Spain's Belako On Making Art Under Lockdown

Spain's Belako On Making Art Under Lockdown

How punk rock and the pandemic inform their new album...

Belako are something of a rarity nowadays. Hailing from Mungia near Bilbao, the Spanish post-punk outfit have been creating waves across Europe, relying almost entirely on their renowned live performances. Clash spoke to Cristina Lizarraga (vocals and keys) about the band’s journey up to now and how they are coping in lockdown after Coronavirus cut short the release of their new album and breakout US tour.

“We always say that until you see us live you won’t fall in love with us,” boasts Cris, half laughing. But she’s being deadly serious. While so many millions around the world discover their new artists through algorithms and social media, the Basque outfit have grown their dedicated fanbase organically, almost traditionally.

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But the coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to all that. “It’s very depressing,” Cris admits, “we were looking forward to release the album this year and go touring and we had so many dates and now all them are all falling away.” The album Cris is talking about is 'Plastic Drama', Belako’s frantic but considered fourth LP. Along with 'Plastic Drama', they had a packed tour schedule, including dates at SXSW and Reading & Leeds.

But while the pandemic has put a roadblock in their way, it has also provided the band with an opportunity. Usually quite sceptical of social media, often finding it an imperfect medium to be themselves, recent events have meant the band have had to adapt.

“[Plastic Drama] is going to be a different kind of release. People will listen to the songs before they see us live…It’s such a thrill to see a band you have listened to a lot because usually when we’ve been touring abroad it’s always been people listening to our music for the first time live. So now it’s going to be the other way around.”

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Unlike lockdown in the UK where we are at least able to leave our homes, the regulations in Spain didn’t allow their citizens to even do that. While the rules have been relaxed in recent weeks, Belako, along with the rest of Spain, have spent the last six weeks in the unenviable position of being truly ‘locked down.’ But for a band as rooted in the DIY spirit as Belako, the change in direction is something they are more than a match for. They have even announced a three date ‘drive-in tour’, where their live shows can be accessed by those in cars and bikes.

“We are very influenced by the Basque punk rock scene and it has a strong importance in our music history,” Cris states, “I think it’s something that we also have in our attitude and the live performances.” This spirit is integral to 'Plastic Drama' and is evident in just the title, let alone the five singles they’ve released so far, as Cris explains:

“This was [the title] a way to criticise ourselves first because have always has this heritage of being very political and critical, very punk rock. But at the same time we can’t help feeling that we are complaining from a privileged side of society. So what we do is we always make our own dramas. But plastic drama is an actual drama because we are seeing every day how the environment and society is collapsing. I think the lyrics of the album reflect both sides of the title”. 

From the riotous ‘The Craft’, to the anthemic ‘Tie Me Up’, to the impassioned ‘marinela2017’, Belako play with a spirit and individuality the rock scene has been missing in recent years.

And yet Plastic Drama is the first album Belako have recorded since signing to the major label BMG, marking a shift from their early self-releasing days. But, having worked with them before on previous projects, the German imprint recognised the need to give Belako the creative stability in order to grow them as a band. The band are still making music in the same way, but the deal is “giving the band an even larger platform, hopefully picking up fans in new places,” Cris explains.

Belako are a band who have had to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic more than most. Not able to do what they love most at one of the most pivotal moments in their career, the band have been forced to wait a little bit longer for their moment in the sun. But despite the slight wait for the release of Plastic Drama, the band’s identity remains the same.

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Words: Ben Miles

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