Brazilian Duo Boogarins Are Evolving the Sound of their Psych Forefathers

As Plantas Que Curam, the debut album by Brazilian duo Boogarins, sounds like an old psychedelic album from the flower power era, perhaps a lost record by their countrymen Os Mutantes or Caetano Veloso, or perhaps made by some acid visionaries in London or San Francisco, 45 or 50 years ago, only to be unearthed by modern-day archaeologists and crate diggers. In fact, it was made in a bedroom by two friends barely out of their teens while learning to work recording software just a couple of years ago. The clincher is that it doesn’t just ape the music of their psych forefathers, but it takes their essence—dreamy melodies, fuzzy guitars, groovy bass—to make memorable songs of their own. It sounds like a barely-heard masterpiece, featuring the same elements of all those legendary records.

After posting their stuff on the Internet they’ve been signed by cult NYC record-store-turned-label Other Music, toured many countries with some veterans of the music world, and garnered praised by the international press. Now they’re about to play Mexico City’s NRMAL in order to bring some hallucinatory revelations to festivalgoers. We spoke with Benke Ferraz about the Boogarins phenomenon.

What led you to form Boogarins?

Fernando [Almeida] and [I] have played together since high school. He had a band in 2008, but we always liked to play together. I joined his other band for a while, but when we were finishing high school we decided to start recording some of the stuff we wrote during that time. When we started it was very much ’60s-influenced but this band was more song oriented, it wasn’t as free. It was more like The Who or the compilation Nuggets.

What made you interested in psychedelic music?
We love to make pop songs, but it always leads to other places in our heads. We never try to make it more complicated. I think that’s what I enjoy about the psychedelic artists I like, the simplicity and intent.

Only 1% of the population of the city knows what is going on with the local alternative scene.

What can you tell us about the music scene in Goiânia, where you come from?
We have three big festivals that started more than 10 years ago, they are the main points of our independent music scene. We get some international acts in the city and a lot of great national ones, too; there are a few venues around town. But it’s difficult to make enough money by just being a rock musician down here. I would say that only 1% of the population of the city knows what is going on with the local alternative scene. Country music is the biggest thing in Goiânia.

What other local artists are worth knowing about?

We have some great bands doing stuff right now. Carne Doce just released their debut and are getting some good attention, and one of the songs on their album was written by us. Bruna Mendez is a really interesting girl with amazing musicians playing with her, really deep and layered sound. And there is this band called Hellbenders, they went to SXSW last year with us. They just recorded their second album at Rancho De La Luna with the legendary Dave Catching. I’m really excited about this album!

Are you influenced by psych music from your country? Do you mind all the comparisons you get with people like Os Mutantes?
I think that’s necessary, when you as a journalist or music critic are trying to talk about a new band, to compare it to something. So even the audience gets more interested and the magazine/paper/website you write for agrees it is good to talk about it. I haven’t listened to Mutantes since high school probably, but of course we do love Mutantes and a bunch of other Brazilian ’60s and ’70s stuff.

How did you hook up with Other Music?
Internet and common friends. The guy that now is our manager, Gordon Zacharias, found our songs on the Internet and sent it to his New York friends from Other Music. It was a pretty fast thing; suddenly, I had a contract in my mailbox.

You have been touring with bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, The Clean, and Guided By Voices. How has your music been received by their fans? Do you feel any kinship with these bands from the ’90s?
It was amazing to tour with them. These ’90s bands have so much [influence] on how we do our recordings and the way they make everything sound really personal is an inspiration. Their audiences are so passionate, and opening for them was really exciting. We even shared the stage with The Clean guys at a few concerts.

You have gathered a lot of positive comments from the international press. Why do you think this has been? Very few Brazilian bands get noticed by these outlets, let alone one that sings in Portuguese.

I think there is a lot of international potential in a lot of Brazilian things happening nowadays. We got lucky to be released by an American label. I think that, plus the promotion made by our label, made US and UK press pay attention a bit more.

You seem to be very in tune with music from the past. Is there any music from our time that you like and feel identified with, either as listeners or as musicians?

I love some electronic music and we try to bring some modern elements into our songwriting, but we like to play loud amplifiers. It would be lazy for us to use samplers in our live sound [laughs].

You’re about to play NRMAL in Mexico, what are your expectations?
We can’t wait to play there! We recently played in Spain and the audience went absolutely crazy, they knew the songs and they were very passionate. Mexico is a Spanish-speaking country like Spain, so we expect something similar. I hope people like our stuff.

What’s next for you?
After this amazing opportunity in Mexico, we’ll play Lollapalooza Brasil. Our next album should be released during the second semester, perhaps it will be out before. We’re excited to tour with the new tunes!