You’ll probably never hear the Hermanos Gutiérrez sing. But if you ever have the opportunity to hear the instrumentalist duo speak as they share stories of each of their songs during tour sets, you’ll find that the vividness in their words aligns with the transcendence of their music. Their upcoming album, El Bueno Y El Malo, contains sounds inspired by their Swiss and Ecuadorian upbringing, channeling the rhythms and melodies found in the ‘50s and ‘60s Latin tunes they grew up on.
Upon hearing Hermanos Gutiérrez’s music, particularly their latest effort El Bueno Y El Malo, the listener can paint a picture of Sergio Leone films, scored with dreamy, heady guitars, matching each other’s familial energy throughout. It’s an album that finds the brother duo, Estevan and Alejandro Gutiérrez, taking risks, most notably working with a new producer after years of solely working with each other.
The record was co-produced with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, with much of the recordings taking place at Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville. With this particular album, the hermanos wanted to create a musical landscape in the desert and pay homage to Spaghetti Western films.
“[My brother and I] came prepared with 10 songs that we wrote together,” Estevan says. “We arrived in Nashville, we got to know Dan and the whole crew for about 20 minutes. And then we were already recording. It was amazing, because we felt like we knew each maybe in another life. It felt just so natural to be there to record. And we recorded 10 songs in two and a half days.”
They particularly enjoyed working with Auerbach as he didn’t impose ideas upon them, but rather, helped them expand upon their musical universe.
As one can imagine, the songwriting process is a bit different when their music doesn’t utilize any sung or spoken lyrics. Even during the early phases of the pandemic, working separately wasn’t an option for the hermanos. The two are bound by music and work together in a synergetic fashion.
“Once we have a clearer idea of something that we want to share with each other, then we show it to each other, and then it’s always like one part is missing,” Alejandro says. “And then we try to add stuff, and let it grow and be rich. But before we even go to the studio, I think we really want to have a clear structure of each song in the album. We want to want to be sure of the story we want to tell in the studio. And the more you’re prepared and have the structure you’re even more free to improvise stuff.”
As its title suggests, one of the main themes of El Bueno Y El Malo is duality. On a particular track called “Los Chicos Tristes,” the hermanos take inspiration from their grandfather, who they say taught them to embrace the beauty and power in feeling sad and vulnerable.
“Being sad doesn’t mean like,” Estevan says, before briefly pausing, “Yeah, does it mean having weight on your shoulder? Sometimes it does, but it’s an honest perspective. And how we try to transmit it to the music, it’s a powerful skill that we can all use to make something beautiful.”
The hermanos very briefly appear in the song’s music video, which is directed by Alejandro Sugich, as the music scores the story of a street vendor in Mexico City doing strenuous labor throughout the day, to come home and enjoy a calm, simple dinner with his family.
“We didn’t want it to make it about us,” Alejandro says. “We wanted to show someone and put a light on them. We were so overwhelmed by this idea of going there and portraying millions of stories that are happening every day.”
The hermanos were raised by a Swiss father and an Ecuadorian mother. Growing up between the cultures of Ecuador and Switzerland, the two learned how to be present in the moment, and to cherish things as they are, especially during the times when they’d be traveling between both countries.
The two often say that Ecuadorian culture takes place in the streets, as the children play and gather with their neighbors and friends; while Swiss culture takes place within the four walls of one’s home, focused on the safety and comfort of the family. As they are currently on tour, the sentiment continues to ring true, with the brothers continuing to recall and tell stories inspired by their upbringing through pure instrumentation.
“I remember we went to visit our relatives or grandparents in Ecuador, it was always kind of more loose, more free,” says Alejandro. “I remember our relatives would pick us up at the airport, and we were in the back of a pick-up, no safety stuff. You don’t have those kinds of things in Switzerland, but then going back makes you appreciate your other values. Not having something in a different culture makes you appreciate it even more in another culture.”
El Bueno Y El Malo is out 10/28 via Easy Eye Sound. Pre-order it here.