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Nervosa interview

Fernanda Lira, bass and vocals at NervosaWe talked last time about four years ago. By then your main goals were to publish an album and to play outside Brazil. Now that you’ve reached them, with are your main goals now?
I am very happy to see that we have accomplished much of what we discussed then but the goals would remain virtually the same. We like to play in places where we have not yet playind in the US, in many festivals in Europe … But the goal for next year would be to play in Asia, Oceania and Africa because we know that the metal scene in all these places is growing a lot, having many interesting festivals.

Here in Barcelona you are playing as headliners in your own tour, but in September you’ll be the first band of four opening in Destruction and Flotsam and Jetsam tour. Is the pressure is the same on both tours?
Yes, they change many things on this tour with Destruction, first because expectations are very different. Every show, every tour is special in one way or another, but this particular tour will be very special for me because Schirmer and Destruction are my biggest influences. To tour with them is like a dream, a great dream for us. It will also be very good because it will be the first tour with a slightly more professional level, we can share the bus with other bands … We will play in Portugal where we never played before, Ireland … will be a whole new experience for us in different areas. But no pressure, we don’t feel pressure because we are happier than with fear, because we know that we will have a lot of fun and we’ll enjoy every night because we will be the first band. So I can see Destruction every day for a whole month, take a few wines … what more could you ask for?

You will go from having four openers like today to be the first of many others with Destruction. Do you give heed to the bands opening for you? I know you liked Crisix, from my hometown.
Yes, we are lucky to play always with great bands. We can’t always get to see them, because on this tour we have had very long journeys of nine or ten hours, we just arrive an hour before the show, we have dinner, do interviews and go out and play, so we have no chance to see our opneners. But when we’re touring with bands is simpler, for example Crisix, which today have come to see us (I’m so happy …). We are very sorry, but we have no time, the trips are very long.

You are here presenting your new album, more aggressive, faster, keeping the thrash base but with a touch more Death. Vader sounds here, Morbid Angel there … is a more technical album, with more blast-beats. It is the first time that your drummer Pitchu Ferraz participates in the song composing. What has been her influence in this evolution?
A lot, she has influenced us a lot on this record. We have been hearing a lot of death metal lately. Pitchu is a good drummer, is very technical and aggressive at once, and thus pushed us to write more aggressive, fast and technical songs. We are very grateful, she has influenced us a lot. She joined the band when the first album was already recorded, so she could not contribute in anything in its recording but did make their contributions once played live. But this latest album is 33% of each of us. She has influenced greatly in quality, aggressiveness and speed.

The sound is much better too. You made one of your dreams come true recording in the United States
Yes! Many of the bands that influenced me to play thrash metal albums recorded in California and we recorded our album there. You could breathe the thrash metal air and of course that also influenced the quality of our album. Not only because the equipment, production and mastering are better (Andy Classen is a master of thrash metal), not only that, also the energy we had. We were very happy to be recording an album in California, we had very good energy, we were very happy and I think that can also be felt in the disc. Especially in the thrash metal that is all energy.

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And you have also had more time
Yes, on the first album everything was more difficult, we had many problems. This time we had three weeks and we haven’t had any complications. Everything has been very quiet but very intense. We were recording from nine o’clock every day until seven o’clock, without pause, only recording. But it was very good, and in between we were doing promotional photos, deciding the album cover, all at once. Very crazy, very intense, but much quieter than last time.

Been trying to locate your thrash without success. It sounds European, American, Brazilian … yours is a universal thrash
It’s very nice to hear this! Yes, I always say that the music we play is the music we like to listen to and we listen to everything within the metal particularly. Not only thrash metal, everything. So I think you can find many influences. Our music brings nothing new, we do not offer anything new. It’s pure thrash metal, but you can hear a lot of many other bands. I think that’s what people like about our band. The fans always tell us that there is nothing new in Nervosa, but sometimes they sound like Destruction, sometimes we remind of Nuclear Assault, Vader, Cannibal Corpse … There is a bit of everything, and that’s good because they are bands we are influenced by and everyone like to hear something similar.

And in my case I also like it because your music is very direct. It seems designed to be played live. Do you think about will them sound on stage when composing songs?
We never plan to sound, everything is very natural in the way we write music. But of course we thought about whether it can sound good live. I do not like these bands that sound great in studio and they sound horrible live. We always thought about doing something within our limitations to offer a good show to people. One thing I thought when I wrote those songs was in the mosh pit. When we write “Holy War” and heard the part that when the guitar sounds alone I thought “Oh my God, this will kick us live.” Yes, I always think how the songs will sound live and that helps us a lot to choose songs for us. For example, “Deception” is my favourite song on the album but more is Death Metal, slower … This is a type of song that we do not think of to include in the setlist, but for many of the other I think of the mosh pit.

The lyrics are still oriented to social, political issues … and now even more with all the mess of the Olympics in Brazil.
Yes. Living in Brazil is not easy, we have many social problems. It is very difficult. Every day you hear something bad and to not go mad for that what I do is to keep it inside until we write an album and I use my lyrics as a tool of expression. Perhaps the people who are listening to the song is interested in reading or thinking about it. Because our song subjects are not only limited to Brazil, are often problems worldwide at different levels, such as intolerance, religious intolerance. They are everywhere, in some countries more than in others, but are present in every corner of the world. Problems with public health, education, are all over the world. Brazil’s all crap, has them all. And I think everyone can feel related in some way or another with our lyrics and I think that is important, not just to talk about things in Brazil, but things for people to stop and think. Many of the problems we have in society today exist because people are don’t discuss. People just accept the reality, they don’t try to change it. With my lyrics I’m trying to do something that maybe make some little change. If I can change something for good, if only a little, I already feel very happy. The difference is that now we have still many lyrics about the bad aspects of human beings but in a more abstract way. For example they speak of arrogance, hypocrisy, which are factors that are just as bad as intolerance but are more abstract.

And even screaming you sing in a way that lyrics can be understood
I would like to be understood, although it is sometimes complicated.

In each album you include a song in Portuguese, as “Guerra Santa” and “Uranio em nos”. A priori it is easier to compose in your native language, but is it really like that?
Everybody thinks so, but it is not. First because my father is a metalhead, I grew up listening to metal and there are many more metal bands singing in English than in their respective languages, such as Portuguese or Spanish. And the more traditional style bands like Iron Maiden sing in English, and I grew up listening to these bands. When I started writing lyrics was natural to start doing it in English, make rhymes. But when in Portuguese is much more complicated, so for my João Gordo of Ratos de Porão is a master, he knows how to do better than anyone.

Coincidentally the song in Portuguese “Guerra Santa” is the most Sepultura song fo the entire album. I don’t know if it is the language that makes it
Yes! It seems, it is faster, maybe that’s why. But when we wrote that song we were much more influenced by Ratos de Porão.

Another song that caught my attention in the album is “Wayfarer”, a mix of blues and metal in which you sing in a very different register to which we have become accustomed, with a touch of black spiritual music. Where did you learn to sing like that?
I started singing with clean vocals. Nervosa is the first band where I sing screaming, but before Nervosa I did backing vocals on another band. I’m singing since I was thirteen and started with Queensryche, Helloween with Kiske, Nightwish with Tarja … these were my teachers when learning to sing, so I’m used to sing with a clear voice. And now I still like it a lot and I am discovering new soul and blues singers. I always liked this kind of voices but never before had recorded for an album. I have several records but I put them away for the shower, only my friends know I sing this way but both me and Prika we really like blues, is our second favourite style and so always think to write a song like that. So when the record company asked us to do a bonus track we thought it would be a good idea to do something like that, I think the extras have to be different songs from all the rest. We were going to do only a metal blues singing the way I use to but Prika insisted to sing with my voice clean, she likes it a lot and thought it might like to more people. I did not want, I get very embarrassed. Just talking about it makes me get very embarrassed, but I like the result, I like to sing like this. It’s my favourite way of singing.

Nervosa

On this tour you have played at festivals like Tuska in front of many people and today you will play in front twenty or thirty people. How do you manage to go onstage with the same mentality and intensity?
For us it is normal. Of course the experience of playing huge festivals is very important for the band, the energy is amazing, there are many people singing. It is very special, but every show is special for the band in some way or another. For example when we played in small clubs the band interaction with the public is completely different, is closer, the energy is more brutal. I like that. The two experiences are important to us, we learn in different ways. Everything is new and special. We like very much to talk to the fans but often we can’t do it in festivals and tours but in clubs like today can drink a wine with fans and talk about metal. I like both experiences and I feel very comfortable with both.

How is the tour going in Spain so far?
We played in Valladolid, Madrid and then Valencia. Madrid was good but Valencia was great. The venue was fine. Here in Barcelona we have great expectations and now even more knowing that our friends from Crisix are here. You see? Each concert is special in some way, especially because all the cities we play here are new for us. I’m very happy.

But Brazil is a bit forgotten…
We haven’t played in Brazil since December last year.

You can make a Christmas show when you return home after so much touring
Exactly, we will make a Christmas concert (laughs).

You’ve always said that Steve Harris has been one of your main influences, who somehow made the bass protagonists. His style differs completely with yours, because your bass lines are defined to fit in Nervosa’s style, it’s hard to do a lot of fancy stuff. Can you express yourself with your bass in Nervosa?
That’s true, not only Steve Harris but all other bassists who have influenced me get excel in their bands: Geezer Butler, Steve DiGiorgio of Death and Sadus … all of them stand out much, but if I wanted I could do real magic things as DiGiorgio, that’s my style of playing, but I think I’m now developing something different with Nervosa. Singing and playing at the same time is not easy and I am still developing my technique for voice and bass. What I do is comfortable to play bass and sing. I do not want to create crazy lines and complex bass, because I do not feel comfortable because played live would not be good at 100%. I want to give the public what they hear on the album, so I keep my style apart a little so the sound of the band is well live. Of course I like occasionally rant with the bass …

Just make a bass solo Joe DiMaio’s style.
(laughs). I might. But if would only play bass in the band it would be completely different, I would spend the whole gig running up and down the stage.

As initially when you were four. If you had continued as a quartet you could have more to show off at the bass. Have you ever thought again of being four again?
No. Being women it’s better being just three. I like playing with women, I have always played only with women, but sometimes it gets a bit difficult and I think being three is enough. If they were men also would be fine, three is a good number, too many people makes it difficult to take decisions.

You better get along with the band, you spend too much time together touring. How do you find time for you, to be alone by yourself?
Of course, we need our time to be alone. We respect the individuality of all. Sometimes for example I wake up and I just want to hear my music. Today, for example in the van I was sitting next to prika, but I had bought a movie at a service station that I really wanted to see and I’ve been watching it on my laptop with my headphones while she was listening to her music. Because we are always together, there is no need to always walk together, to be talking. It is a relationship like any other and the more independence the healthier. It’s no good to have conflicts on the road. Prika is one of my best friends and we are always talking nonsense, we are always together but we need to be alone when we are alone, we understand with ease.

You have already toured Europe a couple of times, you’ll come in September for the third time. Have you seen some evolution in the crowd?
Yes! The good news is that we know who was on the first tour because of the shirt they wear. But there are many new people in this tour’s gigs, that have come because a friend has spoken well of our previous visit. Gradually we are reaching a new level, we are gradually engaging people, it is a very slow process but I am very patient. I am very happy to be here for the second time and you know it won’t be the last.

Have you visited Barcelona?
Just a bit, the Sagrada Familia.

Oh, next tour you should come with more time, there is much to see. Thank you very much for the interview.
Thank you Hèctor, you have always been a great support for the band. You helped us a lot at the beginningt. When we started in Brazil they talked shit about us and you were always there to support us.

Now you do not need anything of that, and questions about women and metal … that’s over. People have given up seeing you as a band of girls who thrash to be seen just as a thrash metal band.
(laughs). Yes, that makes me very happy. Enjoy the show!

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