Boogarins: “I think that this kind of story, like ours, inspires people to work harder”
We talk with Benke Ferraz, solo guitar and co-founder of the band Boogarins, that is at the backstage of the Rössil Bar in Bern, Switzerland, getting ready for the show that was going to take place later that night.
Boogarins is a psychedelic rock band from Goiania, Brazil. Formed in 2013 by Dinho Almeida (vocals, guitar) and Benke Ferraz (guitar), the band started as a side project of two musicians who are friends for years and founded a music duo, later joined by Raphael Vaz (bass) and Hans Castro (drums), who is no more part of the band and has been replaced by Ynaiã Benthroldo.
The band has an EP and two studio albums. His latest one, “Manual, ou guia livre de dissolução dos sonhos” (Other Music, October 30, 2015) is a rare gem recorded at Circo Perrotti studios in Gijon, Spain. The album represents a firm step on the career of one of the most interesting bands that have emerged in the recent years.
As for the sound, the music of Boogarins could be described as 60’s psychedelic rock with a Brazilian framework, and Portuguese lyrics. It is a sound that has a reminiscent flavour of Os Mutantes, or Santana. Butt far from getting lost in convoluted mazes, Boogarins catch the audience with an ethereal style and a lightness that pervades everything, captivating everyone who pays attention. Boogarins is a band to spend time listening, to get to know and enjoy performing live.
Your new album “Manual Ou Guia Livre De Dissolução Dos Sonhos” was published on October 30th via Other Music. What is the difference between this album and your debut album, “As Plantas Que Curam”?
The first album was also released with Other Music, but it was not a real disk. They were songs that we were recording alone. The band did not even exist. At the time that the album came out with Other Music, then we were sure that we were going to release with them again. I think the difference is that the songs were composed already as a band, and we recorded them thinking that the album was going to be published. It could be unrelated to the first one, which was a thing that we recorded, uploaded to the Internet and that was it.
The album was recorded in Spain, after a long experience of concerts in the most important festivals of the world, as SXSW, Primavera Sound, Lollapalooza, etc. How did it happen to record in Spain?
It was a totally new experience for us, that we had never recorded in a studio that way. And as we have those spaces of time between a tour and another, we tried to get time to record the second album in Spain. It was wonderful. We were there for three weeks recording and trying to mix some things. We had no experience recording like this, in analogue tapes (the album was recorded in live sessions at the vintage studio of Jorge Explosion, Circo Perrotti). For us it was a completely new experience and the result that came out was a record with a very special atmosphere.
Boogarins sound is really special. You can feel the taste of your home land, and the influence of bands like Os Mutantes, but also other influences from international current bands like Tame Impala. How do you create your sound? How do you compose and you come to sound like you do Boogarins?
Certainly Os Mutantes and the sound of Brazil is soemthing that comes because it is a music that we’ve listened a lot. It is our influence. We’ve listened to a lot of Brazilian rock. By an international side, bands like Tame Impala are an influence too, but not a direct influence. It is a reference that comes from the music that was were listening at the moment of composing.
Brazil is a country with a great musical culture and a big tradition of live music, with a big circuit of festivals, and many venues with live music every weekend, instead of having recorded music. As live music is so important in Brazil, and Boogarins is on a international tour right now, how do you feel on this tour, playing away from home?
For us, to play in many countries was never something that we thought we could achieve, not now, or later, after being waiting, with the frustration and excitement that you have when you have a Goian band. Or for anyone who has a band in Brazil, you are not thinking about playing around the world, releasing an album and you have to be waiting.
In Brazil you can play in small venues. It is a very big country. Nevertheless, even having music circuits, these are just the capitals of each state, so you play a lot less than when you are going abroad, as the United States or Europe. There you can get in big circuits playing all day and making big tours. And it is a great privilege. Now with the second album, we are meeting people that we met in the previous tour and many people that is visiting the city are passing by to see the show. And that is something that is priceless.
Last week you released your latest video, “6000 Days”, sung in Portuguese, as all your music. The video was premiered at NME, who mentioned the language barrier for your English-speaking fans. Do you feel that this barrier really exist?
We see this as a complication that appeared later. The label has to sell records too. But when playing live, people that comes to our shows is expecting a show from a Brazilian band that sings in Portuguese. And when they know us, I think that the show gets to skip those barriers, with the party, the energy. At most of the shows that can be seen in small venues, like the ones we play, for 200 to 500 people, it is difficult to understand the lyrics, even if the band sings in English if that is the local language. When I go to shows in Brazil, small shows, I do not understand the lyrics of the bands at the first time.
It was never something to worry about before. It is now, when releasing the second album, that we think to reach more people, not only in Brazil, that we talk about it. But this barrier is not something that really bothers the audience. I think for everyone who likes our sound and likes to listen to different things, it becomes an exoticism. You’re listening to music in Portuguese. Rock sung in Portuguese. As indie rock, or any other genre.
Internationally, Brazilian music is known for genres such as jazz, bossa, or samba, but there is a complete ignorance of Brazilian rock, the so called “BRock.” Musicians like Os Mutantes, Rita Lee, Legião Urbana, Capital Inicial, Cassia Eller, have been ignored by the international press. However, Boogarins is a group that is on everyone’s mouth and is being featured at the media of many countries. How did you got that?
For me honestly, we have reached everything up with all this. The bands that you mention, for me, to be mentioned with them is a great privilege. And it’s funny because you mention rock bands of the Brazilian meanstream music, and many people do not know what is going on with rock now. They have not heard the bands that came out in 2010 or in 2015. Artists such as Legião Urbana, Cassia Eller, they are artists who are giants in Brazil but who had no international mention. People outside of Brazil always use Os Mutantes as a first reference for Brazilian rock.
And we have not done anything different to go out of Brazil. It was more a matter of luck. It was also a matter of working with such luck that arrived to us, and we made the album on vinyl, CD for many countries. We had never had an album on vinyl before. Neither had we imagined we’d get to do this kind of thing. Now in Brazil the production of vinyl is coming back for rock bands.
But this luck we are talking, it was something that did not cross our mind. When we speak of frustration and people who do not reach, you can feel angry. But when the door opens, and you get to put your album out, it’s something that you can not imagine. And now we focus on doing concerts in more places, try to give an answer for the amusement, but also to the effort of our label, which bet for a band that had a poorly recorded album, sung in Portuguese and that now is going worldwide.
In Spain a similar phenomenon is happening with bands like Hinds, or Mourn, that are attracting the attention from the international media, as Pitchfork or NME. Are you aware that you are opening a path for bands that might follow your footsteps?
When we started we had no awareness of this. But if that happen to other bands, everyone would feel inspired. You may not like the sound of a band because the band is Brazilian, but those bands will now have a window in their head and think that they can reach an audience that is not Brazilian, and then try to look at other things.
I think that this is opening the mentality of the people, which eventually think it’s possible. Because you never know where you are going to arrive, what opportunities you will have, or what people you will know. People who do not expect anything, and they are publishing for Brazilians and for Brazilian labels can now go further. Brazilian labels none of them have internet… But some they get also tired of bands that are only playing for small audiences. If this happens it is not bad either. Each one has a way to walk.
I think that this kind of story, like ours, also inspires people to work harder, in what is not taken as a real work in Brazil yet. People do not have how to leave from their offices, their jobs, and focus on music, because it doesn’t have a return. Nobody has a studio, and sometimes not even a band. In that case you have to try other things to get the support to make music.
When Gordon Zacharias takes note of Boogarins, you guys start to form part of Other Music and the Fat Possum family, with artists such as Iggy Pop, Dinasaur Jr, Band of Horses, Modest Mouse, The Black Keys, or Andrew Bird . Although you are mentioning that you were not expecting all this, have you arrived where you wanted to go?
We did not expect this. When we see the name Boogarins next to The Black Keys, well it is not a band that I like a lot, but the catalogue of Fat Possum is amazing. It is a nest of work, of beasts of music, and we did not expect to be next to it. We even never expected to have a contract for our music. We just thought to talk about values with our music. And especially when things happen that are what really matter.
To think that you are being listened in the same way that the artists that you mentioned, that you’re going out from the same label, to think that you are playing on the radio, on the same radio that certain artists play, for us it is amazing.
We had the opportunity to meet many people who we had listened to before and we didn’t expect it. When you arrive at SXSW, where there are so many bands that you have streamed online, even bands that are not very famous, or bands that you don’t even know who they are, but when you see those well-known bands and they are in front of you, then it is when you realize that you’re doing the same tour, following the same path of the bands that you like.
Some of them have become very big and they play for many people. To play for 100 or 500 people in this life, who cares, but the path that you are following is the model of indie music, the pattern of the world alternative music. It’s like paradise. We played in New York, at Primavera Sound, in Lollapalooza. We played with people that we never imagined. And we are living that environment with them, which is wonderful for us.