Óscar Silva, who has a vast background within the Portuguese music scene as a member of bands like I Had Plans, Adorno, Papaya and more, recently came to prominence as the snake charmer hiding behind the name JIBÓIA. After the release of the self-titled EP in 2013, Óscar has been refining this ancient art and the result is 2014’s Badlav, the debut album which is the result of a joint effort between Óscar and Ana Miró (Sequin).
Having a quite vast musical background most of our readers might be unaware of which projects do you believe marked you the most?
Every single project I got involved left a mark on me, each one in its own way. I started quite early playing some heavier genres, like hardcore and screamo, with some friends. But the band that made me aware of how satisfying it was to play music was Suchi Rukara, in which I played with Ricardo and Iuri. With them I formed I Had Plans, being joined by Rui and Tiago. But in between there was a lot of other bands: Adorno, with which I did my first tours; in Asneira I came closer to cleaner guitars; Papaya, which will be releasing a new album quite soon...
It seems like the birth of JIBÓIA was somehow an early labour/premature. How did it happen?
I believe you mean the fact that everything happened so quickly, right? Yes, the journey started (during a trip...) with Cangarra, who challenged me to open for a gig they were about to play in Évora (Portugal). The concert would be a month later so I put my hands to work, having resulted in half an hour of music.
I have had this idea of doing something all by myself for a while now, there were a number of things I wanted to try, without commitment. I wanted to step on grounds that were knew to me, to play what I had never played before. Then I realised I needed a rhythmic base. However, since I had always played along with drummers, I had no idea how to do it. And that is when the Casio comes in, which actually is the foundation of everything I have done since then. So, everything was premature, everything happened too quickly and I did what I did without putting much thought on what would eventually come out. And that is how I got where I am.
I believe your first open to the public show took place in a Turkish restaurant in Oporto, Portugal. There was no better place to introduce the arrival of JIBÓIA to the world, was it?
My first show was not there, it was in Évora as mentioned above and in between those two shows I played a bunch of them. The one you are talking about was my first EP release show, which I wanted to be something different rather than in the usual places. The idea was to do something related to the concept of the snake. A Turkish restaurant with a big and old room seemed like a pretty good idea to me at the time.
Your debut album, Badlav, is divided into 4 tracks whose titles, I believe, are related to Buddhism or Hinduism. Is there a concept that supports this album?
Yes. The 4 tracks represent the 4 Yugas, or World Stages, in the Hindu scriptures. Yugas expand in drama and negritude, since the first one, which represents the birth of the world, when everything is beautiful and luminous, until the last, which represents the end of the world, an era of darkness. Together they constitute a cycle, because when this world dies, it is reborn ever again. The idea of this album was based on this concept. We wanted to work with some kind of dichotomy. The first two tracks are happier than the last two. From that came all the album’s imagery, the cover photos, the black and white of the artwork, etc.
Taking into account other projects you have been, or still are, involved into, like Papaya and I Had Plans, it is quite curious to find you exploring this kind of sonorities with a clear Middle East vibe. Is there any specific reason or did it just happen this way?
It just happened. Probably because at that time (before that first show) I was discovering a lot of stuff external to the so-called “western” music that I didn’t know before. I started off with Omar Souleyman and that reflects on what I do. I found that scale, that I’ve never played before, quite interesting and started to explore that nuance. It is deliberately different from the work with Papaya or I Had Plans. It is like an experimental lab where I can try at ease, without bothering anyone.
Even prior to the release of the album, JIBÓIA was accused by Al Lover of holding one of the best shows he saw in 2013 and including one of your songs into one of his mix tapes. How does someone deal with such a big compliment at such an earlier stage of the project’s life?
I don’t even know… Sometimes I don’t even fell the weight of those compliments. I met Al Lover during his last year’s show at Lounge (Lisbon). I had played shortly before in Lisbon and the idea was to stop playing here for a while, but when we knew he was coming over, and since we already knew he was fond of the project, we set up a surprise. I set my stuff up and played right before his performance. I don’t even think my show was that good, I had some technical issues, etc. But it seems like he loved it. It was a blast, all that familiar ambience. Since then we have been meeting and chatting. That’s why it feels so natural.
In 2013 it was released the physical evidence of JIBÓIA’s existence, JIBÓIA EP. What changed between the release of the EP and the album? Was there any change of equipment or approach that has influenced the evolution of JIBÓIA?
JIBÓIA EP was recorded in order to document the tracks I was playing live at that initial stage. I need to record those tracks so I could move on. My friend, Ana Miró, came in during the last song of the EP and since then we decided we were going to do something together, having her voice as the base of the album. Probably, “the change of equipment” that influenced the sound of this album the most was Miró’s voice. As for my equipment, I used almost the same layout I had used on the EP.
As for the EP’s production, you worked with Makoto Yagyu (Riding Pânico, PAUS), but when working on the album that task was handed to XINOBI, major Discotexas’ figure. Was there a premeditated decision to make JIBÓIA more danceable?
Yes, totally. Makoto was a natural choice for the first EP. We have been friends for a quite long time and I believe the majority of the records I did were with him. But I knew that, like everything else in JIBÓIA, I wanted to try to record different ambiences and other production styles. At the time we recorded Papaya’s EP with XINOBI and that’s how I got to know his work a little better. After that, I really wanted to try something related to JIBÓIA with him. I knew it would bring a more danceable facet, which was something I really wanted to try.
For the ones who have never seen you play live, how do you present yourself? And how is it to command everything after have been playing in bands along with some of the best Portuguese musicians?
When playing live, I behave a little obsessively. Being in control of everything gives me a lot of freedom, but with that comes greater responsibility. That’s why, every once in a while, I get “tired” of being alone and decide to invite a friend to play along. Of course I’m still the one who must assume the command, but the responsibility (and the audience’s attention) is shared. But that’s not even the reason, the will to do something with different people is what drives me in this project. It is like JIBÓIA were a platform that I use to bring to life my reveries.
Still in 2013 we committed such an act of folly. You presented JIBÓIA with a kind of big band formation under the title of JIBÓIA EXPERIENCE, which turned Milhões de Festa (Portuguese festival set up by Lovers & Lollypops) into a quasi-Woodstock. What were you thinking? Which memories do you recall from that night and the whole process that lead into it?
Since the first shows that I have that curiosity of wanting to know how would this work with a band playing. The idea stuck into my mind until the L&L invitation to do it at that Milhões edition. I thought that was the perfect chance to bring the idea to life. And so it was: lots of people, lots of friends, lots of late rehearsals (too close to the show, because some of those friends were not living in Lisbon, which turned it into a really arduous task to find a time and date when everyone was available). Those were some of the most intense days I’ve ever experienced, for a lot of reasons. Then the big night came. It was something beyond description. Even today, when I think about it, I cannot understand quite well the magic that happened there, how it was possible to get so many talented people on the same stage.
A few months later the debut album’s release, what is the feeling of being able to play the Liverpool Psych Fest?
It’s a lovely feeling. The show at the Psych Fest was set way earlier before the release of the album. But it ended up happening at the perfect time, quite close to the release. There were too many great bands on that line-up. It is a gigantic pleasure to be side by side with so many giants.
On that same day, your brothers (or cousins) Black Bombaim also played at the Liverpool Psych Fest, which is a band I believe is quite beloved among the readers of It’s Psychedelic, Baby. It has been said countless times that L&L is one big family: how is it to be part of such a dysfunctional family?
It is a great pleasure and advantage to be able to be part of this family and to play with a series of good bands, which are basically governed by the same principles or by the same will to make something happen. The most important and vital thing is the will to listen to music, to make music, to meet such disparate bands and sounds. I think that’s what makes everybody being together around this.
Are there any scheduled shows outside of Portugal that you can anticipate? How does the L&L and Shit Music For Shit People (SMFSP, Italy) joint release happen?
There are plans for an European Tour in the middle of the next year, but nothing is certain yet. Shit Music For Shit People is the label of an Italian guy, Tommaso, that I met through a friend of a friend. Last year we played in Sardinia (which was the first JIBÓIA show outside of Portugal) and that was when we met him in person. Since the very beginning that he is a great enthusiast of what we been doing, Miró and I, and since the beginning he showed to be interested in releasing the album that brings us together.
One question that I believe to be vital: how is it possible to perform at seven a.m. at a Reverence Valada plenty with so many good bands? Was there any survivor left?
I have no idea how it is done. But it seems like it happened and there were a few survivors to testify. After so many performances and so many good bands in a festival that, in my own opinion, was a milestone in this year’s calendar, that last apparition was the culmination of hours of waiting to perform, of hours of chatting and hours of good gigs. Everything happening right on that stage. That was me trying to wake myself up, trying to do something. And from that something quite different from the majority of my shows came out. I do not know if it was better or worse than my other efforts. What matters is that everybody was more death than alive, no one remembers what happened.
To speak of JIBÓIA without speaking of Ana Miró (Sequin) is quite a difficult task. You have already stated a few times that JIBÓIA is a platform for partnerships. Who is the most improbable character you imagine yourself collaborating with?
A platform for partnerships, yes, but a platform for tangible partnerships. When I think about it, I think of so many people that I would like to work with but people with whom there is in fact a chance of happening. I don’t know if it is because of me never dreaming of big plans, but I can’t think of someone so improbable that I would like to work with. In the world of the snake every improbability becomes a frightful probability, most of the times.
Interview made by Hugo Pereira/2015
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