In 2013, folk rock group Reina del Cid landed a weekly Monday night residency at Amsterdam Bar & Hall in downtown St. Paul. After playing to a nearly empty crowd, consisting of mainly just the bartender, Reina del Cid ultimately grew a fervent local fanbase and their time there pushed them to improve and flourish as a band. Originally a solo singer-songwriter who posted songs to YouTube in college, Reina leads the group with her steady, melodic voice. Following the 2015 release of their debut album, The Cooling, Reina del Cid toured across the US and are now anticipating a 2017 follow up album. They play The Cedar on June 9th with Jonathan Rundman, The Lowland Lakers, Sarah Morris and Andy Cook. The acts are presented by The Minnesota Music Coalition, a nonprofit organization aimed at connecting and supporting independent Minnesota musicians.
We spoke with Reina to learn more about the development of the band.
Q. How did the band start?
A: I started out as a solo act while I was in college, posting my songs to the internet in lieu of performing live (which I was terrified of). I think my first live performance was for a smattering of close friends and a very bored Eden Prairie barista. In 2011, I collected some musicians, including my current guitarist Toni Lindgren, and began playing out regularly and recording music.
Q:. You all had a two-year residency at Amsterdam Bar & Hall in St. Paul, what was that experience like?
A: Our Amsterdam residency was invaluable to us as a band. When we started, we were literally just playing to Rocky, the bartender. Not even our friends wanted to trek across the river to see us on a Monday night in downtown St. Paul. But over time, people chanced in to see us, told their friends, etc., and by the end it was a pretty happenin’ place every Monday, thanks to a very beloved group of regulars. Somehow every holiday seemed to fall on a Monday, and folks would come in to celebrate St. Patricks Day, Valentine’s Day, even President’s Day with us–that’s the kind of thing that really solidifies your relationship with a local fanbase. And best of all, with so many performances under your belt for two years, you can’t help but improve as a band, so we emerged a much better live act than when we started.
Q. Your band is described as folk-rock. Does your music background lean one way over the other?
A: I’ve always been primarily a folk artist. Until I teamed up with my band, everything I did was necessarily classified as “folk” because it was just me and an acoustic guitar. These days, the band and I are producing songs that are closer to pop-rock. It still has the same storytelling spirit as the old folk songs I was writing in college and before, but it’s enriched by new musical sensibilities. For instance, we just released a new single called “Lover, Be Mine” which has a reggae flavor — a first for us. It’s important to me to be able to new things and not be confined to a specific genre.
I’ve realized the importance of choosing wisely who you allow into your creative space. Pick the wrong collaborators, and it’s kind of like a game of Jenga, with bits being removed here and there until the whole thing topples over. Bring in the right people, and they’ll leave the foundation and just add the good stuff around it.
Q: Your debut album, The Cooling, came out last year. What can fans expect from your forthcoming album?
A: The new material is all over the board. On one hand, I’ve got a few very intimate, stripped down acoustic songs and on the other hand there’s a bunch of full-band, shimmery pop/rock songs more in the vein of the new single. I’m thinking of just splitting the material up into two different releases — a close up and quiet EP and a not-so-quiet full length. We’re playing around with different options. After taking a break from writing for awhile after The Cooling to travel around and live life, it’s good to have a bunch of new songs in my pocket.
Q: What is inspiring you right now?
A: The last two songs I’ve written have been about a nuclear apocalypse and the dangers of data mining, so you know, the usual! Listening to the Grateful Dead and Dolly Parton. Reading scripts of plays. Learning about Blackjack. Trying to open my eyes to things happening across the globe that are deliberately hidden from me. We live in a beautiful and terrible time. That inspires me.