Hollister’s Rose singer Claudia Gascón: “One of our fears was not to be well accepted here and it turned out to be just the opposite.”
November 10, 2015
Hollisters’ Rose is a Spanish band formed by lead vocalist and songwriter Claudia Gascón and pianist, drummer, and composer Paula Álvarez. They started playing in Spain, but have moved to England where they have recorded their first album, Dandelions in the Wind.
Claudia’s voice reminds me of a mixture between Anastacia and Amy Winehouse. Paula’s soft music accompanies beautifully Claudia’s voice, creating a great combination that reminds me of jazz classic figures such as Billie Holliday.
Their lyrics talk about nostalgic and sometimes sadness because, as Claudia says, it is difficult to write about the good things in life. I spoke to Claudia about the band’s beginnings, their inspirations, and their plans for the future.
When did your passion for music begin?
In my case it began when I was born. I started whistling songs even before I could talk at all, when I was only five months old. And later on I sang the lyrics of the songs instead of talking. That was the way I got along with people. I always sang. I can’t remember where this ability came from, but I must say that my grandfather is a great musician, the best I know, and I suppose this gift runs in the family. He is a great benchmark for me.
As for Paula, her passion also began since she was born. When she was only a year old she used to climb on her brother’s shoulders and she pretended to play drums on him. She spent whole evenings listening to vinyl records that her parents had at home, and that is the reason why her parents decided to enrol her in music lessons when she was only five, so she could enter the conservatory to study piano.
When did you meet and where did you perform for the first time?
We met when I was a singer and writer for the Pop/Rock group ‘La Última Palabra’. Keko, who was at the time the guitarist and composer in the group, decided that we needed a drummer and a bass guitarist, so we did some try-outs. Paula stood for the position and in the end we chose her. Paula and I soon became very close friends and I realized that she could play the piano, even though she kept this a secret since she hadn’t achieved good results when she was studying at the conservatory, and she wanted to put the piano aside until we began playing. I had always liked singing a type of music that involved the piano, so we began working together and soon we became aware that our connection was amazing.
I went to England to live there and ‘La Última Palabra’ had to start looking for another singer. Paula went on with the group in Asturias [a province in northern Spain], since she had to finish her studies in physiotherapy, but we went on working, only for fun, and we started developing our own style.
Paula came to see me and we went to Manchester where, by chance, there were pianos on the road, and we started playing. The audience’s reaction was very positive and we collected some pounds in our basket. It was our first pay as ‘Hollisters’ Rose’, although at that time we didn’t know that in the end this would be our artistic name.
In one of our musical visits to Manchester we got a guitar and Paula played some chords that called my attention, and since I was in a desperate need to compose I decided to record it and when I arrived home after our holidays, once she had come back to Spain, I started working on that song, and I go something out of it. I called Paula through Skype and I asked her top lay those chords on the piano. I thought to myself, ‘I think I’ve got a song’, and that was the way “Dandelions In the Wind” was born, and Paula came back to the piano as her main musical instrument.
Why did you choose ‘Hollisters’ Rose’ as a name for your group?
We chose that name because when I was a little girl I used to keep awake late at night, the same as it happens now, and my father used to read me a fairy tale called, “The Hollisters and the Golden Witch”, so that I could fall asleep. We used to play as if we were living the adventures described in the book and that joined us together a lot and left a mark in my childhood, so I soon knew that it was a perfect name for our group.
As for Rose, it comes from the fact that my parents had always raised dogs and they sold them afterwards. I grew up with them but we always had to sell them out and that broke my heart. But Rose was an exception. I persisted in keeping her and in the end my parents let me keep her with us. And I called the little dog after the name of the main character in the film Titanic and also after my mother’s name. So Hollisters’ Rose is more or less like A Rose for the Hollisters, my Rose and my father’s, in a time when we could pretend for a moment to be the Hollisters and forget about the real world.
Which are your most important musical influences?
Our musical influences are quite diverse. In my case, I have got all kind of influences: Spanish artists like Sabina, La Oreja de Van Gogh, Camarón, Amaral, international artists like Queen, Lana del Rey, Amy Winehouse, Leonard Cohen, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, John Newman, James Brown, Ray Charles, Etta James, Aretha Franklin. I also like classical music and opera. There are a lot of things that I like from different styles, and I pick up here and there when I am in the mood to compose a song, in the same way as Paula does, but my preference is Soul music.
Paula has also got a wide musical range that goes from rock music – Muse, Green Day, Blink-182, Queen– as well as reggae music, opera, classical music–since she received musical training in classical music at the conservatory–to soul music, which is the field where we met.
What is your source of inspiration for composing your songs?
As sad as it may be, it is very difficult for me to sing about the good things of life, so I talk about my problems, either sentimental or moral problems, about my childhood, my thorns in the flesh from the past. And I either talk about the matter as it is or I give it a poetical sense or, if I want to laugh about it, I use irony. Those are my three ways of writing.
During your lifetime you can meet a lot of people and endure many situations, but only a few inspire you and make you feel the need for writing about them. I have also got my particular muses and I know that although time moves on, they will always remain as my foundations for composition. They make me feel that feeling, either pain or joy, which is able to be turned into music.
How did it come to move to the UK?
As I said before, music decided for us. When we were aware of that, that possibility was laid on the table and the decision was taken. It flowed flawlessly. We never talked about it clearly but it seemed quite obvious. Against all odds, we knew that the next step was to take all our work to the UK. At the moment, there is no market in Spain for our type of music and we know that our music can be accepted in the UK.
Do you appreciate differences between Spanish and British audiences?
We appreciate a huge difference. One of our fears was not to be well accepted here and it turned out just the opposite. Obviously, there are different audiences but, in general, people here like our type of music, and they offer their help and soon they come to you to ask you to go on working and not to despair, because you have something to tell and your compositions are good.
In Asturias, the land where we come from, it seems as if they don’t value your work. And it is the same if you do your work this way or the other. Only a few people are able to come and tell you something different from “You sing very well. Very well.” That behaviour burns the musicians out. At least that is my experience.
Do you think London is a city that offers opportunities to artists?
In our opinion, it is a city that can give a lot of opportunities to many artists, either at nationwide level or at an international level. If you are good and you wok hard, you will have your opportunity. In our case, the clue is in finding the right person who paves you the way, and that can only be achieved by rolling on, playing your tunes and making yourself known. We are now at this point. We are trying to build ourselves a name and keep on working until someone decides to bet on us so that we could devote entirely our lives to music, to our music.
Would you like to work in a different country in the future? If so, why?
In the future, if we set our imagination running, we would like to be known at an international level. If your music is accepted in the UK, it is easier that it will be accepted in other countries, and that is something that would please us: being known in Europe and cross the ocean and being known in America. It is our greatest ambition that our music could reach all types of audiences.
Which are your future plans as a group?
First of all, our plans in the short term are to finish recording our first EP “Dandelions in the Wind” and promote it. And secondly, to try and get profits from our music and that way leave our present jobs and focus our work completely on composing. In the long term, we would like to go on working and promoting our music until our goals have been achieved.
You can follow Hollister’s Rose on their Facebook page.