Last Sunday night the Brazilian Girls came home to NuBlu in NYC to celebrate the 10th anniversary of that remarkable club where they first started playing together back in 2003. And they tore the roof off tha sucker. The room was totally rammed with people kicking down memory lane as they danced into the future.
There were plenty of people there who didn’t see them the first time around when they used to jam together every week in this tiny East Village club. I was one of them. I missed out on their original gigs at Nublu, but saw them play a show in London at Notting Hill Arts Club not long after their debut album was released in 2005.
They are one of the most eclectic musical acts of the last few years, taking influences from a mixed bag of sounds that include tango, house, jazz, hip hop, reggae and lounge. On top of which, singer Sabina Sciubba expresses herself in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.
At one point in the evening Sabina made the observation that Lady Gaga had stolen her look. And she may well be right. Sabina has always had a completely unique style and she’s been doing it for years. And Gaga used to hang around in the Lower East Side and East Village, so it certainly wouldn’t surprise me to know that she’d seen the Brazilian Girls and ripped off some ideas. Other remarkable female vocalists with their own unique sense of style who predate Gaga include Lene Lovich, Grace Jones and Nina Hagen. Unlike Sabina, those three always came across as being more than slightly deranged.
Few bands are successful with this kind of musical and linguistic experimentation. And manage to make pop music out of it. And Art too. The Brazilian Girls more than manage. They get people to dance as well as making political statements, often without their audience realizing what’s happening – Die Gedanken Sind Frei (Thoughts Are Free) from their debut album is about the 16th century German Farmers Revolution against the aristocrats.
Their closest predecessors would have to be the most interesting band to come out of the 1980’s (although they started as a punk band in 1976), Talking Heads. And they acknowledged that debt when they covered Talking Heads’ Cross Eyed and Painless for the Red Hot and Latin Redux charity album released in 2006. Brazilian Girls released their second album, Talk to La Bomb, later that same year and internal problems led to them becoming a three piece before the release of their third album, New York City, in 2008. Which was nominated for a Grammy. Unfortunately, they didn’t win.
If they’d toured more they might well have become a seriously big band. But they didn’t. Same thing has happened with other bands in the past. I worked with Midnight Oil for 5 years before they broke up and I remember various members of the band talking about the fact that if they’d moved to America after the success of Diesel and Dust they could have been as big as U2, who brought out The Joshua Tree the same year.
In January 2011 the Brazilian Girls used their Facebook page to announce the band was over. But judging by the fact the four of them are back together again recording a new album and have just done a run of shows in the USA and Europe, the break up doesn’t seem to have lasted too long. Although somebody does need to update their Wikipedia page as it does seem somewhat out of date.
They are now all scattered around the world. Aaron and Didi live in Madrid, Sabina is based in Paris and only Jesse is left in NYC. They’ve been recording in all of these places and are going to be finishing the album with old friend and talented producer Frederik Rubens at the helm over the next few months in Paris.
They used the NuBlu show to explore some of their new material, showcasing Woman In Red, Pirates and Bella Baila. Old favorites such as Good Times and Pussy had the crowd singing along with smiles on their faces. Now that they are out of a contract, it’ll be interesting to see whether they take advantage of the door Amanda Palmer kicked open with her gamechanging Kickstarter campaign that raised $1,192,793 (and she was only looking for $100,000) that I wrote about two weeks ago.
I grabbed a picture of the set list just before somebody made off with it and realized that unlike most set lists I’ve seen, there was no way to tell which songs they’d just played, so asked Didi later for an interpretation.
I got to know Jesse, Aaron and Didi when I was hanging out in Nublu in 2007 and 2008. There was a time when I was going there 4 or 5 times a week and got to know the regulars pretty well. In fact, I probably was a regular myself at that point.
When they shot a video with Director Winslow Porter for I Want Out from the New York City album at Nublu in 2008 I went along and shot some stills.
Nublu is one of the coolest and most unusual clubs in the world, with the greatest mix of nationalities I’ve ever seen. The predominant countries represented are Turkish (Ilhan, the owner and Pinar the lovely manager); Balkan (amongst many others, Petrit who runs the Nublu record label and Petar Timotic, the artist responsible for the ever changing artwork on the walls and an occasional de facto member of the Brazilian Girls as he sometimes creates paintings on stage whilst they play); Jamaican (DJ Andre & lots more); Haitian (DJ Greg Caz and Ronnie who also DJ’s and tends bar) as well as (ironically enough) lots of Brazilians and of course, some Americans.
If you live in NYC or are visiting, make a point of stopping by Nublu for an experience of a different kind. It’s worth it. And when the Brazilian Girls release their next album go out and buy it because that will be worth it too. And be prepared to find your feet moving to some different rhythms. And your face to be smiling. Mine was when I left Nublu after this historic show by the mighty Brazilian Girls.