Gabriela Quintero hears things.

She hears drums, bass and maybe a few other instruments whenever she and musical partner Rodrigo Sanchez play on stage.

It’s a little odd, because both play acoustic guitar and when they perform it’s just the two of them.

“We never really studied any classical guitar, we just learned playing in bands, so in my mind I hear a whole band playing when we play,” said Quintero, 40. “So really we have the structures of rock music, but we’ve developed our own style.”

Quintero and Sanchez, peforming as Rodrigo Y Gabriela, will bring their unique acoustic guitar sound to Portland’s State Theatre Friday.

The duo has taken acoustic guitar music to places it seldom goes. Both grew up loving thrash metal guitar playing, and now they transfer that energy into their acoustic playing. Their music fuses folk genres, Flamenco, rock and just about anything else the pair might hear.

They’ve sold more than a million records over the past decade, have toured the world, and drawn raves from music critics. They also collaborated with Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” in 2011 and contributed music to the animated film “Puss in Boots” the same year.

The pair, who were a romantic pair until a couple years ago, have been playing together more than 15 years. They met as young thrash metal fans in Mexico City, and played in a band together.

But they became bored with playing bars and events and decided they wanted to travel the world. Part of that urge to travel was to find out what they could do as musicians, just the two of them, playing day in and day out.

Because they wanted to travel, they needed instruments that would travel well. So they ditched electric guitars for acoustic.

Not only would acoustic guitars travel well, but the music would be “softer to the ears” of passersby, since the duo was planning to do a lot of playing in the streets.

“Once we started traveling, and playing just the two of us, we had to develop our own style where we could complement each other,” said Quintero. “With just two guitars we have to be creative.”

They also developed their style in a place you might not expect two Mexican guitarists to end up: Ireland. When they decided to travel, they picked Europe, but wanted a place that would be very different from Mexico City.

“A lot of the Mexican middle class goes to Spain on vacation, but we didn’t want to be tourists,” said Quintero. “We decided on Ireland basically because we didn’t know anything about it.”

The duo’s success in Ireland led to touring throughout Europe. Their first self-titled album debuted at No. 1 on the Irish albums chart in 2006. Later that year they appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and their reputations have been spreading since.

Quintero said that one side effect of playing with thrash metal energy in a band with only two guitars is that it’s physically exhausting.

“We can’t sit back and rest during a drum solo or something, so it’s a pretty demanding gig, with no break,” said Quintero. “We stretch out, stay in shape. The biggest thing for me is to be mentally prepared. I need about a half an hour before the gig where I don’t talk to anyone.”

So if you happen to see Quintero before the State Theatre show, leave her alone. You’ll enjoy the show more knowing you didn’t ruin her pre-gig preparations.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]


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