The prolific partnership of singer and songwriter Isabella Bretz and pianist and music producer Rodrigo Lana gains a new chapter with “Cabeça Fora D’Água”, the artists’ new album. Seeking an indie folk look with MPB on the disappointments of everyday life, they – miners living in Portugal – make the record a global journey about the sensations that make us human through special guest appearances.
In the opening track, “Respiro”, the first guest appears: the Czech singer and songwriter Markéta Irglová, performing a song in Portuguese for the first time. With a solid and acclaimed solo career, including the recent “Lila”, she is known worldwide for the film “Only Once”, with which she won an Oscar for the song “Falling Slowly”, and for the band The Swell Season. On the album, she sings a duet with Bretz about searching for air as a desire to get out of inertia, bringing the listener out of their comfort zone and into the universe of the album.
This change of air can be represented in “Sentido”, a sound experience that passes through our five senses in search of presence and the new, with the participation of Katerina L’Dokova, an artist from Belarus who uses tones of folk music from her country in your art. Renato Enoch, in turn, collaborates on “February 30”, a protest about the desire not to follow standards. Enoch is also a visual artist and signs the entire visual part of the album.
Conceived as a personal reflection against all the wave of information, anxieties and sadness that insist on drowning, the album presents artists who want not only to swim against the current or surf the wave, but to manage to transcend the chaos, at least for the duration of ten songs. , ended with the title track, and one of the high points of the work. With guitars, piano, cello, voice and digital elements, the instrumental track tells a story that represents the central message of the work, making our ears immerse not only in the musical waves, but also in the waves of the sea.
“Cabeça Fora D’Água” crowns a fertile period for an already successful partnership. In the first semester, Isabella and Rodrigo released the album and book “pequenezas” together, transforming short stories of connection, breath and affection into poetry, music and art together with Jackson Abacatu. Previously, they released the book “Conhecimentos de Audio para Cantores” together, in addition to collaborating extensively on their musical projects, the most recent being the album “Retalho de Mundo”, which Isabella released in 2020. Check out the interview!
As a new stage in the partnership between the two of you, the album “Cabeça Fora D’Água” has the differential precisely of pulling a more indie folk and MPB footprint, where it brings in the songs the disappointments of everyday life. In that case, how did music manage to serve as a form of expression for these situations that you decided to address?
The idea of the album is to lead the listener through a series of situations and emotions that take us out of balance, sometimes with humor, sometimes with introspection or energy. I believe that music is an extremely effective tool to bring about debates and reflections. It gets into our heads without asking permission, unlike other forms of communication. And there are different ways music can express a certain feeling or opinion. It could be the lyrics that jump out, the melody, the elements that are used in the arrangement… Everything can collaborate to pass the message. We use different resources to translate (or at least try to) all these feelings. In “Respiro”, for example, in addition to the vocal layers that open and close throughout the lyrics, the music was literally divided into blocks, according to the stage of feeling that the person is in. The stagnation, the beginning of the movement and the motion, in fact. In “30 de Fevereiro”, to bring a more sense of protest, of firmness, we prefer a more band sound, with the help of brass. “Cicatriz” brings a more mysterious, darker atmosphere that highlights the lyrics about past pains. “Cabeça Fora D’Água”, which has no lyrics, has sound elements telling the story, including some equalization games to symbolize in and out of water. It was a very interesting, fun and profound process to build these messages all sonically and through the lyrics.
It is undeniable to say that society has been at peace in recent years, especially with the socio-political issues raised by the pandemic, families that separate due to conflicting ideologies, among other arbitrations that naturally appear in our lives. Because the album follows this trend of venting about the feelings that make us human, do you believe that the project may have come at the right time? Was the launch premeditated for the moment we are living today?
Yes, this album was all designed for this moment. It emerged during the pandemic and political chaos in Brazil, in 2020. The idea was to produce it in one year, while we were feeling all of this, and launch it in 2021. But the backlog of work, some setbacks brought about by the pandemic and the expansion of the project initial stage with new ideas meant that it only came out at the very end of 2022. However, it did not lose any of its timing, we continue with all these sensations very present and, for us, it arrived at the perfect time for what it communicates.
In addition to the musical partnership, you released “Audio Knowledge for Singers” together. There is a connection between you that makes art flow and you are creative. Has the bond become stronger because of the song or the book? Which one did you find it easier to work on together?
Our partnership began when Rodrigo was invited to play on my album Retalho de Mundo, when we started recording in 2016. But we got closer even when, in the meantime, we recorded and produced another album together, “Canções Para Abreviar Distances: Uma journey through the Portuguese language”. This is an album about Lusophony, with 8 poems that I set to music, each one from a Portuguese speaking country, all by living writers. It gave rise to a wonderful project that has taken us and continues to take us to many countries. It ended up leaving even before Retalho. It was a process that was very much ours, diving into literature and music. We always had a beautiful musical connection and developed a strong friendship. Some time later we started dating and we are together until today. Over the years we have been creating projects that unite our love for art and technology: we wrote the book “Conhecimentos de Audio Para Cantores”, which also gained an Instagram page, a website and a YouTube channel; we created the “Audio For Singers Award”, for audio engineers; we worked together on his channel “Logic Pro Brasil” and on his mixing course; in addition to continuing to create audiovisual and literary works with “Pequenezas”. It is very easy for us to work because we have skills that are different and complementary. I’m in charge of the more conceptual, artistic part, in addition to management and executive production. Rodrigo is an excellent arranger, music producer and audio engineer. So it’s almost like a production line, but it’s the two of us acting in multiple roles. Things come and go from us/to us at different stages of the process. We love producing music, but we also love our cultural projects, especially the educational ones.
Something that is also very evident in this new album is certainly the presence of special guests, and one of them is the singer and composer Markéta Irglová, who even won an Oscar for the soundtrack of the film “Apenas Uma Vez”, who was born in Czechia, performed a song in Portuguese for the first time in his career. How did you meet and how was it to share this moment between musicians?
I first got to know Markéta through her performance in the film Once/Only once. I was enchanted by the film, the story, Marketa and Glen. Their work has greatly impacted and inspired me over the years. Afterwards, I met her in person in Brazil in 2010, when they played a show in São Paulo. We spoke briefly. We had some other interactions over the internet, but in 2018 Rodrigo and I visited the studio that she and her husband Mio have in Iceland. We recorded some versions of our work “Songs to Shorten Distances” there. I decided to invite Markéta to another project last year and she asked if it would be in Portuguese, because she would love to sing in our language. I was surprised and soon changed plans. I gave up on the previous idea and invited her to sing “Respiro”. I thought about it because it’s a song with a message of movement, of possibilities. She has a lot of that in her personality and her work. This would be a very vocal song and her participation was most welcome. Markéta participated in the arrangement and created several vocal layers, greatly enriching the production and the message as well. Because it sums up the essence of this work so well, we chose “Respiro” to open the way, being the first song on the album.
Still on Marketa’s participation, she partnered with Isabella Bretz, where they talked about the person’s desire to get out of inertia and be able to break free into a new world and seek to challenge themselves outside the comfort zone they are used to. Between this and other examples that are brought on the album, which one do you believe was the most striking for you and that really stirred your feelings?
The participation of Markéta, Katerina, Renato, the musicians who played on the album and everyone who got involved in some way was very important for us and for the work. We absolutely admire everyone who participated as professionals and as human beings. Having them on this album is a reason for great joy and pride for us. Each participation has its reason and merges with what we wanted to convey with the music, so it’s impossible to choose a more striking one. The importance of the topics addressed also varies according to the phase experienced by us and by the listeners as well, of course. It’s curious to see how the songs reverberate in people, each one reacts in a different way and identifies with specific subjects. The project itself was very remarkable and a watershed in our careers.
The issue of internationalization is something very striking in this project, especially in the culturally connected world we live in today, another example that participated in the album was Katerina L’Dokova, from Belarus, and who presented precisely some folkloric touches from her country. Do you consider that one of the riches that this launch brought was precisely this exchange of experiences between multiple nations?
Without a doubt! I have always had an immense charm and great curiosity for the world. I studied International Relations and do many projects in the area, through culture. Our album “Canções Para Abreviar Distances: a journey through the Portuguese language” has this multiculturalism as its essence, this look outside and back inside. This album could not be different. Whether in international participation, in chosen elements, in sound research or in singing in different languages, the multicultural aspect permeates our entire trajectory. This invites us to look and listen beyond, to weave cultures together, to use new approaches and to learn more and more.
Another participation, this time from Belo Horizonte, was Renato Enoch in “February 30”, which brought a protest about the desire not to follow the standards that society imposes. This issue is even something that often becomes responsible for psychological and physical conflicts in several people. In the case of this song in particular, what led you to work on this theme of patterns?
We are born into a society that already exists, with its customs, standards and norms. We enter a game whose rules we did not help to create nor did we agree in advance. We land here and that’s it. And this is not a kind world for differences, we are expected to stay in the mold. And if we don’t follow “the path”, “the script”, every little deviation from the plan is punished.
Thus, “February 30th” came from a desire to encourage spontaneity, which is different, in the search for more freshness in life. It is a way of remembering that there are many possible ways of being and being, and it is up to us to establish these spaces and means, positioning ourselves with confidence.
Certainly, this album takes us to several thoughts and makes us question even our own attitudes as human beings. In general, how do you expect and what expectations do you carry in each one who seeks to be consuming your work?
Our greatest desire is for people to simply listen. If they’re going to like it, identify with it, if it’s going to make any difference in their lives, it’s no longer a ground for expectations, it’s not within our reach. We just invite you to find a moment of tranquility, a calm and silent place and listen to the album from beginning to end, being present. Truly gifts.
*Interview in partnership with Regina Soares