Interview with Fernanda Lira, vocalist and bassist of one of the most promising thrash metal band nowadays. From Sao Paulo, Brazil, let’s know a bit more about the female thrash trio Nervosa.
The first question is mandatory. Why to form an all-female metal band?
Well, all of us three had previous experiences on all-female bands that didn’t work. I believe that when you have a band, especially if it’s a metal one, you need to try to do something different, as there are a lot of bands out there around the world. So, if you want to make something to reach as much people as possible, you need to make it be special in a certain way. Of course female bands are not so rare anymore nowadays, which i think is awesome, but if compared to all male who play metal, we are in remarkably lower amount. So, of course we don’t make a marketing work around this, because what matters in first place is the music we play and not our genre, but of course having an all female thrash metal trio is something that may make a band to stand out among the other bands.
Do you think that being an all-female band makes it easier to get media attention or the opposite; you have to work harder to demonstrate it’s all about serious and skilled music.
It actually really depends, ’cause we get both good and bad attention because we’re an all female metal band. As I told before, in a certain way it makes us stand out among other bands, because at first sight, it makes people curious about our music. Mostly, people come interested in listening to our songs to really prove that “girls can play it heavy” too! And most of the times they like what they say, because when it comes to Nervos it’s really not about pretty faces and attitude, it is music that matters at first place, and people respect us because of this and not because of the fact we are girls. Girls have been supporting us a lot too, saying we are representing the girl power and the female thrash bangers in a certain way, and it is really cool to listen to it. Of course there are always those few ones who think all we get and conquer day by day because of our hard work and passion for music, is only possible because we’re women, and it’s not like this, truly. By the way, i think those people should support us, because is one more band to enrich our global metal scene, and that’s awesome! The more bands we have and we support, the more we will perpetuate the legacy of metal. Holding on this macho way of thinking is less important than willing the scene to be united and rich.
Metal is still a sexist genre?
God, I’m such a chatterbox! haha I’m always answering the next question before getting to it! So, i don’t think it is a sexist genre, but one thing that we can be sure of is that it is a predominantly male genre, this is a fact. There have always been more boys than girls playing metal. But it is changing. There are some concerts where I see more girls than men head banging and this makes me happy to see other metal sisters out there. Of course, as i said, there are a few sexist ones that don’t like to see girls playing as hard as them, but that’s in an insignificant percentage. Guys who support appear in such a greater number.
There are and have been many female metal bands coming out from Brazil (Flammea, Volkana, Prepucio, Mortarium, Hovário, Panndora, Valhalla, Scatha, Purulence, Placenta, Infect, Excruciation, HellArise…). Is there any explanation for such this phenomenon?
Yeah, one thing we can’t deny is the fact that we have these lots of cool all female metal bands around here. I wouldn’t see this as a phenomenon, because I believe there’s no specific reason for this to happen. We are only girls, who like to play with other girls and who express our passion for metal this way. I know many other all female bands from Brazil that are starting now and i support all of them, it is still something different. And all this girls too have huge attitude to tear down with their music the wall of prejudice that may appear sometimes. But I think in a few years we will have many other all female bands all over the world, it’s a natural process.
Is there any all-female metal band in the world worth to be taken as a sample to follow, any of them you’d like to share the stage with (even if they disbanded)?
The first band that made me think about having an all female metal band was Girlschool. They should be taken as an example by every girl who plays rock and metal. They were born in the seventies and play until nowadays with huge energy and power live. But of course there are MANY other girls who inspired me, even being the only girls in their respective bands. I’m a great admirer of women in metal.
You started as a quartet, but now Nervosa´s a trio. Are you planning to add some musician or you´ll stay like this? The trio formation is a trashy one, especially in the classic German thrash bands like Exodus, Sodom or Destruction.
Karen left the band because she lived in a city that is really far away from São Paulo. She rarely took part in rehearsals, in writing songs and important decisions because of the distance. We gave her many options to live here with us, but she preferred leading her life the way it was before the band. As me, Prika and Fernanda were REALLY used to make things by ourselves and because we are really good friends, we decided to keep it this way! We thought that maybe if we put another girl playing guitar with this, she would feel uncomfortable, because we’ve been really meshed for a long time! And we believe our music was more cohesive this way. We’ve been listening to some commentaries like “Nervosa is like if Destruction or Sodom wore skirts!” people mean that because we are a thrash metal trio we are a female version of those bands! haha Of course they influenced us a lot musically, but our decision has nothing to do with this, it’s just a musical and meshing matter!
And how does it feel it to open for one of them, Exodus, in April?
Man, you have no idea of what this sensation is. When we knew we were opening for Exodus, and later for Artillery, Exumer and Raven too, we couldn’t sleep for many days! Haha When you’re a metal kid you always think about being like one of your idols but you rarely get to think you’ll one day be able to play with them. It’s more than an honour, is a dream come true. I knew our hard work could lead us to conquer many things, but this is really big stuff in a short period of time for the history of a band. No words to actually describe how it feels, except for HAPPINESS. The concert was awesome, by the way!
How do the songs composed for a quartet will adapt to this new band format?
As I told before, the other guitar player didn’t compose any of the songs and we’re really used to rehearse and play as a threesome. The only different things are that I need to keep the same powerful lines while Prika is making her guitar solos. The rest is the same, the guitars lines were almost equal to each other when Karen was in the band, so it made it easy to get used to the sound of a trio.
Do the three of you share the same music taste, or there´s a mix of them that ends in your sound?
No doubt there’s a great mix of different influences and tastes, but one unquestionable standing point and preference: thrash metal. I’m a die hard fan of all ‘kinds’ of metal there is: you’ll see me listening from NWOBHM to the most extreme death metal. I listen to everything that sounds good to me inside metal.
Your music is old-school thrash, but sounds fresh and modern. The 80s in the 21st century. What do you think is in your music essence that makes it unique?
I don’t know, actually everything sounds pretty natural for us. It’s like we put together all our influences, so in this influences you can notice a lot of the eighties thrash. I’m I die-hard fan of the eighties thrash. Prika, our guitar player too. So we put all our influences together. Fernanda studies lots of Latin rhythms in the drums, so she tries to put them in the songs. So this must be one of our original elements that make our sound unique. The rest is only based in our influences and whatever it comes to our minds, there’s nothing planned, we don’t think before we compose. We don’t think we should sound like this or that, no, it’s natural. Of course the starting point if that we should sound as thrash metal, because it’s our greatest influence, so it ends like being a mix of everything we like and we compose. So of course, it’s maybe unique because each one us have different influences and we study other kind of music. So when we put all of this together is like a little Frankenstein.
Which are your main influences?
I can’t say it for the girls, because they have specific influences for their instrumental play, but as for me I would say that for the bass guitar my greatest master is Steve Harris, from Iron Maiden. I think 9 in 10 headbangers who play bass guitar would have him among their great influences. But I’ve got Geezer Butler, Rudy Sarzo, Steve DiGiorgio with a more trashy style… he plays a lot inside of thrash Metal as he played in Death and Sadus of course. Actually I wouldn’t say he is an influence, because he plays like a hundred percent more than me. As for vocals, I actually will mention something that most of the people must not know, but I used to sing a more melodic metal before singing thrash metal, so my heroes have always been Michael Kiske from Helloween and Geoff Tate from Queensrÿche, he is my master. But one of my greatest growl influences comes from Leather Leonne from Chastain. What she does with her vocals is impressive, really, because she can put some melody and a lot of passion in her voice, she can scream but with a lot of melody on it, she’s got a lot of attitude in her voice, and that’s cool. I like Doro Pesch very much, she’s my metal goddess. But Leather is a like a lot of steps ahead from Doro in this point, she is such a great singer with a lot of technique. And as for thrash and death metal my influences to start singing this way were the first Death albums, “Scream Bloody Gore”, “Leprosy” where Chuck Schuldiner screams a lot. John Tardy from Obituary, no doubt. Of course I can’t sing like him right now but I’m working on it, he’s such a great influence for me. He’s got such a powerful scream… And as many people can notice, Schmier from Destruction. It´s awesome how he does those higher notes.
One difference between these bands and yours is the easy access to the listeners, thanks to the internet. How important is the net for Nervosa?
Yes, no doubt about it. Internet is so important for us. If our friends in the net wouldn’t have listened to our songs, shared it and spread the word maybe we would be, not nothing, but we’d be a lot less recognized nowadays. We got all this accesses to our video, a lot of people watching to our other live videos in YouTube. There are a lot of people coming to our concerts saying they’ve listened to something from us in internet, even before we released the demo. That’s really incredible, and we have to thank this to the internet, no doubt about it, because through it people can share, and sharing is one of the most important things in metal. Every time you listen to a band and you like it you want to tell it to your friends and that´s what makes metal never die. You’re always suggesting something to someone, discovering new bands. Of course in the past it happened with vinyls and cds and tapes, but nowadays internet has been real successful on spreading the word about the bands, and with Nervosa is not different. We make a huge work of divulgation in our social networks and it helps us a lot, every time we talk about a concert we’ll do we do it through the internet. So it’s very important for nervosa, no doubt about it. But when we release our demo and our CD I think it will be no difference, for sure people will download it but if they like they will go to the concert and if they’ve got money they’ll probably buy our material. So I think is that internet is well used it won’t affect the bands. People will download and get to know your music. It’s such an important tool to make people know your band exists.
Thanks to the net, you´ve been able to track “Masked Betrayer” video feedback. How has it been so far?
Better impossible, we had like over 90.000 views on YouTube and this means a lot for us, because people from all the places over the world get in touch with us thanks to our videos. We got mails from Morocco, Greece, Asia, America, Eastern Europe, North America, Mexico a lot. So through the internet and this video specifically because we haven’t released the demo yet, we could get to places where we hadn´t ever imagined we could reach someday. And that’s cool, people like it, and of course there are people who don’t. It’s for people to know who we are, and then the concerts are the other step for people who really want to know us. I think the video reflects actually what we are, that’s why we decided to put this video out. We have a trashy song that has faster passages, lower passages, catchy choruses; we have some variations of rhythm in the middle of the song. So I think that with the video people can see who we are playing like and the way we play it. I make all those strange faces that I make live, so I think it’s a good reflect of what the band is. So it was good for us, the feedback has been perfect, all the people knew us from the video. So again thanks for the friends and the people who shared our video, because without them it wouldn’t have reached anywhere.
You are starting to fill the gaps in your gig schedule. Which are your touring plans?
Well, we are now playing almost every weekend, we’ve got all the weekends full of concerts, and we are playing a lot because in our mind we don’t want to be a studio band. You know, this band that is awesome in studio but live… nobody knows what is. We are playing a lot, because we want to show our music to the most listeners we can. With the release of the demo we start thinking of playing for example in the North East of Brazil. Brazil is huge, is a continental country, so we want to play in as much cities we can. We want to tour the North and North-East of Brazil, we know the crowd there is crazy. And of course we want to play in Latin America, with our neighbours in South America like Argentina, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, a little bit upper we want to play in Mexico. Anywhere we can play, like Europe, United States, Asia. We want to play everywhere, but it needs a lot of planning, we need to be steady as a band. People must know us well; we want to make a lot of tours outside Brazil. Maybe after the release of our CD we will be able to visit a lot of countries showing our songs.
As seen in your videos, your gigs seem to be full of rage, pogos, moshpits, headbanging. Is it common in Brazil or it´s because Nervosa´s power?
Well I think it’s a mix of both. People in Brazil are more passionate as you must know. Anytime a band comes here and makes interviews they say “you’re so passionate”. It’s because we don’t have a lot of concerts here, so when a band comes people want to show all their passion for the band, they want to prove to the band that they are so faithful to their music and for the metal, that’s why we are so crazy at the concerts. As for Nervosa concert is because, I don’t know, I’m on the microphone all the time asking people to moshpit, to feel the music and do whatever they want. I think the thrash music automatically asks for moshpit, so every time people listen to this rhythm they want to open the moshpit, and stage dive, and have fun this way. It’s not only because of Nervosa’s power; it’s a mix of the passion in Brazil for Metal, the Brazilian passion for metal and the power of our songs, because thrash demands moshpit. It´s kind of natural.
And where do all this rage come from, what´s within you that makes you sing in that aggressive way?
Actually I can’t sing guttural, I don’t have this technique and I think there’s a lot of other bands, a lot of other girls singing like that. I would like to make something different. There are only a few girls that sing in a trashy way, not guttural like the death metal way. So I would like to get influenced by my greatest idols and sing the way they thought to me to sing, by the influences I told you before. So it’s not because I’ve got a lot of rage or hate inside my heart, it’s not. I’m such a cute person inside. It’s just the way I feel comfortable singing. Of course in our lyrics there is a lot of protests, all the things coming to my mind that I don’t like, I don’t agree with, things that I don’t think that are fair and I put them into the lyric. When I sing and I remember the meaning of the lyrics I want to put some emotion and feeling in that. So if I sing of something I think it’s not fair I would do it in a more screaming way, because I will want people to listen to it, I want to express myself through music
What are you trying to transmit the listener with your lyrics, what are them about?
Our lyrics are more related to protest, and not only political protest but everything we don’t agree with, you know we live in a country with a lot of problems and we are living a war actually, in a world full of problems. As we can’t solve these problems, as it depends on the government, we would like at least to talk about them to people to make them know they exist, because music is for me a kind of expression. I think that the most important role that the lyrics of the song can develop is making the listener getting identified with that in a certain way, because when I read lyrics and I love to say “wow” that’s exactly what I’m thinking, that´s what I exactly would like to say right now. That’s what we write about, this kind of things, things of the nowadays, thing’ s that we face every day in our society and that we want to spit out, because we know these things happen and we can’t do many things to solve all this problems. So at least, when we are singing we are spinning all our rage out and telling the people that we don’t like what’s happening, is a kind of protest. And I think thrash metal and punk do this a lot and that’s what we like to do, we feel comfortable speaking about this things that are more close to everybody reality. So for example “Time Of Death”, which is going to be in our demo or EP, talks about civil war that we see everyday on the TV, a broken society that’s a result of all the things that are not right related to government and the human being. “Invisible Oppression” talks about censorship, but it’s not a censorship like we use to have here in Brazil some time ago or that they had in another countries when censorship applied in dictatorship, no. It’s not like that; it’s a lighter, subliminal censorship. For example, sometimes you want to express your opinion, but if you express your it the way you want you can suffer serious consequences because of your way of thinking. You can’t speak what you want because you’ll suffer consequences, not to be beaten or killed like in dictatorships, no, but you going to suffer consequences in your life. This kind of subliminal censorship, you don’t have this freedom of speech like people preach, is not like that, not as it seems to be. “Masked Betrayer” is such a human betrayer. You trust in someone and this one stabs you in the back, you know, this happens to everybody and I like when they get identified with our songs. And in “Urânio em Nós”, which is a Portuguese version, Prika wrote the lyrics at the time of the Nuclear Disaster in Japan. It talks about what all the bad things that human being makes to his environment thinking that he never get a revenge from Nature. But this time will come; Nature is getting its revenge. And there is a new song of us, “Justice Be Done” that talks about something I personally hate and that has been in my mind some times, since I saw that there were some web sites divulgating the child abuse and other kinds of children abuse and I really felt uncomfortable with that, and I needed to write it on lyrics for three reasons, because I wanted people to know that it happens more often than we think, to alert people to look around and to ask for justice. There is actually one phrase in the lyrics that say “I speak in the name of this child”. Which child? The child who suffers this abuse as they can’t say they’re not listened for their family and for the government. I’m speaking in the name of them, doing my part to see what can be done to help them. This all are subjects that are so close to human reality and things we are not satisfied about, we don’t thing that are fair. We want to do our part trying to make at least people know that they exist and we don’t like it.
Think of Spain if you ever come to Europe, ok?
No doubt about it. If we ever plan, not, we WILL tour Europe and of course Spain is going to be there. We’ve got a lot of mail from people from Spain supporting us, and that means a lot for us. We’d like to show our music and make good concerts there, to show some gratitude, some thankfulness to all this supportive words from the Spanish people.
I’ve seen you in a picture with Rudy Sarzo. Tell us about your bass gods and their impact in your way of playing.
Rudy Sarzo is one of my masters, together with Steve Harris and Geezer Butler. And their impact in my way of playing is as huge as I know how to use three fingers well because of Steve Harris, I try to make some different bass lines because of him and Markus Grosskpof from Helloween. And Steve DiGiorgio too and his aggressiveness in his way of playing, the dark rhythms and sound from Guther Buttler… There’s no way they can’t influence me at all.
Which are your real targets, the ambitions you think you’ll achieve with your feet on the ground? An which are the goals appearing in your dreams?
When you sent me this interview (and it took so much to answer, sorry), we hadn’t even got the record deal with Napalm, so we were thinking of getting a good management, a good label, try to tour a lot, release the CD… and these remains. We got mot of these things we planned. We are making our shows every time we can, we are playing other states outside of San Paulo, where we were born and raised, and now we’ve got a good management staff which is the north American manager for Destruction, Exciter, Raven, UDO, such a good guy he helped us a lot. And we got this record deal with Napalm, it was awesome. And our next plans is to play as much places as we can, to record a good CD that can keep the high quality of our demo, to people like it as much as they liked the demo and look for endorsements, make an European, north American and Latin America tour. That’s it, all the plans that a band has in mind.
Tell us about the Napalm deal
We recently signed with Napalm Records wich work with Grave Digger, Candlemass, Huntress, Korpiklaani, Leaves’ Eyes. And they were so interested on us, they really seemed to believe in our music as much as we do and that was so important for us. We didn’t want to get any label just to record an album, we wanted someone who liked our stuff, to believe in our songs as much as we do, who were so excited to make it happen as we are. That’s why we liked Napalm; actually there weren’t many other offers. We looked for some labels but Napalm seemed the best for us. They are really cool guys, they really wanted to see it happen, and they supported us in a lot of things. There’s no doubt we’ve got a shinning road ahead. I can feel that we are going to make such a productive work together, because they believed us since the beginning, trust our work. And because of this we are going to do everything to make them proud of believing in us.