Alexander Cuervo (Hostal Riviera) On His Songwriting Process, New Album, and Drops Some Wisdom On The Kids
I got a chance to chat with Alexander Cuervo—lead singer and guitarist for Hostal Riviera.
They just dropped their latest album, Notions.
Jesse: Alright, to start things off—tell us a little bit about yourself and your latest album, Notions.
Alexander: Well, my name is Alexander Cuervo, first generation Mexican American. I grew up on the San Diego-Tijuana border along with my brother, Marko. We moved up to Portland in 2013 to get away from the socal life we'd been surrounded with our whole lives. We found some peace amongst the trees but still felt the need to dig back to our roots. That's when we met Colin and decided to start Hostal Riviera, aiming for a tone that represents "smoking a joint on a Mexican beach". We mostly just fucked around town, just trying to play gigs for beer money. Come summer 2016 I reconnect with my buddy Alex Fulton, from a local band called Motorcoat. Well I hear that he's doing recordings in his basement with some really sweet gear our buddy Lou from LA was stashing with him. So I hit him up and sign Hostal up for the winter time. Well winter time we quit playing gigs and we start recording—after like 4 months in we finish recording as a 3 piece and start mixing. Between the rough winter and not exactly digging the sound, I'm about ready to rip all my hair out. So I dropped the project for like a month, then after listening to some Pink Floyd I realize. We need keys. Matias jumps in, joins the band, bangs out his parts in like 2 sessions. Mix, master and bam. We've got Notions now.
Jesse: Well, I think you've found your sound man, it's fuckin' sick—and "smoking a joint on a Mexican beach" couldn't sum up your sound any better. Now, take us through a typical songwriting/recording session. Your creative process.
Alexander: Thanks man, I appreciate it, we have a great time doing it. Well, our creative process is pretty simple, we have one rule. We only call each other out if it sounds like shit. I basically show up with a song I write, usually fresh out of a breakup. I start playing it and the guys jam along. Eventually we memorize it and it becomes a song. Recording is easy for us, we live track the backbone then overdub some extra shimmer and vocals. No metronome, no fancy studio, we just play off each others vibe.
Jesse: [Laughs] I'd imagine breakups have been responsible for more songs than just about anything else. So, what're you guys up to now? Is a new album in the works?
Alexander: Yeah you know, if I'm ever feeling some writers block, I just go on and sabotage my love life. It usually has good results. Right now we're playing gigs around town, trying to promote Notions. Our next project is a 6 song medley that we're going to try and record all in one take, it's still in writing stages but come winter time we'll be back in the studio.
Jesse: I hope none of you're future lovers reads this. But, keep doing what you're doing—it's working. Anyway, let's back up a little bit. How and why did you get into music in the first place?
Alexander: Music has always been the most important thing in my life. As far as I can remember It's always just been around me. As a kid I took piano, played recorder in school. Then at 8 years old my great grandmother gifted me my first guitar. Since then I've never let it go.
Jesse: Very cool. And what inspired you to actually start cutting records?
Alexander: Isn't that what you just end up doing as a band? I don't know, it was time for a record, plus I heard they can put your ashes on a vinyl record. I think that would be pretty cool.
Jesse: [Laughs] so you're in this for the long haul. I dig. Well hey man this has been an awesome chat. To close things out, do you have any last words of wisdom for all the kids out there who don't know what the fuck to do with their lives?
Alexander: I agree man, great chat. If it wasn't for people like you, independent music would be completely dead. So thank you. Kids, just find your jam and stick to it, no matter what, just enjoy life. This shits not about money, it's not about likes, it's about having a great time and loving every moment of it. At the end of the day, we're all fucked, so just have a good fucking time.
Jesse: Beautifully said. What's the best way to keep up with you and Hostal Riviera? Any big gigs coming up?
Alexander: Well, I guess social media. And yes, we are playing a benefit show to raise some money for hurricane Harvey disaster relief September 16th at the bossanova ballroom! Really stoked for that one.
Jesse: Very cool. Well hey, thank you for doing this man!
Alexander: Thank you.