Rodrigo and Gabriela love going to extremes. Even their success is an extreme of sorts, the duo being the first acoustic rock act without a singer to storm the charts and pack concert halls. Ever. Long before that, when they tired of playing heavy metal in their native Mexico they didn’t just turn to playing acoustically, they went and did it on the streets of Dublin. When they broke up as a couple – but not as duo, if you follow me – Rodrigo didn’t just move out, he moved to Norway. So perhaps it was inevitable that when Gabriela converted her vegetarianism to veganism she would found an eco-vegan cooperative and champion an animal shelter.
While Rodrigo Sanchez contributes the virtuoso metalesque lead lines in their duets, it is Gabriela Quintero’s ferociously percussive strumming that defines the sound that has made the pair so popular. Her personality is the polar opposite. While something of the unusual Irish lilt that once inflected her Mexican-accented English has waned, it is still impossible not to be charmed by her voice, let alone her rampant enthusiasm for healthy eating, animal welfare and the environment.
“People always tend to ask, ‘How is this good for me?'” she says of eco-veganism. “My approach is to turn that question around and say, ‘How are you good for life? How are you good for other people? How are you good to yourself?’ A lot of people say ‘What is the benefit of a vegan diet for me?’ and I change that around to ‘Do you know if your current diet is good for you? Are you a hundred percent sure your current diet is not bad for the environment, and bad for other economic, animal and social issues that are around?’ By turning these things around people tend to be more open to listen.”
But surely all this is at odds with the lifestyle of a touring musician who leaves a carbon footprint the size of an aeroplane’s shadow. “In my rider I always ask for local organic food,” she replies. “In regard to global warming and the flights, for me when you adopt a 100% plant-based diet you’re immediately reducing a lot of footprint, a lot of carbon dioxide, methane gas and greenhouse effect, and also saving tonnes of water.” She enumerates statistics to back her argument. “But you know what?” she adds. “It’s very hard to get everything right. My approach is just to minimise that as much as possible.”
When the conversation finally turns to music I ask if she believes she and Rodrigo are still opening up new options for what can be done with just two acoustic guitars. “Yes,” she says, “there are a lot of things that are still organically coming from our hearts. Guitar is a universe. I think it’s limitless.”
As for that relationship break-up, such things have killed many a band before. Why not them?
“Rod and I know each since we were 15 years old [some 25 years], so we are family. We had a fantastic relationship, and now we have another, so we kind of saw it in a very philosophical way.”
Rather like the approach to food.