Lord is this some sweet psychedelia. The in-the-red recording and slightly blown-out production just adds to the insane bad ass shreddery and in your face riffage that threatens to melt it off from the time you hit play, until the final note explodes from the speakers into your decimated eardrums. The first thing that really caught me about Gesso’s debut full-length Howling Grace was the absolutely gnarled, distorted, fuzzy bass that crunched and trundled about, propelling the guitar work and tight drums into the stratosphere. The chest rumbling thunder of four-string sonic assault is aided by tight distorted guitar leads that thread in and out of the songs like a needle in some cosmic fabric of space and time, all interlocked with the perfectly apt drumming, occasional saxophone appearance and enough trippy space sounds to keep you floating out of body and mind the whole time. There’s some pretty great acid jazz and space rock going on here, amidst dead ahead instrumental psych rock and some nice mid-tempo melodies that will have you slow-motion head banging within seconds. Gesso truly is the real deal. I heard a stream of Howling Grace awhile back and really just got tired of waiting for them to announce something and thought I’d bother them to see if I could get my grubby mitts on any juicy details about upcoming releases or recording sessions! Dig some full on details about what’s been, what’s coming and exactly what Gesso has planned for the future as well below, and remember to keep it psychedelic baby!
Listen while you read: http://gesso.bandcamp.com/
What is the lineup for Gesso at this point? Has this always been the lineup or have there been any changes since the band began?
We are Ruben (Drums), Flávio (Bass) and Joel (Guitar/Sax). This is the original line up since we started.
Are any of you involved in any other bad or side projects at this point? Have you released any music with anyone in the past at all? If so, can you tell us a little about that?
Well, both of us have done man things in the past. But we live only for Gesso now… Well, I have some side projects going on too in different genres jazz, folk pimba and extreme music.
How old are you and where are you originally from?
We’re from Santo Tirso, Portugal and we’re too old to be young!
What was the local music scene like where you grew up? Do you feel like you were very influenced by that scene? Did you see a lot of shows or were you very involved in the scene back then?
The scene here in town isn’t too strong. The only great band in Santo Tirso is Leões da Batalha and they’re our biggest influence.
What about your home when you were younger? Were either your parents or any of your relatives either musicians, or extremely interested/involved in music when you were a kid?
No, none one of our parents were musicians.
What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?
Well, I’m not so sure about that. Maybe when you write the first song of your life and you show a friend, or someone you’re close to is the beginning of the real exposure of your work and that responsibility grows with time. I hope that makes sense.
If you were to pick a moment of music, a moment that seemed to change everything and opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities that music presents, what would it be?
I think it’s when we write a epic song, “that” song which will stay forever in our hearts and later and later I think “We real did this, Deus me livre*”!
(*Editor’s note: Roughly translated Deus me livre means, “God forbid”.)
When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music? What brought that decision about for you?
It’s something that comes naturally when you’re making jam sessions, playing with friends for a good minute and everything emerges. When the dedication and taste are together, it’s easy to feel the flow and performance.
What was your first instrument? When and how did you get that?
Joel: The flute in school when I was ten, and a few years later I started playing guitar.
Ruben: Reco-reco and bass in “Conjunto Filármonico de Burgães” at seven years old.
Flávio: At twelve years old I played Ferrinhos in “Os Padroeiros de Guimarei” and then later bass.
When and how did the members of Gesso originally meet?
We’ve been friends for many years. Two of us met when they’re working at Lidl and the other one worked at Pão de Açucar.
What led to the formation of Gesso and when would that have been?
It was a normal summer day when we decided to rehearse together for fun, as we did sometimes before we started Gesso. It came from our relationship, nothing else.
What does the name Gesso mean or refer to? Who came up with the name and how did you all go about choosing it? Were there any close seconds, or runner up names that you all almost went with?
Well, Gesso is a special expression that our group of friends uses to describe some band we see or listen to live with a heavy, extremely compact and intense sound. We’ll say, “That’s a fucking Gesso” or in Portuguese, “Ca’ punha de Gesso”, Gesso actually refers too a compound of plaster of Paris used for sculpture, not as awesome as our definition.
Is there any sort of creed, code, ideal or mantra that Gesso shares or lives by?
Not really. Just play loud, very loud until shake some starts to shake their hams. In Portuguese is more beautiful to say “Até abanar uns presuntos*”.
(*Editor’s note: Roughly translated this means, “Shake up a few hams”.)
Where’s the band located at these days?
Joel: In our beautiful and peaceful town of Santo Tirso.
How would you describe the local music scene where you all are at right now?
As I said before, there’s actually not really a strong scene here.
Are you very involved in the local scene in your opinion? Do you book or attend a lot of local shows or anything?
No, not really.
Are you involved in recording or releasing any local music at all, and if so can you tell us about that briefly now?
We aren’t involved in anything outside of the band.
Has the local scene played a large or important role in shaping the sound, history or evolution of Gesso in your opinion? Do you feel like you all could be doing what you are and sound like you do regardless of your location or surroundings or has the scene there played an integral role in your opinion?
Gesso doesn’t belong to any kind of music scene here, we stick to ourselves and we like it that way. Our music emerges from our special influences and tastes, and is not only psychedelic, or rock, or stoner… It’s more than that. Of course, we have some contacts and good friends and bands that thankfully support and follow us, they’re all good people. We don’t get involves so much in “scenes” or strange “societies”. We live in peace.
While we’re talking so much about the history and makeup of the band can you share who some of your major musical influences with us? What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?
We have similar influences between us. As we said before, the greatest of those is Leões da Batalha, a band from Santo Tirso and some others like Cid, Tony Carreira, Nucha, and Marante.
How would you describe Gesso’s sound to our readers who might not have heard you before in your own words?
Loud and psychedelic.
What’s the songwriting process like with Gesso? Is there someone who usually comes to the rest of the band with a riff or finished idea for a song, or do you all just kind of get together and kick ideas back and forth until you work out an idea together as a band?
We have jam sessions and work together as a band. Ideas always appear when we play together. It’s the best way for us.
What about recording? I mean, I think most musicians can appreciate all the time and effort that goes into making an album when they’re holding that finished product in their hands; there’s not a lot that beats holding your own album. Getting to that point though, getting everything recorded and sounding the way that you want it to, especially as a band, can be extremely difficult to say the least. What’s it like recording for Gesso?
It’s very easy, because I’m a producer too. We have the time, space and freedom to do what we want, and we’re always together for that. We can play, drink, fart and laugh at the same time.
Do you all prefer to head into a studio and let someone else handle the technical aspects of recording so you can kind of kick back and concentrate on performing, or do you all take a more do-it-yourself approach toe recording where you handle things on your own time and turf?
We bring stuff into the studio and handle everything ourselves. We can improvise in the studio and perform it, record and then produce it. If we want to record in a public bathroom, we’ll do it. No limits.
Do you all spend a lot of time working things out as far as the songs go, getting every little nook and cranny of a song figured out? Or do you all kind of get a good idea of what a song’s going to sound like before you head into the studio while leaving some room for change and evolution during recording?
We get a good idea and work on it in rehearsals, and then we do a pre-record recording, or a room demo with something that can record, a cellphone for example… That’s not really important; it’s just for catching the “fish”. After that, we listen to the big fish we caught with cold ears and cook it. Then later on, we figure out if it’s a good recipe to eat or not.
In 2011 you released your first release that I know of the self-released Névoa Baixa, Sol Que Racha EP CDR. What was the recording of the material for Névoa Baixa, Sol Que Racha like? Was that a fun pleasurable experience for you all? When and where was that recorded at? Who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used?
Névoa Baixa, Sol Que Racha was a premature release. We needed something recorded to sell at shows and take on the road. We got this EP done in one month. It was recorded in our rehearsal space with not so optimal conditions and the few materials we had. We made in one week, one take. The production isn’t that good, but the feeling’s there. It was an exciting experience because it was our first time recording.
You followed up Névoa Baixa, Sol Que Racha with another self-released CDR Howling Grace. Was the recording of the material for Howling Grace very different than your earlier EP? What kind of equipment was used this time around? When was the Howling Grace material recorded? Who recorded it?
Like our EP Névoa Baixa, Sol Que Racha, Howling Grace was recorded and produced with in pretty rough conditions too. It’s very different from the EP. It’s got better composition and final production. But in some way, there’s a similar pattern between them. It’s Gesso, nothing more, nothing less. We did everything ourselves, recording, producing, mastering, etcetera. We used our rehearsal room for recording and the production; I was the one who coordinated the whole thing. The equipment was mostly the same as the EP, only a few new amplifiers and monitors. Mostly the same kind of stuff, you know?
Does Gesso have any other music that we haven’t talked about, maybe a single or a song on a compilation that I might not know about?
No. We’ve only released those two works.
With the release of Howling Grace about a year out, are there any other releases in the works or planned for Gesso at this point?
Yes. We’ll be trying to create some news songs and work on them for a new album or EP we just don’t know when we’ll get it done.
I know you all self-released the CDR versions of both, Howling Grace and Névoa Baixa, Sol Que Racha. Were those releases limited, and if so how many copies were they limited to? Are the both out of print at this point or can you still pick them up directly from you?
Yes, very limited because we released it ourselves. I think Névoa Baixa, Sol Que Racha and Howling Grace were more or less limited to fifty physical copies each. We could press more, but we think Howling Grace deserves a better release with higher quality. It’s difficult to afford quality editions though.
Where’s the best place for interested readers to keep up on the latest news like upcoming shows and album releases from Gesso at?
Are there any major plans or goals that Gesso’s looking to accomplish in the rest of 2014?
Create new songs and maybe save the summer with some gigs. We’ll see.
Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road touring? Do you enjoy being out on the road? What’s it like being out on the road for Gesso?
In the past, we did a lot of gigging but we actually, don’t spend much time on the road. We very much enjoy being on the road, because it’s nice to take trips with friends and visit some new places that we never been to. It’s always a pleasant change from our day out of our week routines.
What, if anything, do you have anything planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year (2014)?
Well, I don’t know. The summer’s coming and we don’t have any dates setup. Maybe things will happen in 2015.
Who are some of your personal favorite bands you’ve had a chance to play with over the last few years?
We’ve played with some great bands like Samsara Blues Experiment (Interview here) and Sungrazer, but we want to play with Leões da Batalha. That’s the one!
In your dreams, who are you on tour with?
Leões da Batalha with Sabrina as the special guest.
Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?
We have tons of interesting stories, because each day we’re out on the road something always happens. Of course, I won’t describe all of them! Once, in a city called Lamego, kind of a landscape city, very beautiful, we played on this corner on a summer afternoon and the drums and mics were slipping on us. It was a mobile and short concert, because we played so loud that the neighbors get very upset and called the police, on a summer afternoon! All we saw was a small group of police coming at us like a civil war. On that afternoon, a lot of people showed up to see where the noise was coming; families, tourists, kids, old people, dogs, dragons, etcetera. It was a paraphernalia moment. Not a well-played gig, but definitely very loud! Well, it was one special day because we have been with great friends.
Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, like flyers, posters, covers and shirt designs? Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re trying to convey with your artwork? Is there anyone that you usually turn to when it comes to your times of need for that kind of thing? If so, who is that and how did you originally get hooked up with them?
I don’t think we have a specific message or meaning. All the visual aspects have some connection to psychedelic trips, hallucinogenic graphics, soul freedom, and nature. That’s our music, and that’s what we want to share, I think. We usually do all the artwork ourselves, but sometimes we have help from close friends on that, too.
With all of the various methods of release that are available to artists today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the various mediums that they do. Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music? What about when you’re listening to and or purchasing music?
I don’t know, I don’t think we have a preferred medium. It’s kind of random. In this new generation, it’s easy to share songs and imagery, like photos and videos, of our own music with everyone and everywhere; from Tibet to Póvoa. It’s easy to select various mediums for promotion. Nowadays, people buy and listen more to stuff digitally… And we do as well.
Do you have a music collection at all? If you do, can you tell us a bit about it?
Our collections are very eclectic. Our collections could start with David Bowie songs and finish with Roberto Leal or Nelson Ned stuff. We just enjoy good music.
I grew up around a pretty good collection of music and I was encouraged to listen to anything that floated my boat from a pretty young age. There was something almost magical about kicking back with a set of headphones, reading the liner notes, staring at the cover art and letting the whole trip just carry me off. Having something to hold in my hands, something physical and concrete to experience along with the music has always made for a much more complete listening experience. Do you have any such connection with physically released music?
Yes, of course. When you like something so much, it’s special to have the physical stuff; all the artwork and lyrics. You can only see and study every details on a physical release. It’s something for life. I think people who love music know, and have, that feeling.
As much as I love my music collection I try and keep as much of a digital backup as I can for several reasons. Digital backups are just the beginning though, when you combine digital music with the internet, that’s when you have a real game changer on your hands. Together they’ve managed to expose people to the literal world of music that’s out there and allowed people unparalleled access to not only the music that’s out there but the actual bands themselves as well. On the other hand, while people may be exposed to a lot more music these days they’re not always inclined to pay for it, and a lot of people feel like music is becoming this disposable experience to be used and forgotten about afterwards. As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
Well, like everything else, it has a good side and a bad side. The good part’s that your music can travel around the world because it’s definitely more accessible to everyone. The bad side is the oversupply of bands, and to survive that, the music needs to be really, really good with a good audience. And forget money, you can only make money when you’re playing gigs… And it’s low sometimes for us. The true essence is only on the road.
I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can but there’s just not enough time to listen to even one percent of the amazing music that’s out there right now. Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to that I might not know about?
Leões da Batalha, Dead Night Nice, Fontiscos Burns, Ecos da Cave, and Gaiteiros da Ponte Velha. Most of them are part of the underground scene like us.
What about nationally and internationally?
Nationally: Dead Combo, Mão Morta, Ágata, Carminho, Eusébio, Foge, Foge Bandido, and Marco Paulo. Internationally, I think you know better than us.
Thank you so much for taking the time to make it this far, I know my interviews aren’t short but it’s always awesome getting to learn so much cool stuff about a band! We’ve made it this far, but before we call it a day is there anything that I might have possible missed or that you’d just like to take this time to talk to me or the readers about while you have the chance?
Thank you for this moment. We hope to talk again and if possible, one day, hit the road on that side of the world. We are boa gente*!
(*Editor’s Note: Roughly translated this means, “good people”.)
(2011) Gesso - Névoa Baixa, Sol Que Racha EP – CDR – Self-Released (Limited to ? copies)
(2013) Gesso – Howling Grace – CDR – Self-Released (Limited to ? copies)
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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