Woah, man! This is our thing! An Interview with Lulina| 11 April, 2011
After listening to countless new albums from Brazil and finding out that the musicians were either from or lived in São Paulo I had decided that a trip to Brazil’s commercial, and musical, hub was definitely needed. With very little preparation I arrived and, after checking into a hostel, getting some food and having a wash, I went on a quick internet search to find some interesting music for the night. None of the artists I found rang any bells and I eventually settled on a double bill of Dudu Tsuda and Lulina.
Most of the other nights featured just one act. Here, I would get double for my money, plus Lulina rang a bell in my head [I later found out it was because I saw it on a list Vincent Moon sent me of interesting Brazilian artists].
Obviously I wouldn’t mention this unless it had some significance. That night, I was blown away by Lulina and her band. My portuguese was still rusty and I was struggling to pick up all of her quips and the in-band jokes, but the set was full of classic pop hooks that never outstayed their welcome, and it was clear this was a singer who really cared for her craft. Her diminutive stature and unassuming attire soon gave way to a big personality that literally beamed from the stage. It was clear that I had to find out more about this singer.
A few days later I arrived at the gates of an apartment block in Vila Madalena. A confused conversation with a doorman and a quick lift journey and I arrived at Lulina’s home. Time for the interview to begin…
So, you are from Pernambuco?
Yes, from Recife, the capital [of Pernambuco].
Why did you move to São Paulo?
I saw the reality in São Paulo when I came during some holidays. Then 8 years ago I found an opportunity to work here in music and do some other things. There are many opportunities in São Paulo. It’s a good place to perform and the public here have a lot of interest in music.
How does it compare to Pernambuco?
In Pernambuco there exists a lot of creativity, lots of new bands, its very productive but there aren’t many good places to play. Many people come to São Paulo from there as here is more central to reach other parts of Brazil, to play in Rio, Minas [Gerais]. Also the shows in Recife have dried up though there’s more of a movement there in Carnival, or at Christmas, there’s more places to play. In São Paulo there’s places to play all year.
Do you think it’s currently a good moment for music in São Paulo?
Yeah, because there’s so many places to play. SESC, for example where we were the other day [in SESC Pompeia], has a really good infrastructure for playing. Many shows there are quite cheap. And there’s lots of bands, the scene is really diverse. There are samba bands, people playing regional music, rock, lots of different styles.
It seems as if in the last 10 years things have changed a lot for Brazilian bands here, why do you think that is?
It has a lot to do with technology, lots more people are able to record, and they can use the internet. This helps all composers to show their music to an audience. Before, the limitations of radio and TV denied them this opportunity.
And these bands are all friendly?
Yeah, we have created lots of friendships because we go to each others shows. Normally the bands will have friends from other bands and they will be at the bar at the shows. Plus, we send each other ideas by email, or we participate in each other’s recordings. This mixes things up a little. My disc is a little more pop but maybe a friend who normally does samba will sing on there. It makes for a good mix. There doesn’t exist a name for this scene precisely because every band is different. There is no defined style, just a load of people doing lots of different things at the same time.
I’m glad you said this. I was really struggling to find a way of describing all the bands coming out of São Paulo.
Yeah, it’s a feijoada!
How many records have you released in total?
Well, I have a history of making songs at home. I have made 9 home-made discs in total, which I distributed to friends. This [pointing to the copy of Cristalina which is on the table] is the first I have recorded in a studio, it’s official, my first for the people.
How was the reception for the album [Cristalina – which was released in 2009]?
Yeah, it was really good. It was better than I had imagined because before I was used to having a mainly indie crowd but this really opened things up for me. It was featured in lots of magazines; Rolling Stone listed it as one of the best albums of the year.
What are your main influences?
Well, when I write, I write just with my guitar and I never think of any influences because when I started writing at 15 in the eighties there were bands like Nirvana, there wasn’t anyone like me, with just a guitar, more folk. Today, the composers that I really like are Velvet Underground with Lou Reed and Tom Zé from Brazil, I admire him a lot.
These are influences on your music or lyrics?
Kind of. I think I am more influenced philosophically. I try not to be influenced by other music or lyrics. For example, when we record at home we use a detuned guitar, or we make a drum out of a beer can, we improvise. When we write songs we want liberty as a band, not to try and sound like this or that band, we want to be open. For example, the next disc it’s going to have a samba on, but it could be any style. But if you want two influences, philosophically, it’s Tom Zé and Lou Reed.
Everyone seems to love Tom Zé. What is it that makes him special?
I think that Tom Zé is a wonderful songwriter, his lyrics are amazing. He’s always trying to subvert, to nudge things along. He feels things in a different way. I look to him a lot. Principally for the lyrics, but also because of the way he assaults the listener. One of his shows is like a baby, there’s shouting, he’s playing with things, always he is renovating everything.
[Lulina pulls out a vinyl of Todos os Olhos as well as one of Tom Zé’s singles (his first, from 1967). She is quite clearly enamoured]
I really like the song “Balada da Paulista.” Can you explain a little about this song and it’s meaning?
When I came to São Paulo from Pernambuco, in my first year I noted down the difference in the accents, and also the slang people used. When I heard the people here saying, “puta meu, tipo nossa cara” [a number of slang expressions which roughly translate as “Woah, man, this is our thing!”] I thought “what is this?” So I wrote the song with a friend from here, from São Paulo. She helped to translate the words. And I started to sing and the Paulistanos they were illuminated, hearing back these slang words, their culture.
Are there many opportunities to play shows outside of São Paulo?
Yes, we’ve done lots. We’ve played in Brasilia, the interior of São Paulo many times. Last year, we did a US tour. We were there for one month. We did a show in Chicago, Olympia, Seattle, it was great!
What was the audience like there? Were there lots of portuguese-speakers or mostly Americans?
There were lots of Americans! I was surprised because the lyrics are in Portuguese yeah? But lots of people came to us after and said “we didn’t understand anything but it was a beautiful show.” One girl came to two shows, called Gina, she was maybe 8/9 years old, and bought a Portuguese dictionary to be able to understand. There were so many Americans who were interested, it surprised me.
So what does the future hold, are you recording at the moment?
We’re writing. We will start recording after Carnival [this interview was done in mid-February]. We’re going to spend a whole week working on songs and finding out what works, what doesn’t work, and creating some arrangements.
I can’t wait!
However, Lulina’s latest release is Meus Dias 13, a collection of home-made recordings she released last Christmas. In some ways this was a concept record. On the 13th day of each month in 2010 she made a note of conversations, emails and any other communication, and then wrote a song based on those snippets. Hence, Meus Dias 13 has 12 songs, one for each month. It is also damn good! You can download the album and artwork HERE.
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