Belo Horizonte, raised in Espírito Santo and based in Rio de Janeiro, Bernardo took references from his travels and arrives at his debut album “Xote de Realidade” with the experience of a veteran. The album goes far beyond the northeastern beat of the title and brings rock, MPB and psychedelia to a bittersweet poetic verve.
As a chronicler of chaos, Bernardo combines personal and collective memories in catharsis to bring the listener back to the real world. With special appearances by André Prand in “Cidadão de Bem”, Mari Jasca in “Bem Aqui” and Iraty Boelsums in “Pedra e Mel”, the album was produced by Elisio Freitas and mixed and mastered by Bruno Giorgi.
Bernardo debuted his discography with the EP “Violão Bandoleiro” in 2018, featuring musicians such as Marcos Suzano and Lui Coimbra. Since then, he has toured the country with concerts and created a new album sponsored by the government of the state of Rio de Janeiro through the public decree Retomada Cultural RJ 2 in a category that commemorates the bicentennial of Brazil’s independence. Check out the interview!
His debut album “Xote de Realidade” has a poetic and introspective approach, mixing Brazilian rhythms with rock and psychedelia. How did you balance these different influences and musical styles to create a cohesive and authentic sound?
This was perhaps the biggest challenge on the record. The idea was to talk about the sweetness and hardness of living in Brazil. From the beginning there was this difficulty of balancing the disk on two extremes. To translate this into terms of arrangement, I relied on the precious help of the music producer, Elísio Freitas. We chose the instruments that would represent each of these sides: introspective, festive, sweet, tough. After that it was the stage of building the songs. We did this with some regularity for about 4 months and the disc alloy appeared throughout the process. Today I listen to the ten songs and I like the thread that weaves them all together, despite the different moods that the album presents.
His album “Xote de Realidade” was produced by Elisio Freitas and mixed and mastered by Bruno Giorgi, both with a long history in Brazilian music. What was it like working with these two producers and how did they influence the final sound of the album?
Since I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, in mid-2009, I’ve been following Elísio Freitas’ work as a musician and producer. I remember that his first live performance that I watched impressed me a lot, playing with César Lacerda. I never imagined that more than ten years later I would be with him producing an album with my songs. He was super receptive from the beginning, he listened carefully to my songs recorded on his cell phone, in voice and guitar format, and agreed to do the music production for the album. Initially what I had were 10 or 12 songs, with a basic guitar arrangement, lyrics and melody. Everything else you hear on the record now, in terms of arrangement, is Elísio’s creation, based on the references we discussed together. With the record all up, Elísio invited Bruno Giorgi to do the mixing and mastering, with whom he has already done several jobs. It was the finishing touch the record needed to sound cohesive and diverse at the same time.
You received sponsorship from the Government of the State of Rio de Janeiro through the public notice Retomada Cultural RJ 2 for the production of your album “Xote de Realidade”. How did this financial support help you carry out your project and how do you see the government’s role in promoting culture and the arts in Brazil?
The album might not even come out without that support, or else it would be completely different, with fewer instruments or much smaller in terms of tracks. The support was essential for us to be able to do the work we envisioned in the beginning, an album with 10 tracks, with instruments that helped to say its main message: the seesaw that is to be Brazilian. Without this type of sponsorship, it is very difficult for artists with an incipient projection to be able to produce something, to get a project off the ground. It is obvious that there are many paths for independent artistic production, but the promotion of culture by the State is essential to keep art alive, whether it is avant-garde or not.
Born in Belo Horizonte, raised in Espírito Santo and based in Rio de Janeiro, you’ve been collecting a good cultural baggage throughout your life, and this ended up becoming visible in your songs. What was it like to carry out this recap of your origins and especially how do you see the cultural contrast of each place you’ve been to?
Hard question! I think that to answer well I have to do a rereading of my life so far. But maybe it’s possible to answer that by commenting a little on some songs on the record. “Israel”, for example, is about a friend from my adolescence, when I lived in Espírito Santo. This song transports me a lot to that period, of meeting on the street, going around the neighborhood together without having much to do, of the challenges and scenarios of that time. It was also in Espírito Santo that I had my first contact with forró. The neighborhood where we lived received great attractions, such as Falamansa, Trio Nordestino, among others. There was a big forró movement there. Minas for me is the motherland. It was where I spent my school holidays, my favorite team is from there, Cruzeiro. In fact, the song “Xote de Realidade” came about after a failed attempt to see a Cruzeiro game in Juiz de Fora: “Look, I left here just to see you…”. And Rio de Janeiro is the city I chose to live in, in my adult life. Here I had the greatest enchantments with music, with Brazilian culture in general. I felt closer to the country’s cultural turmoil, even more comfortable putting my own songs on the street.
Defining yourself as a chronicler of chaos, you end up managing to transport the listener straight to worked versions of representations of your life, uniting collective and personal memories in a poetic and bittersweet verve. In that case, what is your creative process like when composing?
I usually start with the melody. I can’t write a single lyric and then set it to music, at least for now. For me the basis of the song is the melody. The most the lyrics can do is underscore what the notes already say. It also happens that the melody already comes with some lyrics or even some loose syllables or insinuating vowels, which end up guiding me in the choice of words. After that beginning, melody and lyric fragments, I try to find the theme of the song. This is very important in my process: defining the theme of the song, what it is talking about, the motto. It may even change later, but usually I can only move forward in the composition if I discover what those words are trying to achieve. It is also the theme that stitches together the notes, the words and, in the medium term, even the possible arrangements. This chronicler side of chaos that you mentioned in the question I think comes from an old characteristic of mine, of being very observant. Perhaps because of my shyness, what remained was to carefully observe my surroundings. Now, in songs, I’m losing my shyness and starting to tell what I’ve seen and see.
Finally, I would like to ask you a little more about your expectations for the success of this release and also what do you hope listeners can feel with your music?
Look, for now I’m quite satisfied with the returns I’ve received. The record hasn’t gone far beyond my own circle yet, but that circle is already growing and I hope it grows even more, to reach people who still haven’t had contact with my compositions. And when it arrives, I hope they feel the same thing I feel when I listen to a song that takes me away: having discovered something new that I’ve been waiting to hear for a long time.