Interview: Billy Gil of Doña Nicha
Doña Nick Gil (from left), Doña Billy Gil and Doña Jason Hanakeawe
OC Weekly/Lilledeshan Bose:Where'd you get your name?
The lady who cleaned our parents' house was named Doña Nicha. Doña is a sign of respect to a lady of a certain age. We never met Doña Nicha, but any time my mom said her name, I just felt this force from her, it just sounded really dark and dramatic, and Nick and I were just forming a band when she started working for my mom. That name sort of guided the development of our sound. She only worked for our mom for a few weeks and then she got work taking care of an elderly person, which is more lucrative than cleaning houses. I'm not sure what became of Doña Nicha, I hope she is well.
Fill in the blanks: ___________ + ________________ + ____________ = Dona Nicha's sound
Shoegaze + Lo-Fi + Telenovelas
Name three OC venues you love performing in (or watching shows in) and why:
Detroit Bar and Alex's Bar have the best sound of any places we've ever played, and the staff and decor are great too. Alex's especially has a lot of amazing art up that has an old Mexican vibe that we love, a lot of paintings of beautiful women from long ago and skeletons. I can't think of a better place that fits our aesthetic. The Prospector in Long Beach also has been very good to us, they've also got an amazing vibe and they make mean drinks. I'd like to play more OC places.
What's your band's deepest wish?
We'd love to tour and play Latin America. Not just because of our name and that we have Spanish in some of our songs, I think Spanish and Mexican audiences in particular would sort of "get" us. Nick, Tony and I are first-generation Cuban. Playing in Cuba would be a dream.
If you could open for one band, who would it be and why?
All of us love My Bloody Valentine a whole lot, that might be the most obvious one. But I think it'd be great to open for someone in the tropicalia realm, Caetano Veloso or Os Mutantes. We borrow a lot of chords and ideas from tropicalia, so it'd be great to be able to pay tribute to those artists somehow.
Who would you do a duet/collaborate with?
There's an artist who's huge on YouTube called La Tigresa del Oriente.
She's a Peruvian singer who's videos are some of the most entertaining things I've ever seen. We're obsessed with older ladies who used to be very beautiful and have kind of lost it--the whole Norma Desmond, Baby Jane thing, but especially with Latin women, as well as just anything that's sincere and awesome, but also ridiculous and over-the-top. I can't really think of anyone that encapsulates that more than La Tigresa del Oriente.
How many languages does your band speak? How many ethnicities in all are in the band? How does that influence your music?
We collectively speak English. Our Spanish is pretty terrible. I wrote lyrics to one of our songs, "Mujeres de Media Noche," in Spanish, but the grammar is likely way off and I'm sure the meaning is off too. I don't think of it as a gimmick, though. It has more to do with Latin culture, how it often expresses sadness and nostalgia, whether that be in Mexican Mariachi classics or Cuban boleros or Spanish film, and how we relate to that as musicians and kids of immigrants. I'd love to learn at least some Portuguese so we can cover Caetano Veloso songs.
What do you usually write about in your songs? And what propels your songwriting? And what was the main cohesive thought behind the EP?
A lot of our lyrics deal with sad subjects, often times it's about the subject losing his or her mind slowly, or dying relationships, and just kind of the small instances of beauty that pop up in those kinds of terrible situations. We usually come up with some sort of story or idea.
One of our songs, "Blanche Devereaux" (R.I.P. Rue McClanahan), is kind of about this woman of a certain era who's betrothed and decides to jump to her death on her wedding day, only it doesn't kill her and she ends up an artist and a hermit. Or it does kill her, and it's just in her head that she gets away. It helps if you kind of have an idea ahead of time, then your own free thoughts and emotions come through while you're trying to tell some sort of story.
Other times it's just, you know, your typical love songs and breakup songs, but we usually try to obscure the actual meanings somehow, like focusing on weird details that hopefully let the meaning seep through rather than come at you face on. I like lyrics that are sort of impressionistic rather than purely expressive. I think that's what our music is like.
What should people not forget to bring to a Dona Nicha show?
An old soul, a bitter heart and a wandering mind.
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