BRAZILIAN GIRLS - EMusician

BRAZILIAN GIRLS

If guilt-free unprotected sex could be embodied in a live show, it would take the form of the Brazilian Girls. Carnivalesque costumes, punk-rock antics,
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If guilt-free unprotected sex could be embodied in a live show, it would take the form of the Brazilian Girls.

Carnivalesque costumes, punk-rock antics, multilingual lyrics and promiscuous pot smoking are all part and parcel for the Brooklyn-based group's performances, though nothing is staged or contrived. Take their November performance at Chicago's Metro venue, for example: Tall, svelte and gorgeous leading lady Sabina Sciubba paced the stage like a doped-up drag queen, tottering on her platform heels and crooning sirenlike over lush, psychedelic soundscapes. Nearing the end of the set, a girl from the crowd hoisted herself onstage and took off her shirt. Without blinking an eye, Sciubba passed her a joint. The floodgates opened: Moments later the stage was crowded with half-naked boys and girls, grinding, swerving and sweating atop each other — just in time for the band to transition into “Pussy,” a dancehall chant that refrains, “Pussy pussy pussy marijuana.”

“Metro in Chicago was nice I thought,” recalls keyboardist and electronic programmer Didi Gutman. “Boulder, Colorado — that was the first time people got onstage and got naked. We're a horny band. I think people get laid after our shows or in our shows — I've heard that a lot. There's a certain sexy element.”

“A certain sexy element” might be an understated description for this quartet, which has built a touring reputation on Sciubba's left-field visual antics. Formed in 2003, the group — which also includes Jesse Murphy on bass and Aaron Johnston on drums — got their legs during largely improvised sets at Nublu, a downtown New York lounge they're still known to play regularly. “[The live show] has really evolved,” explains Gutman. “It all started with Sabina covering her eyes one night at Nublu, and that kind of triggered that whole path. She started getting more and more elaborate. The [rest of us] are not that elaborate; we're just trying to be seen behind Sabina.”

Two albums into their career (including last year's Talk to La Bomb on Verve Forecast) and a whirlwind of touring the club and venue circuits, Brazilian Girls still depend largely on that improvisational process. In the studio, Gutman says the four members write by playing spontaneously; even Sciubba often wings her lyrics as they go along. “Then we have to go back and learn our own parts afterwards: ‘Okay, I did this in this part — what is it?’” Gutman says. The result is a sound that takes its structural cues from music movements like jazz and psychedelia but rests heavily on brass horns and world-beat samples and infuses them with all the sexy, club-culture kitsch that Sciubba invokes with her swaggering, peacocking style.

Moving that sound into a live setting “is not hard,” Gutman claims. Murphy, Johnston and Sciubba set up exactly the same, while Gutman transfers most of his samples to a laptop and streams them live through Propellerhead Reason. Because the band prefers to improvise onstage — instead of sticking to the already meandering nature of their studio recordings — he keeps the loops unsequenced, cueing them through an Edirol PCR-M80 USB keyboard. “It's not structured,” he emphasizes. “We can play with the structure of the songs and bring in and out elements as we go.”

Gutman says leaving most of his army of analog equipment at home was simply a practical decision, but that it nonetheless has its drawbacks. “When we first started playing, I wasn't going to break my back bringing a rack of samplers and keyboards to get paid $25. That was great for then, but now we are playing other stages, and going with a USB keyboard and computer makes me a little nervous. Just to have options, I bring the Moog Voyager and Yamaha Motif keyboard, and it's all running through guitar amps and effects.”

Those nerves are indeed well founded. Last year, after watching Iggy Pop shower the audience in water at one of his shows, Sciubba decided to borrow the singer's move. “The first thing she did the next night was turn 180-degrees, and it went all into my laptop, and it got fried instantly,” recalls Gutman, who thankfully keeps a backup laptop and M-Audio FireWire 410 interface with him at all times. “I hated her that day, but the show went on; thank God for insurance.”

BRAZILIAN GEAR

Ampeg SVT-1 Classic bass, SVT 8×10 speaker cabinet

Boss distortion pedal

Edirol PCR-M80 USB keyboard

Ludwig Classic Series drum kit

M-Audio FireWire 410 interface

Mac G4 laptop running Propellerhead Reason software

Mesa Boogie Mark IV combo amp

Moog Voyager keyboard

Novation X-Station 61

Ultimate DX-48B Deltex II two-tier keyboard stand

Yamaha Motif ES7 keyboard