Carpazine - Thanks for doing the interview, Aitor. Can you please give the readers some background information about yourself?
Aitor - Hi Fernando! Thank you for inviting me to do the interview. So, my name is Aitor Mendilibar. I’m 31 and I live in Brooklyn. I’m a cinematographer and I am also a bass player for The Wilsons. A bit more about myself… I’m originally from a small town in the Basque Country, a hilly region between Spain and France. I grew up playing soccer and esku pelot (known as jai alai in the US) but shortly after, my interest in music grew; especially punk rock music. This eventually led to me quitting sports and instead, I began playing the bass with my friend Andoni who played guitar. Shortly after Gorrotxa (drums), Tiri (lead vocals) and Iban (guitar) joined us and we started a band by the name of Disorders. We played for 10 years releasing two studio records and playing a good amount of live shows.
In 2012 I moved to NYC to pursue my cinematography career. In 2013 I graduated from the One-Year Documentary Filmmaking program at New York Film Academy and I have since filmed several narrative films, documentaries, music videos, commercials, live performances among other projects. In the latter part of 2014 I moved to Bushwick in Brooklyn, where I currently reside, and I started a new music project, The Wilsons, with my buddies Andoni and Potti.
Carpazine - Tell us the brief history of your band.
Aitor - The Wilsons was created in October 2014 when Andoni (guitar player from Disorders) and Potti (a good friend and partner in crime from high school who had been a drummer and lead singer in a couple of bands) came to visit me in Brooklyn. I have to say that at that time I was going through a tough time in NYC and these guys gave me the strength I needed to keep going. One morning, while Andoni and I were waking up after a long night out, we heard Potti humming a tune in the shower. It said something like “Remember Times in NYC…” so we got into my bedroom, grabbed my bass, a notebook, a pen and a bunch of beer and we didn’t go to sleep until we finished the song. The next day we rented the cheapest rehearsal studio at Sweatshop (Brooklyn) and recorded our first song: “Remember Times”. We also made a music video for the song and a couple of days later we released the song in video format.
The thing is that everyone in the band, but I, lives in the Basque Country (actually Andoni travels a lot for work) but we decided to keep going and since then, every time I go back home in Basque Country, we record a new song, make a video and play a couple of live shows. It’s kind of a long distance relationship but it’s actually working out pretty well. For our first show, guitarist Kaki Sweetfingers and drummer Pellito WC joined the band. Soon after, Kaki became an official member of The Wilsons. Due to a focus with another project Pellito left the band and we have since added drummer, Ibaiko.
Carpazine - Who are some of your musical influences?
Aitor - I think that everything you listen, see and experience in your life is an influence when making your art. Especially those experiences in the early teen years. There are many music bands that have been an influence for us. To mention some of them: 70s and 80s British punk rock bands like The Clash and Cock Sparrer, other European bands from the 90s like Oxymoron and Vanilla Muffins, The Hellacopters and Turbonegro from Scandinavia, The Stooges, Ramones, Social Distortion and Rancid from the US and of course the punk rock bands from our land (RIP, Kortatu, Eskorbuto, Hertzainak, Zakarrak,…)
Carpazine - When and how did you first become interested in music?
Aitor - There’s always been music around me since I was a kid, especially in my own home. I remember listening to Sam Cooke, Johnny Cash or Bruce Springsteen all the time in my parents’ small car and enjoying it, but I think it was some time during middle school when I first really got into music. The punk rock scene was very strong / alive in the Basque Country in the late 90s and that’s when I got my first records and started listening to music with my buddies from school and other kids from my town.
Carpazine - How long have you been playing music?
Aitor - I started playing bass in high school when I was 15 or 16 years old. I’d never played a music instrument before so the first time I went to the rehearsal studio in my town, I borrowed a bass and I had no idea what to do with it- haha! I have to thank all the kids at the rehearsal studio that helped me out with the bass in the early days! I actually wanted to learn to play guitar but my friend Andoni already had an electric guitar and he asked me, “Why don’t you learn play bass so we can start a band?” So that’s what I did and that’s when our journey began. It’s been a very special relationship, with ups and downs, of course, which still remains after 16 years.
Carpazine - Who writes the songs and what are they about?
Aitor - We all work together making the songs. It’s a team effort. But if I have to specify more I would say that Andoni does most of the work in the music, I write the lyrics and Potti creates the melodies for the lyrics. Kaki and Ibaiko are currently also members of the band and they also collaborated making our latest song “The Strength You Need Tonight”.
The songs we’ve written so far talk mostly about our relationship between us since we were teenagers: memories, struggle of being away from your people, friendship, support… That was pretty much the theme for our first album “Remember Times”. For the next album we want to talk more about the current political and social situation in this bullshit world we live in. We just can’t be in silence while this world is falling apart. Racism, fascism, sexism… it’s full of shit! The main media and the major powers rule the world and the working class and minorities are trampled underfoot.
Carpazine - What do you think constitutes a good song?
Aitor - I don’t know… I think it’s a very subjective question. There’s a song for each moment, you know? It doesn’t matter if it is a very simple or a very complex song, it just has to work. A song is composed by different elements and I believe that a good balance between those elements makes a good song.
Carpazine - What is the hardest part about being a band?
Aitor - A band is like having a girlfriend or a boyfriend multiplied by the number of band members, you know? Haha! I actually think that, each member of the band is a mix between a romantic partner, a family member and a good friend- Haha! That’s how I see it. And that’s why I like it! So… I think I answered the question, right? Haha!
Carpazine - If you could tour with anyone alive or dead, who would it be?
Aitor - If I could go back in time I would tour with The Clash in the 70s or 80s, without a doubt. Nowadays touring with Social Distortion would be a little dream come true.
Carpazine - What about recordings? Do you have anything out there already?
Aitor - We just released an album called “Remember Times”. It has four singles on it and you can find it online at thewilsons.bandcamp.com for only four bucks!! You can also find all our videos in my Vimeo channel https://vimeo.com/channels/1102203 and our Facebook page www.facebook.com/thewilsonspunkrock
Carpazine - Anything you’d like to add?
Aitor - Well, thanks a lot, Fernando, for taking your time interviewing me and I hope you’ll be able to see The Wilsons on stage here in NYC soon! Right now our main goal as a band is to keep making songs, release a new record and hopefully someday we’ll be able to come to NYC, where this adventure once began, and play a bunch of shows around here. A US tour would be so much fun!
And finally, I just wanna thank everyone who has helped us in this project, especially our manager Peke; our collaborators Pellito WC, Pistatxo, Kopo, Leila, JonKru, Tiri, Borja and Otxandio Crew; my buddy Max, who helped me compose our last song; our film crew: Unai Garagardo, Motxa, Jon Arriaga, Pello Salaberria, Tololo, Martzel and Ibai Belar; Zaldibarko Gaztetxie, U2 Taska and Sapuetxe for letting us play in there; all the bands we played with; and, of course, all of you listening to our songs! Cheers!
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Carpazine Art Magazine Issue Number 38 Featuring Doug Firmino! More: Sherry Karver, Valerie Patterson, Randi Matushevitz, Dominick Conde, Fernando Carpaneda, Melinda R. Smith, Collin J.Rae, Milwaukee Graffiti, Somos/We Are: Latinx Artists of Long Island at The Long Island Museum, The Hive Gallery: Line 12, The Sisters and many more!