Hermanos Gutiérrez, brothers Estevan and Alejandro, perform at The Miracle Theatre on Oct. 31, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
A remarkable feat it is when two musicians form a connection so strong that they can transfix and transport listeners with their sound. And with the combination of just two stringed instruments, there might not be a duo painting a more vivid picture in a manner as classic as brothers Estevan and Alejandro Gutiérrez.
Soaring in popularity leading up to the recent release of their newest album, these two captivating siblings record and perform as Hermanos Gutiérrez, and they bring a consciousness-expanding appeal to both the studio and the stage by way of a fruitful and inspiring alliance beautifully manifested through eloquent, timeless guitar compositions.
The Gutiérrez brothers — whose mother is Ecuadorian and whose father is Swiss — made their first ever visit to the nation’s capital on Halloween night in what was a magical engagement at The Miracle Theatre as the tandem played to a room full of people deeply moved and attracted to the instrumental sounds these men have created together across their first five albums.
Recorded in Nashville, produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and released on his Easy Eye Sound label, the newest offering shows the brothers at their most bold and determined, a riveting dive into the expanse of their collective mindset, an endeavor to reconcile emotions both inspiriting and excruciating. Titled El Bueno Y El Malo, it’s a raw, timeless style of music that takes on a vast spiritual demeanor in covering tremendous ground.
Stream Hermanos Gutiérrez’s newest studio album, El Bueno Y El Malo, via Spotify:
And this album would comprise a portion of a set that served as an immersive treat, or retreat, rather, for those on hand who’d skipped out on this year’s Halloween festivities to hear and see these rapidly rising brothers live on the stage.
“Buenos noches, Washington,” Alejandro said to the dark room as he and his brother, to his right, settled into their seats. So patient but decided in their every move, the two share a clear bond not just in their music but in their presence alongside one another — observant, dignified and gracious.
Beginning the night with the title track to the new record, Hermanos Gutiérrez used it to establish the dichotomy that has given such powerful contrast to their compositions thus far, a stark and sobering analysis on the undeniable relationship between good and evil, joy and grief.
The beguiling “Rain God” from the 2020 release Hijos Del Sol saw Estevan start a loop using a pair of bongos that would perpetuate the dazzling suspense and flawless timing with which the brothers complement and fit one another. Here, as he would all night, Alejandro allured in carving wide-ranging, stunning notes from his sparkling lap steel guitar while Estevan so delicately wove evolving rhythms as if they came from within his soul. Compositions of tremendous magnitude but with not a single word, they become lyrical in essentially telling a tale through artistic coaction of only the couple instruments at play.
Having traveled great distances alongside one another, and through shared experiences, these two brave souls are confident in pouring themselves into the consuming melodies they intertwine, and the cheers and applause following each song in DC illustrated the effect on this audience.
Estevan on his Gretsch electric guitar and Alejandro rotating between his own electric and the lap-steel, the two meandered within one another with such an organic flow that their sounds seem of the natural world.
They’ve been influenced by Latin and Western music of past decades, particularly the 1950s, and as Parklife DC learned in speaking with the brothers this past summer at the Newport Folk Festival, they’re passionate about their opportunity to bring a refreshing experience to traditional music lovers from any continent.
“We think that music can heal, music can connect, can bring (listeners) to a journey,” Estevan said to Parklife DC this past summer at Fort Adams State Park.
“When we play, we always have these landscapes in mind. We travel to the desert or to a coast, and when we play, we think that the people can connect with our music and then they can have their own journey. So that’s why I think people like that it’s just the guitars and it’s the melodies, so they can have their own visions and thoughts.”
Watch the official video for “Tres Hermanos,” a song Hermanos Gutiérrez recorded with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys on their newest studio album, which Dan produced:
Some of the guests at The Miracle Theatre last Monday night were, as expected, dressed for the occasion, with numerous head-turning outfits, including a solo, lonesome specter spooking the back of the house — but even those in costume were in awe of the Gutiérrez brothers.
“We started playing together about six years ago,” said Alejandro, though anyone in the room would have guessed it to be a thriving lifelong project. Taking their guests “back in time,” Estevan and Alejandro adjoined some of their pieces, including “Venganza” and “El Jardin” from their 2017 premiere 8 Años to highlight some of their most compelling tracks from that album.
After a gorgeous and revolving take on “Mesa Redonda” from Hijos Del Sol, they’d visit the new album again before the title track to their second, 2018’s El Camino De Mi Alma, a song that the brothers explained invokes their sense of connection with one another and their audience.
“Every time we play it, we feel the connection between us, the guitars, you,” said Alejandro, whose eyes are intense and captivating as his fingers work.
Though his were usually more shadowed underneath the brim of an open crown hat, Estevan noticed that plenty of folks in the room were speaking in Spanish, and so he delivered some of his commentary midway through the set in one of the several languages he and his brother grew up speaking.
In examining numerous pieces they deemed worthy of commentary, the brothers shed light on their roots and reminisced of time spent with their family in various parts of South America, and they were so admirably sincere about the heart they’ve put into the songs they performed in DC this past week.
“We asked ourselves, what is the kind of song we can write to share emotions with our fans? And the one word that we thought of was hope,” said Alejandro, who’d later show even more courage in detailing how important heartache has been for the brothers’ songs.
“Being sad doesn’t have to be bad,” he recalled words of advice from one of their grandfathers. “It’s an experience that we can embrace and one that we do as brothers.”
Another experience shared by the brothers, one described as “amazing,” they recorded a song with Auerbach himself for the newest record, a track titled “Tres Hermanos.” At The Miracle Theatre, Alejandro created another loop — this time with careful strikes on a cowbell — to conjure the deeply reflective quality of this creation that, like all the brothers’, is strikingly cinematic.
Earlier in the set, Alejandro affirmed that indeed he and Estevan, who also goes by Stephan, feel like they are scoring their own motion picture: “All we’ve been doing is driving in the car together, looking at these new landscapes,” he said. “We’re hoping that you all have your own movie going in your mind too.”
Stream Hermanos Gutiérrez’s 2020 studio album, Hijos Del Sol, via Spotify:
And as the set reached its finale, the music seemed to become that much more brilliant, almost tangible. A track expanded by the tender use of violin strings on the recorded version, “Los Chicos Tristes” stripped down in person was every bit as haunting and agonizing. And “El Desierto,” a song depicting a daunting landscape, was effective in creating a wide open and irresistible space for the listener.
Devoted to reinforcing the strength of their music and the impact of what they’re creating together, Hermanos Gutiérrez took the time after their two-song encore to meet many of the folks on hand at The Miracle Theatre. To loud cheers, the brothers made their way up the aisle to the foyer, where they gladly signed copies of their new record and snapped photos with a long line of fans who were elated at the chance to greet these two gentlemen.
El Bueno Y El Malo
Venganza x El Jardin
Recuerdos x Hijos Del Sol
El Camino De Me Alma
Mi Amor x Amor Profundo
Railroad Vista x Western Bronco
Los Chicos Tristes
Here are images of Hermanos Gutiérrez performing at The Miracle Theatre on Oct. 31, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.