Somewhere in Portugal, home of the world's oldest bookstore and francesinha, electronica musician Gonçalo and his friend Jo Pereira crafted "Champagna", a song that could be described with many flowery words. I'm only going to use two simple words to describe it: It's delightful.
"Champagna" is only one song from Gonçalo's newest LP, Boavista: a collection of nine songs flush with shimmering guitars, eloquent pianos, and a barrage of other sounds so diverse that you'd need to flip through a sample library to know what they all were. The mixture of practical instruments and sampling creates a textured environment that could surprise and excite anybody: they have succeeded in creating a living, breathing world that exists within an album that needs to be heard.
I exchanged emails with Gonçalo, and have included our conversation below.
EM: What was the process of putting this project together? Did it take a long time or was it a relatively quick and organic process?
Gonçalo: Well, actually it all goes a long way back. And I mean a long way, while Long Way to Alaska were still a band and I was part of it. Me, Gil, Lucas and Nuno spent most of our weekends playing shows and rehearsing. Year on year it was fun and fun. I mostly played the bass in the band, but eventually started playing some guitar tunes, which really opened my horizons. All of a sudden I had come up with a whole bunch of songs which really did not fit the band's identity. That's really how this all started. Boavista is really a transitioning record from a more guitar layered musical trait to a instrumentally richer environment. It all comes out very natural. All my daily experiences, relations, all the emotions get funnelled through my hands, either on a piano, guitar, whatever sound making artefact I come across.
EM: Who are some of your artistic influences, in and outside of music? Was there something specific you were pulling from for Boavista?
Gonçalo: I find it really hard to label my artistic influences. I try to find stimuli in lots of music genders, bands, and sounds. I believe there's a very unique crispness in my tunes. Not in a sound specific driven one. I mean there's no overdrive or reverb that characterises me, rather I find it easier to find an harmonic looping identity in my songs. As to Boavista, I feel like Bibio and Ratatat could have met on each track.
EM: How did you compose this music? There's a healthy mix of guitar and piano everywhere- do you have a preferred instrument/tool to use to start a song?
Gonçalo: I must say I've fell deeply in love with the piano over the past couple of years. I've recently started having jazz piano classes which definitely added to my composing toolbelt. My first songs were pretty much layered on top of guitar loops, which I feel very comfortable with. These days, you're more likely to find me sitting at the piano. Albeit, I must say I don't really choose an instrument to come up with a song. It just happens, regardless of what I'm playing at the moment. There's also times where I start a tune with a guitar, build the whole song around it, and then replace the basis with piano. That's exactly what happened to "Bonanza", a song from Boavista. This is a song I've been playing for a couple of years, but only really recently did I add the whole piano track.
EM: Where did the footage for the visual to "Champagna" come from?
Gonçalo: The video was directed by the amazing Vasco Mendes and the footage belongs to a GM commercial from 1956. I believe it creates an uncanny and unsettling feeling as it's miles away from the mood of the song. I love how the whole thing came together in the end. Feels like you're watching an episode of the Jetsons on steroids.
EM: Walk me through making your favorite track on the record. Is there a feeling here that you were aiming for that you feel like you really knocked out of the park?
Gonçalo: It's hard to choose a favourite song from a newly released record. Also unfair! Let's talk about Champagna though. Guitar loop over guitar loop the foundation of Champagna came to live from my room in Portugal, layered on top of each other with a 82' Aria Junior and a line six loop pedal. Jo Pereira jumped on board on a laid back summer afternoon, by a pool filled with blue sky reflections, when the song was only a stripped down mesh of screaming guitar sounds. We both share a bond closer to brotherhood than most siblings. I felt like meddling out with Jo's electronics. And so we did. The following hours witnessed us both building our enthusiasm over whatever beats and experiences we felt like filling the tune with, as well as chopped up vocal samples (big up to Allyson Ezell who came about in a form of a vocal sample directly from JO's sample library).
EM: What was your biggest learning experience while making Boavista?
Gonçalo: Keep doing it while you're having fun and bring all your friends on board.
EM: What's next?
Gonçalo: Boavista is definitely only a stop. A transition. Even within the album you can feel it starts on point A, where guitars are king, and goes into a real dominated by the piano and keyboards. I feel like having a solo piano album somewhere in the future, maybe that's the next stop. For now, I'm gonna focus on promoting Boavista and gigs!
Boavista is available now for purchase on Bandcamp and streaming on Spotify.