A graphic designer by day, 29 year-old Julio Salvador is the singer and guitarist in the Barcelona band Wiggum. The band is named after Ralph Wiggum, son of Chief Wiggum in ‘Los Simpsons’, their favourite character, “because he’s a psychedelic character, which suits our band”, Julio explains.
A self-taught musician, Julio has played in four local bands, and has been playing guitar since the age of nine. His father, also a guitarist who played in bands when he was young, was his inspiration.
“Dad mainly played 60s American and British rock and pop, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull… as kids we loved seeing him play guitar. Friends would come over and Dad would bring out the guitar and they would play until 5am and we would stay up and watch from the corridor and we loved it,” Julio says.
“I remember hearing the Harry Nilsson song ‘Without You’ when I was nine. It was the first time I was emotionally shocked and affected by a song. That was the song that made me want to be a musician.”
When Julio first got into music he listened to (and played) The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Nirvana, but now he listens to bands like My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses, The National, Fleet Foxes, and the French band Phoenix.
We ask Julio to describe the music scene in Barcelona.
“On the one hand, there is the typical and most popular Barcelona music which is actually influenced by the music of the south of Spain as well as the traditional music of Catalunya,” Julio explains, “It’s called rumba and it’s a combination of flamenco and marineros (songs of sailors). There are lots of Spanish guitars and it’s a very happy kind of music.”
“The new independent music in Barcelona is very different. Most bands are heavily influenced by American independent bands like Vampire Weekend and The Killers”, he says.
“They’re also influenced by 80s music — everything from Madness and Blondie to Nick Cave. The music is mostly simple happy pop, with simple melodies, and some heavy drums are important. They’re kind of breaking with the nice smooth 60s melodies.”
We asked Julio about the live music scene as we’d heard from several people that licensing issues were causing venues to stop hosting live bands in Barcelona.
“The good places to play in Barcelona are disappearing yet in Madrid they’re increasing. The people in Barcelona are more concerned about loud noise after 10pm (than they are in Madrid) and they are making it difficult for live venues. Madrid is winning!”
“But I think it’s a good moment for the music scene here now, compared to two years ago say. A lot of very good bands have appeared, and you can now hear them on the radio, whereas you couldn’t a couple of years ago, when most radio stations just played Madonna,” Julio says, “They didn’t give much importance to local music before, but now people are more interested. I think this is the time of indie music.”
Given that, we asked Julio to create a Barcelona playlist for us of new independent music, but in contrast to Rob in Marrakech and Sebastian in Jerez, rather than choose songs or individual artists, Julio decided to go with bands.
The Playlist — Julio’s favourite Barcelona Bands
“The name refers to the contraband or black market products that were traded during the Franco period, and they play electro-pop that is a very strange kind of music, which represents the indie scene here well. I actually know them very well, as my younger brother is in the band. They’re working on their second album now and are doing really well.”
“This guy has two bands and this is his new one. Their music is a little like The Pixies, and I really like the quality of their music. Their lyrics are very good and in Spain, lyrics are really important. If you have bad lyrics a song won’t succeed here.”
“Manel sings in Catalan and his music is very melodic, and yet it breaks with the traditional happy pop music. This is a good representation of the change occurring in Catalan music, because before Catalan music was rock and blues. He has been very successful in making music in the Catalan language popular again, which is great.”
“This band is the most representative of the Barcelona indie scene. They released their first three albums in English before releasing another three in Spanish, and they’ve been very successful and yet it’s difficult to be successful singing in English in Spain — the Spanish are racist about their language.”
“This is another band which started singing in English and are now singing in Spanish, and it’s a strange case because they were very successful from their first record. They play a kind of 60s rock, and they don’t take many risks and can be a bit predictable, but they’re still very good.”
Best Barcelona band venues — Julio’s favourites
“This is the best venue, it’s like a theatre, and the most important bands of the scene play here.”
“You can see all kinds of bands here, good and bad.”
“This is Barcelona’s biggest venue, and here you can see local as well as big foreign bands.”
“I love this place. They have concerts every day and musicians will just get up and perform acoustic sets here. Many are influenced by singer-songwriters such as Joaquin Sabina, an idol for many musicians in Spain. Visitors to Barcelona never go here, but they should!”
Where to buy Barcelona music
“The best music shops are on Carrer Tallers in Raval, where you’ll also find lots of vinyl record shops, and FNAC has a very good selection of CDs too.”