19 décembre 2018

RITA BRAGA SPEAKING!! an interview from the tutti frutti twilight zone

We are very very pleased to have Rita Braga's new album released on Lunadélia Records. "Bird on the Moon" is a magical collection of experimental-yet-catchy minimalist pop songs that reaches for the stars and intergalactic retro-futuristic delights . The young portugese artist -who's been touring all around the world for a whole decade in festivals, clubs and art shows- has been collaborating with a couple of beautiful freaks on her album, including the legendary Ian Svenonius (The Make-Up, Nation of Ulysses, Chain & the Gang...). Here's our interview with the girl from the moon : 

Lunadélia Records : Hi Rita! Can you tell us something about you? Anything! Who are you Rita Braga?
Rita Braga : They say I look like Betty Boop but I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam - like Popeye the Sailoirman. I'm strong to the finish cause I eat my spinach.

L : Your new album, Bird on the Moon, is full of electronic sounds, lo-fi synths, idiosyncratic pop tunes and surrealist stories... all in all it sounds like some strange sci-fi cabaret club night to me. The Roaring 20s in wonderland through some kubrickian space portal if that makes sense (it does to me!!). What is going on here?!!
RB :That's a great description, thank you. Sometimes people ask what my songs are about and it's hard to say, there is no objective meaning or a clear message and it's more of a dream logic. I use a lot of visual references as well and I wanted this album to have a certain space age or sci-fi vibe, but the basic idea was to write and produce songs with my small collection of vintage synths from the 70s and 80s and see what comes out. If there is a touch of the Roaring 20s it must be because I love that era and the portal is there. It's hard to stick to one idea - I tend to mix all sorts of things, like a whole crowd of people in a club night inhabiting it. 

L : If «Bird on the Moon» was a human being, how would he/she look like?
RB : She would have very long arms, that would stretch all the way to... you guessed, the moon! Sometimes even reaching Saturn, but that's when the hand feels like trying out new rings. She is a natural Diva. A natural woman too like Aretha Franklin, only her arms are longer.

L : Can you tell us about the process of recording the album? Don't hesitate to go technical!
RB : I started by recording all the keyboards and vocal takes into my computer at home. I was experimenting with ideas at the same time as composing, and I wanted to see how far I could go with my few resources. But in general I'm more interested in the songwriting and artistic production than in the technicalities of recording and mixing, so I prefer to have someone helping with that. Finally (after a lot of blood, sweat and tears) I went to a studio to record the vocals again with a much better microphone, as well as the ukulele parts and other elements. Rodrigo Cardoso helped me in that process and with all the mixing. Each song deserved its own treatment, they're idiosyncratic pop tunes like you said.

L : I heard you play a cover from the Twin Peaks soundtracks (Julee Cruise's back inside my heart), what is your favourite movie by David Lynch? Also, your favourite movies in general?
RB : I'm a big Lynch fan, a few of his movies are my favourites including «Blue Velvet», «Wild at Heart», «Lost Highway», «Mullholland Drive», probably all obvious choices from the classic Lynch universe. One of my all time favourite directors is Billy Wilder: the classics «Sunset Boulevard» or «Some Like it Hot», as well as «The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes», «Irma la Douce», or the sex comedy «Kiss me, Stupid» with Dean Martin playing a caricature of himself and Kim Novak as Polly the Pystol... which leads to some more trashy stuff: «Nude on the Moon» is really bad and mesmerizing for me at the same time (the director Doris Wishman has been called «the female Ed Wood»). I love a lot of 60s films: Polanski's «Rosemary's Baby» or «The Tenant»; or «Midnight Cowboy»; «Barbarella»... I also love John Carpenter's «They Live», «In the mouth of madness»... more recently out of curiosity I watched films from the «pre-code» era (before strict censorship arrived in Hollywood in 1934 with the Hays Code) and I loved «Baby Face» from 1933. After making this list I realise I seem to have three favourite genres: psychological thrillers, sci-fi and sex comedies - often combined.

L : You did many collaborations for the album, how did that happen?
RB : I sang, played all the keyboards, ukulele, and some small percussion instruments, but I always enjoy having collaborations in my albums to add more richness. The same happened with the previous «Cherries That Went To The Police» and «Gringo in São Paulo» which had even more guests. In this case I had a couple of collaborations to write lyrics in French and in German as I only know the basics of those languages (Marie Magalhães on «Je n'Arrive Pas» and Friedel Fink on «Das Delfinwunder»). Then I had two great musicians from Porto, João Pais Filipe and Angélica V Salvi recording percussion and harp. I invited Ian Svenonius to deliver some spoken word in «Church Bite» after doing a couple of small tours together in Portugal with his solo project Escape-ism. I'm so happy he was on it. Dorit Chrysler recorded theremin in «A Quantic Dream» and Mary Ocher - a fellow Bruce Haack fan - provided backing vocals on my cover of Haack's «National Anthem to the Moon». These are all musicians that I admire.

L : Would you share with us a recent dream you had at night?
RB : Recently I had a dream about cabaret performers in Denmark going on strike, complaining about all the bureaucracy and rules they had to go through in order to present their work. And then I was visualising a big crocodile with an open mouth swimming in the sewer and I woke up to the sound of the alarm clock. I wondered if the performers would be thrown to the crocodile just like Romans would throw people to the lions... and they say Denmark is one of those perfect countries. But I guess in reality things are a bit different. Is there even a cabaret scene there? What does this all mean?

L : There are two covers on the album, «National Anthem to the Moon» by electronic pioneer Bruce Haack and «Upa Upa», (well this one we don't know much about! What's that?)so..why and how:-)
RB : «Upa-Upa (Meu Trolinho)» is my low-fi psychedelic dub version of a very old Brazilian Carnival march written by Ary Barroso in the 1930s (he wrote the famous song «Brazil» among many classics). I made that recording a few years ago and thought it could be the bridge between my last release «Gringo in São Paulo», which was written and recorded during my residency in Brazil, and this vintage electronic keyboard direction. It also sounds closer to my early EPs of home recordings. And Bruce Haack can be elected as one of the Godfathers of «Bird on the Moon»: I relate to his universe and felt like paying tribute.

L : What is this «wonder dolphin» you're talking about in Das Delfinwunder... I have to know!! Or maybe my German is not correct at all (in this case apologies to any potential German readers)...
RB : I think it means something like «the wonder/the miracle of the dolphin». I wrote the lyrics in collaboration with my friend Friedel Fink in a very short time. We were throwing words around and making short sentences together in German - the result came out as a description of a dream about a dolphin, who is living inside a cage and wishes to be free and fly home. In the end we open the door to save the dolphin, the light turns on and he walks out without even saying goodbye.
I was really hoping this song to become a new Summer hit in Germany with endless DJs playing it in beach clubs and the audience dancing the choreography in a similar phenomena to «La Macarena» in the early 90s (yes, there is a choreography to this song in the live version) and I don't know why that hasn't happened yet. Wrong season, or not enough beach clubs?

L : The last song is «A Quantic Dream» which you called a pop operetta, I read somewhere you created it for a special project?
RB : In 2016, between my previous EP and the new album, I did a two month artist residency in Graz, Austria. My original proposal was to compose a minimal pop ukulele operetta, so... I had to do it. I conducted some research on old operettas to get inspired by that form and then wrote a non-linear story and some songs to create a DIY musical theatre piece called «A Quantic Dream». I described it as «a combination of a dream sequence, astrophysics, burlesque and light hearted existentialism filled with symbols to be interpreted in many ways». There were a few performers: a scientist/narrator, myself singing and playing, a thereminist, and a burlesque dancer. Animations were being projected by Martha Colburn, plus there were a few stage props including a giant worm. It was totally a new thing for me to develop this kind of theatrical performance and it's something I'm hoping to do more in the future. I really liked the three ukulele songs I wrote for «A Quantic Dream» so they ended up being released on «Bird on the Moon», which shares a similar sci-fi vibe.

L : I already mentioned this almost cabaret-esque quality to your music, do you see yourself as a performer?
RB : I love performing, and occasionally I book gigs at cabarets. Going back to the beginning, my first ever gig was at an underground varieté show in Lisbon in 2004, called «Sunday Show», which was full of funny and surreal performances; it felt so natural in the moment to participate. I only realised much later that it was a unique event in Portugal and I feel really lucky to have taken part. My first concert also included performative moments and absurd interludes, culminating in me being kidnapped from the stage in the middle of the last song by a space monkey (that scene is still on youtube: «Rita Braga abduzida»). I often think that my music is more inspired by old films than by just other musicians and bands. One of my favourite bands that I can relate to is the Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band. I'm also a big Devo fan, they were performers.

L : How difficult is it to be an artist in the post-2000s? (or how easy, if you prefer!)
RB : It's hard to say as I only started in the post-2000s. The internet has made everything more democratic, but there seems to be an ocean of songwriters and bands but fewer stars, and it's hard to keep track. I enjoy the fact that I was able to build my network of contacts and book international tours, even if it takes a lot of time to organise all that. Also the money for gigs seems to be a lot less now then 10 or 20 years ago, which is one of the reasons why I chose to go solo. With a band it's hard to even cover the travelling costs, and I wanted to be more flexible with time and explore. Apart from that, I guess the key is to be versatile and not stick to just one thing. Recently I became bored with being a solo travelling musician for nearly 10 years and now I feel like expressing myself through other mediums such as writing, drawing, performing, teaching workshops and working with a wide variety of people. I just relocated to London to take an MA in Performance Making, which will hopefully open new possibilities.

L : What are the colours of the Tutti Frutti Twilight Zone?
RB : Red, Orange, Pink, Yellow, with flashes of aquagreen. Sometimes purple.

L : A last question: What would you want to say to your 10 year old self? And what would this little girl want to say to your present-self?
RB : I would tell her I'm impressed by her results at school (I was a really good student only until the age of 12). And she'd tell me to continue with what I'm doing, whatever it is... and not forget to eat my spinach.

Learn more about Rita Braga EVERYWHERE

Drawing by Toma Pan

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