Female Thrashers Nervosa Are a Product of Brazilian Metal Roots and the Teachings of Lemmy
(left to right) Prika Amaral, Fernanda Lira and Pitchu Ferraz of Nervosa
Brazilian heavy metal typically brings to mind infamous bands such as Dorsal Atlântica
Sarcofogo, Hibria and thrash metal kings Sepultura. Although all of these Latin musicians were pivotal in the founding movement of thrash metal in Brazil during the early 1980s at the same time of the thrash eruption in California, their impact paved the road for a revival of original thrash techniques and vision from São Paulo’s all-female trio Nervosa.
The year 2014 saw their first full-length album release via Napalm Records called Victim of Yourself. The album exemplified the socioeconomic and political injustices of the nation, in addition to lightning guitar solos from Prika Amaral, raspy vocals by Fernanda Lira (vocals and bass) and rapid fire drumming by Pitchu Ferraz. Two years later, the female sirens of shred are finally visiting the U.S. to record their second LP, expected to be released in late spring, along with a vigorous month-long tour with a show tonight at Black Light District in Long Beach an Orange County show scheduled for Wednesday, February 24th at the Karman Bar in Laguna Niguel.
Lira spoke with the OC Weekly about their U.S. tour, new album, the current state of corruption in Brazil, doing her part as a female leader in metal and her own fond memories of the late Lemmy Kilmister.
OC Weekly (Rachael Mattice): Nervosa just finished recording its second studio album in the U.S. How did that relationship and business collaboration come to fruition?
Fernanda Lira: This is going to be our first record with our drummer Pitchu even though she’s been in the band for two and a half years. The songs are different in that they are a little bit faster and more aggressive. Because we knew this album was different, we wanted to take it to the next level. We thought about recording it outside of the country in a great studio with fantastic quality. We wanted a different vibe. We had never toured in the U.S. so we thought we’d make it into one big package.
Brendan Duffey (Norcal Studios) was in Brazil for 12 years and had a good studio there and was a great reference. Now he is back here in California. We thought it’d be perfect since we already knew him. He also helped us to find a great studio to record the drums as well. We had a small budget and he found the great Sylvia Massy (The Foundation) studio. She recorded Johnny Cash and Rudy Sarzo. Her studio was available when we needed to record in January and she worked with us on the budget. We recorded it in Ashland, Oregon. It was in a beautiful place.
The album is already being mixed and mastered. It will take us to a new level, not only sound and production wise, but with the songs themselves.
What direction is this album going to take and move compared to your first full-length release?
We love writing and writing about the human aspects like the things we do in our daily lives. We use the lyrics as a way to express ourselves. Lyrics wise, it’s similar to this. On the last album we wrote more about politics. On this album we still do, but we talk more abstractly. We talk about arrogance, hypocrisy, intolerance. We want people to really think about it. We still have a lot of rage in our lyrics.
Our drummer Pitchu is really a machine and has developed so much over the last few years. She’s brought a lot of technique to the new album. This really pushed me as a guitar player too to be more technical. When we were writing, we were really listening to a lot of death metal, even more than thrash metal. We usually say we play like the music we listen to, so there really couldn’t be any other end result. There is a little more death metal in this album such as speed, a few more blast beats on drums and deeper vocals, but it’s still a thrash metal album. It will show evolution, which is important as a band. I think we really made it on this album.
These past 6 months have really been huge for you as a band. You traveled to Europe and the United States for the first time.
This is our first experience in the United States, but we’ve taken careful steps. We took so long to come to Europe and the U.S. because we wanted to conquer Brazil and South America first. We started touring and played a lot of different countries like Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala and El Salvador. We’re a very active band. We could get more experience with the road and with each other on the road. That’s exactly what we wanted before we changed continents. We wanted to be prepared to handle traveling across the world.
Last year, we finally made it to Europe. It’s hard to afford and put the logistics together. We wanted to do as much as we could. In Europe, we spent 60 days on the road and did 51 shows. It was crazy. Almost every day we were playing different countries (16). The U.S. is a completely different market from South America and Europe and it’s harder to get here. Now we feel like we we’re really ready to shred on the shows.
Many who are not from southern California often fantasize about coming to Los Angeles or Hollywood because of the theatrics and musical stars. After all, a big part of the music industry is stationed out here. Did visiting the city and performing in Southern California have this same effect on all of you?
I think we are more broad than that. All of the U.S. has seemed like a dream come true for us. Most of the bands we admire come from the U.S., especially California and Florida. California is the cradle of thrash metal. The bands that really made me want to play music are from California. It feels like we are breathing the same air as the people who influenced us. The metal vibe is thick and our favorite songs were created in the same environment we are in. It’s unreal. That’s the vibe when we played. It’s going to feel that way in Florida too because most of the death metal bands we like are from Florida. We feel accomplished in this way. We are stepping on the same ground as our heroes. Our first show ever here was in LA, which was magical for us. Everyone liked it and supported the show.
When we say it’s a dream come true, people don’t always believe us. But it’s so hard to have a big metal band in Brazil. We lack opportunity and money. When you get to a country you have always dreamed of, that’s something special.
Since you are relatively new, and maybe metal fans in the U.S. don’t know you very well, tell me a little more about the beginning stages of your band. How did you all meet? Where did the idea to form an all-female thrash band start from?
I always felt like playing music with other girls. Since I was involved in metal, I used to support all women in bands that I saw like Warlock and Girlschool. I always thought that I wanted to do my share in having more women involved in metal. That’s why I’ve always played in all female metal fans.
In my last band, I was playing in a melodic death metal band and I was already in a different kind of vibe. That opportunity didn’t work out. I was kicked out and was so depressed and stayed away from metal for two months. I realized I couldn’t be away from it. I wanted to have an all-female thrash metal band. I decided to start looking for female musicians.
In Brazil, it’s very difficult to find female musicians who like thrash metal. It’s difficult to find girls who are committed and want to take a band to a professional level and who can be easy going and don’t have a lot of problems. Right before I was ready to give up, Prika, our guitar player, got in touch with me. She had a project with a drummer and it worked perfectly. They were looking for a singer and a bassist. We sat at a bar for three hours and talked. We wanted the same things. We didn’t care if we had to leave our jobs aside. We wanted to be in a band. That’s what we’ve been doing since.
Our last drummer left the band and it’s even harder to find good drummers. Metal demands a specific vibe from drummers. You have to hit hard and build energy that thrash metal provides. Pitchu was in a different style then, but she had the vibe. She plays different styles and incorporates some Latin influences.
Were your parents musicians or metal heads? How long have you been playing bass?
My parents were very supportive from the beginning. My dad is definitely a metalhead. Both have been involved in metal for decades. I’ve listened to metal since I was a kid. My dad plays the bass too. When I was 13, I already knew I wanted to play metal and play bass myself. So I’ve been playing for 12 years. I’ve loved playing Helloween, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Dio. I never thought of singing thrash. In my previous band, I started singing backing vocals and started to enjoy the raspy vocals. Nervosa is actually the first band I’ve played in where I sound like this. I love it. I still like to do clean singing.
My dad played with fingers and when I started playing I didn’t even know you could play with a guitar pic. My influences like Steve Harris from Iron Maiden, Geddy Lee from Rush and Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath never used a pic so I never knew. I always have used my fingers. If you try and give me a pic I look ridiculous. I don’t know how to use it or hold it properly.
You’ve said in past interviews you feel that Brazil is a very corrupt country and a lot of your music is written about conditions, situations and circumstances there. Is vocalizing this distaste for these issues Nervosa’s plan to bring a movement of defiance back into this generation’s music?
Definitely. I personally use my lyrics as a way of expressing myself. It’s hard when you live in a country like Brazil because of things like corruption. It can really be hard to make a living there. You get pissed and see a lot of injustices and bad things going on. Sometimes the only way we have to talk about it is through music and lyrics. I actually feel relieved that we have lyrics to help us with that.
It’s also a way to debate. In Brazil, people don’t always talk about the problems and issues going on. They just get used to it. I miss this debate. It shows we know what’s going on and that we aren’t happy with it. I don’t want people to agree or disagree with me. I want people to at least stop to think about what we’re saying in the songs. I will care if someone reads the lyrics and realizes there is corruption and there are people trying to harm each other. There’s violence. Someone will stop to think about it, they will debate about it with another friend who might talk about it with another. Then that leads to change. Debating and showing you are unhappy is the first big step to change. Stopping and debating about it to yourself at least proves that you are not “getting used” to the problems, but you are thinking about them and questioning them. That’s important to me.
What’s in store for Nervosa next after this tour wraps up?
Our new album is going to be released in May or June. We will leave the States in March and move to other countries in South America. We’ll be hitting up Puerto Rico, we’ll be back in Colombia in April and Mexico in April. In May, we’re going to do Peru and Argentina. Once the album is released, we’ll probably tour in Brazil again. We’re trying to go back to Europe in the summer again.
Toward the end of the year, I want to explore Asia and Africa because there are some good venues in these places. This is going to be a big touring year. We want to be back here in the States with the new album. We want to do some East Coast since we aren’t doing it now and Canada maybe too. We feel we are ready and have arrived.
I saw in one of your interviews, you had a Motorhead sweatshirt on. What did Lemmy and Motorhead’s music mean to you?
It means so much. They were one of the daddy rock n ‘roll bands. They influenced the bands who influenced us. They are huge. Motorhead and Lemmy really showed people how to rock n ’roll and how to enjoy life being a rock n ’roller. That’s cool. Not only for people in bands.
He was always humble. He had lessons and knew there were many problems. He always taught us to listen to music, drink your Jack Daniels and coke and have fun. He taught us to have fun. That’s what he was doing until the day he died. Life is so crazy and we all are so busy and worried about money. I think we forget to have fun sometimes. It sounds silly, but it’s not. People are crazy. We have to work a lot. His message to enjoy life is really important. Tomorrow, maybe you aren’t here. He made a lot of people happy. They are a beautiful soundtrack to enjoy life to.
Catch Nervosa tonight at Black Light District in Long Beach and Wednesday, Feb. 24, at Karman Bar in Laguna Niguel and on other stops along their tour through March 10th, visit their Facebook here. Their album Victim of Yourself is available for purchase in addition to other band merchandise on their website.
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