She commands a flexibility of language reminiscent less of Regina Spektor or Ingrid Michaelson, artists Reina del Cid is often compared to, but more of Virginia Woolf or Sylvia Plath. Yet there is a Newtonian balance of forces in Reina del Cid’s band: for every droll phrase or inventive image pushing the music toward the realm of the cerebral, there is a corresponding musical contribution from the richly talented Toni Lindgren. The young guitarist is adept at orchestrating and fleshing out the skeletons of del Cid’s songs into an engaging brand of pop rock, equal parts stratified and accessible. These lyrical and musical forces have never combined more compellingly than in the band’s sophomore album, The Cooling, which drops today.
Recorded at the historic Pachyderm studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, The Cooling showcases the dark side to Reina del Cid. Over lilting, swelling strings in the title track she explores what “life” might be like in the hours and days after one has died: “And they said / hell would be fire and smoke / but in the end / it’s the cooling that scares you the most.” From the frenetic palimpsest of Lindgren’s tapping guitar in the opening track to the stripped down solo acoustic “Morse Code,” the terrain of The Cooling is anything but uniform, and yet it holds up as a cohesive work of discovery, maturation, and growth for the songwriter and her band.
The band is freshly emerged from the pressure cooker of more than 300 shows over two years both in their hometown and on national tours—tighter, bolder, and more sophisticated in style and form. Del Cid has blossomed into an authentic storyteller, a kaleidoscope of onstage charm. It is the kind of metamorphosis one might expect from all those nights of experimentation in front of live audiences.
Ghettoblaster recently talked to del Cid about the album. This is what she told us.
When did you begin writing the material for The Cooling?
The songs on this album span over a decade. I wrote the basic skeleton for “Giving Up” when I was a teenager, and then rewrote a lot of it for the album. The Cooling actually was the last one to be written—only a few weeks before we went into the studio, so we kind of had to scramble to get the string parts together. The strings were worth the scramble!
Which of the songs on the LP is most different from your original concept for the song?
The album’s title track morphed the most from beginning to end. Just before we went into the studio, I was on a weird horror kick. I was reading a lot of Stephen King and watching Children of the Corn and other scary films on Netflix. All of that stuff was floating around in my head and I initially sat down to write a gory zombie song—something straight out of an ‘80s horror flick. I wanted it to be taken literally. A zombie singing about the daily struggles of the undead.
As I played around with the lyrics though, “The Cooling” revealed itself to be more a symbolic song about depression—I realized that rather than painting a picture of an actual zombie, I was actually getting more at that eerie feeling of having somehow died inside when everyone else thinks you are still alive, so you go to great lengths to preserve the illusion you’re still operating normally. Mental illness creates zombies out of people every day, and so that’s really what the song ended up being about.
I left some of the original horror imagery in there—sensory details about pallor and stench and images of being buried alive or knives sticking out of heads. It’s gruesome stuff! But in the end the song turned into something farther reaching, and ended up being a great umbrella for the entire album.
What was it like recording in Pachyderm Studios?
Walking into Pachyderm was like slipping into a dream! It’s hidden deep in 50 acres of woods and there’s a creek running just behind it where you can go and meditate in between sessions or fish for trout. The people who built it obviously knew what they were doing, because it has these enormous windows from floor to ceiling that make you feel like you’re just standing up in the trees as you record.
Nirvana was there recording their demo for In Utero decades before, so I always had the impression that Kurt Cobain’s ghost was wandering the guesthouse halls at night. If he was, he didn’t give me any trouble.
How has your songwriting matured since Blueprints, Plans?
The most important change has come from just my ability to collaborate with my bandmates. I started out with a “songwriter-with-backing-band” sort of outfit, but opening my ears and working more closely with these guys over the last few years since Blueprints, Plans has had a huge effect on the kind of songs I write. Toni Lindgren (lead guitar) is brilliant. To not give her free creative reign on each and every song would be a huge waste. She makes my songs musical and lush, and I think working with Toni in particular has transformed my songwriting.
Do you have any plans to tour the states this year? If so, with a full band?
I’m bringing the full band out east this summer for a few dates: Chicago, New York City, Washington D.C., and Boston among others in late June and early July. We thrive on the road and I can’t wait to bring these new songs out there with me.
I’m actually just starting to kick around the idea of doing a long solo tour, just me and a guitar. It would be the first time I ventured out completely alone and I think it would be scary, lonely, and immensely rewarding at the same time. What do you think?
(Visit the band here: http://www.reinadelcid.com
Catch them live here:
06.21 • Art in the Park (Lanesboro, MN)
06.26 • The Elbo Room (Chicago, IL)
06.29 • Velvet Lounge (Washington, DC)
07.02 • Pete’s Candy Store (New York, NY)
07.03 • Toad Cambridge (Boston, MA)
07.04 • Music by the Sea (Camden, ME)
08.15 • Take Flight Brew and Music Festival (Dresser, WI))