Manchester.London.New York.Berlin. All cities that we associate with having rich and varied musical histories and influences. They are all cultural melting pots of cities that have spawned some of the greatest bands of all time. As a lover of the kind of music that is never going to be called mainstream, I stumbled across a band going by the name of Firefriend. As I listened to their music, I heard the typical influences, the likes of Joy Division, The Sex Pistols,Velvet Undergound & The Jesus And Mary Chain. Nothing out of the ordinary there, I thought. Great band, cool sounds. I became a little more interested, as you do, and found the band hailed from São Paulo, Brazil of all places. This is where my mind struggled somewhat.
Brazil. I ask anyone to give me an image of the country and it will be Copacabana beach, the Amazon, the 1970 World Cup team(best team ever to take to a football pitch!), the Samba or Christ The Redeamer. Even the Favelas. Not a brand of shoegaze psych that sounds like it came from a disused factory in the North of England, or an abondoned building in Berlin. I wanted to know more.
So instead of taking the easy option and asking Google, I took the time to ask the band themselves. Don’t ask me why, I’m no jounalist or writer, but I felt compelled to learn more about the Northern British sounding band from São Paulo, Brazil.
So, in the words of Yury & Julia of Firefriend, I’ll let them tell the story of how the band came to be.
I asked how the band came about, and what influenced them, all the way over in Brazil.
Yury: My parents were hippies here in São Paulo back in the 70’s, I grew up immersed in the heady scents of incense & weed, listening to Jimi Hendrix, The Stones, Pink Floyd, Beatles and Led Zeppelin a lot, since year zero. Then a friend of mine went to London in the 80’s and brought back albums from the likes of Joy Division, Sex Pistols, Jesus And Mary Chain and those records blew my mind. All these sounds combined were groundbreaking and definitely mind-bending, for kids in all corners of the world — those records were like messages from another galaxy to me. It’s fascinating how they make you see reality through another prism. I bought my first guitar just after I got my hands on a mixtape of The Velvet Underground & Nico. That changed my life forever. I bet this is the history of thousands of teenagers living elsewhere on this planet. We start recognizing each other and suddenly we are at someone’s house jamming pretty loud and talking about shows and bands and then there’s an underground scene going on, first with xerox zines and then websites documenting the pulse of our musical community. It was like that back then as it’s still like that today. There are hundreds of bands messing around here.
Julia: Music has been part of my life since I was a kid, I have always needed music to deal with my life. I enjoy the energy of rock’n’roll and always looked for sounds that make my mind travel. This could come from any genre/style, it depends only on how you feel at that particular moment, how open you are to the sounds.
So, how does this translate into European tours and success in the USA & Australia? Not even Yury is sure.
Yury: Surprisingly, it was easier to get noticed & heard outside of Brazil. All reviews and interviews we got after our last album come from Europe, the United States and even Australia. Now there must be a lot of reasons for that, but I’m not sure why, yet. We’ll play in the UK, France, Denmark, and Germany in September, let’s see if we’re going to learn why it’s happening this way!
Pretty sure the reason their music has spread across the Continents is because, great music is great music. Wherever it comes from!
I asked about the latest Firefriend album Sulfur, the bands 9th physical release and how the band maintain their motivation and fresh sounds.
Julia: I love to try new ideas, experimentation is an endless joy. Sometimes it feels like I’m entering new territories using new gear, new effects, it opens our sensibilities to new textures and melodies. That’s my way to keep doing new things.
Yury: Noise and melodies, if you push them out of the genre’s tradition and into the contemporary landscape, you gotta a really enticing monster to behold. That’s an adventure we dig, it helps us feel alive, it helps us build connections with people from every corner, it’s a dialogue that helps us to learn more about who we are. Every piece we read, watch, hear, every person we meet, there are multiple sources of meaning spinning in this astonishing swirl — give them a structure, a shape, and then you have something which you can stand on.
A more personal question I put to the band was the reasons behind making music and why they feel compelled to make it.
Yury: I need music to fill out the void of existence — the 21st century’s so mad. Truth is dead, god is dead, war is everywhere. Industrial trash is everywhere, in the sea, the air, our food and the natural world. Advertising keeps confusing everybody with its fake smiles — music is where one can breathe at last. So I need music to live here on this planet. We all need art, life is more than debts and TV shows. Art & music change our minds and cells and suddenly we are there answering with more music, our music, to feed that fire, to keep it burning.
Julia: It’s a release — and being able to make the kind of music you want to hear, that makes me happy!
Back to the reason I got intrigued by the band in the 1st place, Julia & Yury give me their feelings on the album Sulfur.
Julia: Close your eyes and let it take you somewhere else.
Yury: It tastes like the 21st century — Visceral & dark.
Here’s the latest song to be crafted by Firefriend, ‘Surface To Air’ Available from the 27th July fom the bands Bandcamp site
I would like to thank Yury & Julia for taking the time out to give me a brief insight into the band, and how a shoegaze/psych band came about in São Paulo, Brazil. Many thanks to Yury’s friend for buying the records and taking them all the way back to São Paulo.