’t any initiatives, but we’re not very fond of them. In a city of 3.2 million people, paying $200 to the single band that can get the most facebook likes on the promoters page and then wins a “Final event” (like a talent show of the bands with the most likes), where they don’t even pay you for playing, is pretty lame. Most of this initiatives are just publicity stunts for the company that promotes them disguised as some sort of concern for the well being of the scene.
Do you think that social media has helped the EP reach people around the world?
It is the main tool we have. If we had to rely on a record label stumbling on our shows out of the hundreds of shows that happen every night in Madrid, we’d be lost. This way we can more or less start making a name for ourselves without anyone’s help.
It is still extremely difficult to reach people mainly because of the sheer amount of bands that are out there trying to be heard. We humans love repetition, we listen to a song and it takes a couple of plays before we really like it; and most people aren’t willing to give a couple of plays to every single band that appears on their timeline. Still, it’s a good way of doing things on our own.
We just want to reach as many people as possible, that’s why we’re giving our EP for free on bandcamp. We’re not going to live off of it at this level anyways so do as you please. Check it out, download it, torrent it we don’t care as long as you enjoy it and don’t make money out of it.
To end, do you guys have any music you recommend I should check out?
We're going to recommend you some local music because we feel like we have to represent. Some of it is new, some of it is old, everything is good:
Los Vinagres - Me enamoré de tu Madre
Los Nastys - Veneno de Serpiente
Siniestro Total - Todos los ahorcados mueren empalmados
Javier Krahe - Marieta
Kiko Veneno - Los delincuentes
Ilegales - Europa ha muerto
Go check out Ludwig's Method on social media! Maybe even get their EP on Bandcamp.