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Beautify Junkyards interview

Lisbon’s Beautify Junkyards specialize in playing acid-tinged, autumnal folk. They released a fantastic single for the Fruits de Mer label in 2012, and then followed up on that with their debut full-length this year. Their self-titled album is a collection of nine cover versions. In most cases, the original songs were done by pastoral folk artists from the late ’60 and early ‘70s, people like Heron, Vashti Bunyan, and Bridget St. John. But they mixed things up nicely by including a mesmerizing reading of Kraftwerk’s “Radioactivity” and a spot-on take of “Fuga No. 2” from the psychedelic adventurists Os Mutantes. In some instances their versions are homages to the originals and in others they take liberties, such as when they turn Donovan’s “Song for the Naturalist’s Wife” into a playful sing-along number; but in all cases their tracks on the album are both pretty and mind-stretching.

Following is a chat I had with the bandmember Joao Branco Kyron:

Introduce us to the members of Beautify Junkyards and describe how the band came together.

Beautify Junkyards are: João Branco Kyron (voice, keyboards), João Moreira (acoustic guitar, electric organ, keyboards), Sergue (bass, ominchord, xylophone), Rita Vian (voice, keyboards), JP Daniel (acoustic guitar, keyboards), Watts (percussions).
Most of us already played together in a band called Hipnótica, an indie outfit mixing electronic, jazz and psychedelic folk. On 2012 we decided to invite some friends into a countryside retreat to recreate some of our favorite songs and record those live on the fileds with a mobile studio, we were far from knowing that would be the genesis of Beautify Junkyards as a band.

How did you guys wind up doing the 45 for Fruits de Mer?

After recording some of the songs, we produced a video for the Nick Drake´s cover of “From the Morning”. We sent that video to some media sites and labels that we love. Keith from Fruits de Mer promptly responded saying he would love to release it on a single on FdM. That was really exciting for us, and made us record more material, that would become our debut album. On the B side of the single Keith chose Fuga nº 2 from Os Mutantes which explored another latitudes we love besides pysch folk , which is the Tropicalia movement.

Did you know from the outset that you wanted your first album to be all covers?

No, it wasn´t a rational plan, as we started to record some of the initial covers, the result was so amazing, that it became obvious to us that we would have to explore that path more deeply. As a result we recorded 9 songs that we felt we had to release, as an homage to their authors, but mainly because that could represent a great way to start a band, from its roots , and then start to develop our own branches and foliage.
Do you write original material? If so, will you record some of it in the future?

Yes we do, we were invited to create an original score for a 70s sci-fi animation movie “La Planete Sauvage”. We presented it live during the movie projection in three film festivals in Portugal.
Right now we are working on new original songs and we have plans to release a new record in 2014.

How did the band go about choosing which songs to cover for the album?

It was a quick process. Some of us are also record collectors, and some choices from 60s and 70s vinyl records were presented to the group. Being the core of the album, songs from the autumnal folk period, we also wanted to explore other genres of band and music like Kraftwerk and Os Mutantes and giving them our own personal approach to it. I would say that the triangle of Psych Folk, Kosmische Electronic and Tropicalia is right now our main influences in the creation of our original songs.

Have you heard any feedback on the recordings from any of the artists whose songs you did?

No, not yet, but I hope they enjoy it, we tried to maintain the essence of the songs and on the top of that we added our own intuition and creativity.

In general, what kind of response have you been hearing to the record?

The reaction has been amazing, from important magazines like Shindig, to BBC radio 2 and BBC 6, from music sites from all over Europe to US college radios, we are thrilled with what has been written about is and that is being our fuel to work hard on a new originals album. Our record is being distributed by the Dutch Clear Spot and right now we are negotiating with an UK distributor for a re-release of the album on the UK on Feb 2014.
Live, is your sound similar to what is heard on the album, or is there a difference?

Playing live is something we love to do, we´ve been playing mostly in Portugal but we have plans to play in the UK beginning of next year aligned with distribution in the territory and also play some summer festivals across Europe.
The songs played live acquire a different ambience, some parts more intense than in the album and also some parts we extend to explore some level of improvisation, letting it flow. We also have a strong visual component with the projection of video and collages created by us specific to each song we play.

What’s the contemporary music scene like in Lisbon?

It’s very active and all kinds of projects and bands are flourishing. From psychedelic prog acts like Saturnia, to western-fadoesque duo Dead Combo, from the jazz-rock dynamics of Memoria de Peixe to the electronic Kuduro of Buraka Som Sistema, from the one-man-rock machine Legendary Tigerman to the a generation of fado singers like Gisela João.

What do you see for the band’s future?

Most of all we want to keep composing and create music together, we want to find a proper record label that can be our partner in this adventure and play live abroad, planning some tours and play in festivals, which can make the band grow in terms of audience and fans.

Interview made by Brian Greene/2013
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