São Paulo Punks Futuro: “Punk is the best modus-operandi for producing music and art in general”

Original photo by Mateus Mondini. Mixed media art by B.

Futuro are a punk band from Brazil, who got the inspiration for their name from the thought that “conservatives are obsessed with the past, while revolutionaries and progressives are obsessed with the future.” At the end of last year, they released their dynamic and frenetic album Os Segredos Do Espaço e Tempo (The Secrets of Space and Time). Gimmie dropped a line to vocalist Camila Leão and guitarist-vocalist Pedro Carvalho to find out more about them, their music and life in São Paulo. Futuro are also big fans of our country’s music, expressing, “Australia has some of the best bands in the world right now.” Agreed!

Futuro are from São Paulo, Brazil; what’s it like where you live?

MILA: It’s a gigantic, grey, neurotic megalopolis. The metro area has about 20 million people. It can drive you crazy. But it’s also an interesting hub where lots of things happen. I think the city is a very big component of what the band is about. Our music and lyrics translate a feeling of anxiety that has everything to do with São Paulo. The band is actually all spread out now. Pedro and Flávio live in São Paulo, Xopô lives in Belo Horizonte and I live in Baltimore.

Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

PEDRO: I don’t know what to say about myself, but I’ll try. My whole life revolves around music, both at work and in my free time. I’m not very good at anything else, really. I’m lazy. But also, very determined and rarely give up on things. I’m not very good at anything else, really. I read a lot and think a lot about politics, philosophy, psychology and things like that. Not that I do much about it, but I feel like I need to understand the world and people around me.

MILA: I like to put my mind in creative projects that allow myself to experiment. I’m a graphic designer and illustrator and I really like to make things with my own hands. I like to learn about different cultures and its philosophies, and I love to be around nature and animals. I’m fascinated with natural sounds, textures and colors.

How did you first find music?

PEDRO: My mom was a massive music fan and had a record collection which was always around. She taught me how to play records when I was about four or five years old. I used to wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning and spend hours by myself listening to records and looking at them. We’re basically sponges at this age, so I think music just became part of my DNA.

It’s funny that I still like most of the same records from my mom’s collection I liked as a child, stuff by the Beatles, The Stones, (Brazilian band) Os Mutantes and things like that. My mother had all sorts of records, but for some reason it was 60’s rock that spoke to me.

MILA: I remember traveling to visit my grandparents in the country and my dad had tons of Brazilian rock tapes in his car. When I was six I knew how to sing most of the songs from bands and artists like Legião Urbana, Raul Seixas and Titãs. I think that’s how I started to enjoy rock music, it was fun and energetic.

When I was older, I think MTV helped me to discover other bands and refined my rock and metal music taste a little bit more. But it was only when I was eleven or twelve that I started to buy my own hardcore punk CD’s. I used to go to a store on my way home after school – this is a specific kind of store that is very common in Brazil, they sell used books and used CD’s/ LP’s – to check out whatever had edgy artwork and were in the punk section haha.

Photo by Mateu Mondini

Who or what inspired you to start making music yourself?

PEDRO: I saw Kiss on TV when I was about four or five. They came to Brazil and it was all over the news. I decided there and then that I was going to play music. The image of them and the sound of distorted guitars coming out of instruments that looked like weapons was so powerful… I informed my two best friends that we were going to have a band when we grew up.

As I said I rarely give up on things, so when we were about eleven, I bugged them until they got instruments and we did start a band. By then I had read about early punk and the whole “this is a chord, this is another chord, now go out and start a band” thing and felt encouraged to play even though I still didn’t know how. So, we began doing covers of simple 50’s songs by Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley (some of his songs had one chord) and people like that and eventually began writing our own songs and playing slightly more complicated stuff. That was my first band. But my friends got too much into being musicians while I got more into punk rock, so we drifted apart. They went on playing “good” music while I started playing in punk bands.

MILA: I was a very shy kid and I never really saw myself in bands. I grew up seeing women in bands/groups on TV and even though I wasn’t very passionate about the kind of music that some of them were playing, I always thought they looked cool and powerful and that always caused me some fascination.

When I started to go to hardcore punk shows and I realized that people like me were making music and creating meaningful things, I felt like I wanted to contribute too. My main inspiration to make music was to see the local punk youth putting their hearts into their music, to build some sort of community. It wasn’t just about music, they were raising their voices and sharing their views. When you’re a teenager there’s so much to say and I felt like singing in a band would be the perfect place for me to share my thoughts.

After singing in bands for a while, I felt the desire to evade more creativity. I wanted to be able to play instruments and to start my own music.

What album or band has had a big impact on you?

PEDRO: Early on the Beatles and The Ramones were the bands that really influenced me in all sorts of ways. In a way I feel they’re the two bands that impacted me the most and formed the basis for everything I ever did musically.

The Beatles showed me that you can be adventurous and change from project to project while retaining an identity of your own and that there’s no limits to what can be done. The Ramones showed that anyone can do it as long as they have the focus and the concept in their minds. And also, that music can and should be really exciting all the time. Both bands had really good songs and I always thought the song was the main vehicle for ideas and should be memorable and well thought out. Also, great guitar tones. This is non-negotiable for me.

Later on, there were many other bands and albums that did the same in different ways, but these two were the ones that started it all for me, probably.

MILA: It’s hard to pick only one band or album because I am always changing my main references from time to time, but I think Depeche Mode was the most solid one throughout my life. Musically, it embraces excitement and sadness at the same time. The lyrics take you to a different reality and the voice melodies have a life of its own. I like how some electronic elements can sound odd alone but, in the song, it adds personality. Of course, another solid reference is The Ramones. I appreciate their technical simplicity, creativity, and energy.

What inspired Futuro to start? You’ve been around since 2010, right?

PEDRO: Me and the bass player, Bá, were in a band called B.U.S.H. that had existed since 2003. We never really like the name of the band and by 2009 or so the whole concept of the band had changed a little. We were writing songs that were more serious and had a different general vibe, even though the style wasn’t radically different. So, we decided to change the name of the band to Futuro.

So basically, Futuro was B.U.S.H. under a different name. We recorded the first album MMX and right after it came out the original singer left and Mila joined. When she joined, she began participating in the writing process and bringing her own vision to it, so we started to get rid of the older songs and became an entirely new band. Basically Futuro didn’t start out of nowhere as much as it slowly morphed into what it is now.

What draws you to playing punk music?

PEDRO: Well, I think punk is the best modus-operandi for producing music and art in general. Like, a radical vision of amateurism, being a dilettante on purpose and with a purpose while using this method to criticise the very idea of “professionalism”.

Also, it’s the coolest, most exciting music there is. Of course, punk is incredibly diverse. It’s a huge umbrella for a lot of different forms of music. But from garage punk and post-punk to the most extreme forms of hardcore, I think it is and will always be the coolest music universe to be in. Also, it’s permeable to other musical forms as long as you rid them of the boring aspects. I mean, I could do acoustic folk music or free jazz and it would be done in a punk way, it’s just part of who I am.

MILA: Yeah, I share the same vision as Pedro. I think inside punk you have the autonomy to manifest your creativity and be free to do whatever you want. You don’t have to stick with a formula, you can incorporate different styles and ideas to it and still make it sound punk and original.

Punk music is plural, and it also embraces other aspects such as visual arts, politics, ethics and so on. It’s a whole universe, involving cultural angles and communities and I enjoy all of it.

Photo by Alejandro Reyes-Morales.

This year has been a challenging time for bands. How have you been dealing with it?

PEDRO: Well, a big part of it for us was finishing our record. We took our time. We began recording in 2018, finished it in 2019 and mixed it in 2020. The mixing process and the great reception it had when we put it out basically inject the band with what we needed to keep going despite not being able to play live or even see each other in person (right now we have one member in a different state and another in a different continent). I really miss practicing and traveling to gigs with them, but I think this whole thing only made us appreciate more what we had before. I can’t wait to start playing around again.

You recently released album Os Segredos Do Espaço e Tempo (which translates to The Secrets of Space and Time); where did the title come from?

PEDRO: It’s a line in the song The Third Eye, which we covered. It says: No wings for my flight/ I drift through the night/ Understanding the secrets of space and time. Our bass player Bá used it on the artwork just as a test to see what it looked like and at first there was some resistance. I thought it could be misinterpreted as something pretentious, but then I changed my mind because who gives a shit, right? It’s cool and kind of funny/trippy at the same time. And it goes well with the music and artwork.

MILA: Once Bá put it in the artwork and showed us I loved it right away. I think this one piece of lyrics from The Dovers can be interpreted with a vast range of perspectives. Whoever is reading/listening can relate to it in a different way and even though the rest of the The Dovers lyrics doesn’t speak for the rest of the album, I still can relate this part to my style of writing. And there’s also the fact that we were in the middle of the pandemic, which felt like an event disconnected from our reality and time, so it made perfect sense.

What influences your music the most?

PEDRO: Everything from 60’s garage and psych to early 80’s hardcore, 70’s punk and post-punk. I think we have a very wide range of influences but at the same time it all fits together somehow.

Apart from the more obvious punk references – bands like The Damned, The Saints, X, The Avengers and so on – I steal a lot from Brazilian 60’s rock and tropicalia music – especially the outrageous fuzz guitar tones, as well as other 60’s stuff in the way I play guitar. I like how they used open chords, droning strings and things like that. All mixed with heavy downpicking power chords as well.

I think it’s cool how 60’s psych and early Brazilian hardcore both have these fuzzy guitars that sound like a cloud of wasps attacking you – probably by accident, because they didn’t know how to record it right and/or had limited gear options – so we try to build a bridge between these two universes.

It was interesting that this record has been called hardcore, punk rock, post-punk, psych-punk, noise rock and so on. I think it means we absorb all these influences and turn them into our own thing, which is important. We always felt strong about not following any specific trends or subgenres. I always loved how the early punk and hardcore bands were all influenced by other styles and therefore sounded different from each other while having a similar energy. And this energy is what turns it all into “punk” or “hardcore” as far as I’m concerned. 

MILA: As far as vocals, I like to mix the melodies of post-punk with the intensity of hardcore. Something like Siouxsie and the Banshees meets Bad Brains LOL.

Late 70’s and 80’s bands like 45 Grave, The Bags, Sadonation, Destroy all Monsters, and Legal Weapon are a huge influence to me. I love how these women sound so powerful, it’s like they turned a little distortion switch on their voices!

Where did you write and record your album? Can you tell us about your song-writing process?

PEDRO: We basically wrote the whole thing in the practice room. Most of the songs begin as jams when we’re setting up the amps before we start practicing our set. There are songs that came out about 90% ready on the spot. Xopô starts playing a beat, I create a riff, Bá improvises a bass line and Mila starts humming a vocal line and bingo, we have a song. Then we just polish it, Mila (usually) works on the lyrics, we decide how many times we play each part, add an intro, a solo or whatever and there it is.

Other songs are based on ideas we create at home or concepts we have in our minds. But we rarely write entire songs on our own, they usually appear almost from scratch during our practices.

In this particular record, some of the songs were finished remotely, because Mila had already moved to the United States, so we’d record the instrumental parts and send it to her. She would work on the vocals and we finished the whole thing when she came back to record them.

Photo by Alejandro Reyes-Morales.

On the album you do a cover of The Dovers’ ‘The Third Eye’; why did you choose this song?

PEDRO: We always record a cover on our albums. I think it’s fun to take a song and make it ours, reinterpret it our way. And I always thought The Third Eye would be an amazing song to record. It’s so trippy, but also pretty hard, kind of punky, with that fast rave up solo part in the middle. I love what Hüsker Dü did to the Byrds’ Eight Miles High, what Agent Orange did to Somebody to Love by The Jefferson Airplane and so on. These 60’s songs are always cool to redo in a punk vein. We also like to explore the freaky, kind of mystical aspect it has and combine it with the down to earth, realistic element of punk.

What do you hope people take away from your music?

PEDRO: If they’re able to capture and feel one tenth of the emotion we try to express through it, I think we’ve succeeded. Also, I like it when people really pay attention and listen to the music for what it is, regardless of trends and labels that come and go. If it speaks to them, I’m happy.

MILA: Exactly what Pedro said. Same way in the lyrics aspect.

What do you like to do when not playing music?

PEDRO: I like to go out to eat and have real conversations with people. I think people are becoming less and less capable of having actual conversations as opposed to just talking, so I value real communication. Especially while eating together.

MILA: I like to work on art-related projects. Lately I’ve been drawing and painting a lot, but I also love to hike with my dog and to grow vegetables.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about and share with us?

PEDRO: Australia has some of the best bands in the world right now. I’d love to go play there when/if the pandemic is over. It’s an amazing country.

MILA: Thanks for the talk, Bianca! I am also an Australian punk fan and I hope to visit this gorgeous country someday!!

Please check out FUTURO bandcamp; on Instagram; on Facebook.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s