In conversation with: Yur Mum
Jake Avery interviews Brazilian hard-rockers Anelise Kunz and Fabio Couto before their Exeter Cavern gig to discuss the importance of heritage and history in music, their influences, and the experimental flavours arriving further down the line in their next releases!
Jake Avery: In what ways did evolving from a trio to a duo expand your creativity? How does it open new doors?
Fabio: In terms of creativity, you can do a lot more, because when you have less you have to make the most of it, so it means with every song, you cannot rely on having solos or certain things to flourish the songs, so you have to be a bit more straightforward and you have to find ways to keep the track interesting, which hopefully we’re succeeding in!
Anelise: I think it was more challenging for me to find that sound on the bass.
F: We had to change the bass sound to come up with something that would fill the gap and I started singing and doing more backing vocals.
JA: Paying homage to Brazil and exploring the censorship and dictatorships of the 60’s and 70’s is a central theme throughout your album ‘Tropical Fuzz’. In what ways would you say music is important as a form to explore culture, history and heritage? Why is it such a good way to explore those themes?
F: I think any kind of art Is the best way to kind of document an era, and through our art and music especially you will catch a little bit of that vibe of the moment – the lyrics, the slang, the way that people talk, the subjects that were important to them. I especially love listening to older music, 60’s and 70s music, because for me it’s kind of like time travelling a little bit. For a moment throughout those three minutes, you have a feel for what it was like at that time, which for me I think is great!
A: I agree there!
JA: You implemented Carioca funk into ‘Banana Republic’ – are there any news genres or cultural styles you’re experimenting with at the moment? Is there anything new you’re adding to your writing style?
A: For the new album we want to kind of continue the kind of trip that we started with ‘Tropical Fuzz’, and embrace our cultural beats from Brazil even more. We’re from South Brazil, but the beats have lots of different ones up North and we’re digging more into that and adding that to our sound and seeing how we can do that and still be a bit Stoner; how we can do that and be a bit Pop but still Punk. We like to mix it up. It’s a trip because we don’t like to settle in one style. In a way it’s good and bad – sometimes people try to pigeonhole you, and they wonder ‘Can we put them in a Punk festival, or a Metal festival?’. We’ve definitely been leaning into each genre, but never staying rooted in one. So the answer is yes, I think you shouldn’t stop yourself from discovering what you want with your sound. We’ve kind of been addicted to these discoveries we’ve been making; so there’s definitely more on the new album for sure!
It’s not just here it’s not just Brazil there’s a storm everywhere. It was very difficult to ignore that. I think it naturally came into our lyrics, as it was what we were feeling.
JA: There are a range of ideas throughout ‘Tropical Fuzz’ – you go from existential crisis, to change, to more personal themes, to a critique of consumer culture, and you also champion the idea of democracy. What inspired the balance between being solely political, cultural and historical, and also featuring more personal themes? You have a really good balance between both sides – was that something you developed naturally?
A: We never wanted to become a political band since we were a three-piece and then a two-piece – I think it just happened naturally. Like most of the bands that had an album coming in after Covid, we went to that kind of existentialism, watching documentaries, and watching every country going through its own storm. It’s not just here it’s not just Brazil there’s a storm everywhere. It was very difficult to ignore that. I think it naturally came into our lyrics, as it was what we were feeling. We try to write about what we feel in the moment. So we didn’t try – it just happened.
F: I mean we usually just come up with songs and most of the time we don’t have lyrics first. But we usually have a few things that are going on in our lives that we like to explore and talk about. I think that’s the great thing about being in a band when you’re not commercially signed to a big label and they have producers writing songs for you. I was so disappointed when I discovered that Snoop Dogg has like 15 songwriters working for him! I love this kind of DIY thing from bands, especially from underground bands because they make everything – they write their songs, they come up with sound. and I think that’s the beauty of it you know?
A: Radiohead were one of the bands to start quite pop-ish but then they actually used that opportunity of being signed and having the money to be even more experimental. I would say definitely go for it – if you have that freedom, why not?
JA: What can you reveal about the themes in your next project?
A: I will say, if you like ‘Tropical Fuzz’ and the mix we had throughout, our new album is gonna be in that experimental kind of vein. We’re still talking about our background, and we’re still talking about the storms that are happening everywhere. But I won’t say exactly what we’re writing about yet!
F: There are songs about social experiences we have had with people around us and ones about attitudes towards mental health and how to deal with it.
A: Not recipes on how to deal with it, but how we ourselves manage to deal with it! (Chuckles)
F: Every song is a short story, so we have a song about being an immigrant for example, and we have a song called ‘New Beginnings’ that is a single we’re going to release after the next one that we will play tonight. We have this song, it’s a bit about sometimes when you go back and you think about if you did something differently in your life, would it be better? Would it have impacted your life in a positive way or not? So in a way, it’s about trying not to have regrets and trying to move on with your life. In Brazil we grew up around the Catholic Church, so it’s a big thing in our upbringing, especially mine, so we also have a song about faith, and exploring how much it is worth to just follow your blind faith, and is it worth sometimes questioning some of those things? You can still have faith, but you can also always question things that don’t seem right.
I personally feel a bit self-conscious at times because we’re not poets, we didn’t go to art school, we would have loved to have had that chance, but we’re just ordinary people just trying to write things, you know, in an honest way.
JA: Multiculturalism is an integral part of the band, especially with songs like ‘Je Ne Sais Pas’. Are there any tracks you’re working on that will feature lyrics entirely in a foreign language?
A: We have a new song in Portuguese that you’ll hear tonight. We always struggle to write in our own language – don’t know why! It’s almost like a mask singing in English because it feels like the guys back in Brazil won’t get it straight away from what I’m complaining about. Here the sound is sometimes so loud that you don’t get the lyrics as well, so we still hide behind the English. But this song came from actually wanting to do a song in Portuguese and one in English; we thought, ‘Let’s go for it’, and it worked! I think we’re going to experiment a bit more with these language things – it’s just so delicious and so nice! Even I struggle with the ‘Je Ne Sais Pas’ and I have to talk with a French friend of mine all the time asking ‘Is this right?’ because I mean this, and is this correct? (Chuckles)
F: Especially now that there are so many great bands and artists out there in general with amazing lyrics, I personally feel a bit self-conscious at times because we’re not poets, we didn’t go to art school, we would have loved to have had that chance, but we’re just ordinary people just trying to write things, you know, in an honest way. One of the things I really enjoy about playing the kind of music that we do, having experimented in the past with electronic music, are limitations. What brought us back to the sweaty stages of playing live is the fact that it’s honest and you have to deal with your limitations, the physical limitations of how much you can give, how much you can struggle to play, the vibrations, the energy, and also the limitations of writing songs because we’re not composers, we’re not classically trained musicians. We have limitations and we have to deal with them.
JA: In terms of influences, Rage Against the Machine, Red Fang and The Offspring are bands that you have mentioned before – is there an approach to making sure it all comes together cohesively and smoothly, or sometimes do ideas get left on the cutting room floor when it feels like you’re going too far into a certain direction?
A: To be honest, we have our influences, but we don’t use them to influence our music if that makes sense? If I did our songs would be so different. For example, the first thing that made me want to be in a band was The Cranberries, and then we went to the Brazilian bands and then back to English bands. My influence is more 90’s, and more based on rawness and the big sound, so for example with Red Fang, you’ve got that fat bass; lyrics-wise, PJ Harvey, and then the freedom of using your voice the way that you want. The guitar could be one note and you follow up by filling in with your voice instead of having to have the guitar all the way through, so we use that not thinking of having to sound like the influences if that makes sense?
F: I think with drums for example, you have a few tool kits that you can use to write songs, so what I do for example is I try to mix things, so there’s one song that we’re working on by moment, maybe I shouldn’t be revealing sources, but I can hear so many bands in it. We start a song that sounds like Fugazi, and then I know what I’m trying to do, and then it goes Deftones, and so on.
A: But it’s not either way around – we don’t think ‘I’d like to write a song that could be from ‘White Pony’’ – it’s the other way around. We create a song and then think, ‘This reminds me of X, we should play around with this sound now!’.
JA: In what ways did you kind of maximize the bass sound once you became a duo – what was the process of experimenting? How did you make the bass central to your sound? Did you take inspiration from other bands, such as Royal Blood?
A: That was a challenge, but as you mentioned there was Royal Blood, there was a band called White Miles – they were kind of one of the first duos with guitar and drums – and then when we became with duo with bass and drums I was adamant about keeping the bass instead of switching to guitar. Fabio’s first instrument was the bass, and he understands pedals way more than me, so we were researching what different bands do, how we split the signal, how can we still have that bass that goes through your heart, but also still keep the treble sound of the guitar, not as a solo, but just being there still?
F: And we’re still kind of researching and finding it out!
A: Death from Above was definitely an inspiration.
F: It’s so easy – you just go and YouTube these days and you search for ‘Death From Above rig’ and you have a video with the bass player showing their amps and bass pedals.
A: Then you just adapt to what you need. We tried the setup that Royal Blood had, but for us it didn’t work, I’m not the kind of bassist he is, with the solos.
F: He (Mike Kerr) goes for a more bluesy sound with the riffs and solos on the bass, and he needs the more treble-centred sound.
A: It was a process, and I have to say I love pedals now, and I’m way more comfortable with what we’re doing.
JA: How often do the drums lead the way? Do you start with the drum rhythm, or does it happen the opposite way?
F: It really depends on the song. Anelise writes some songs, and then we play together jamming, we play with beats and she’ll say ‘Keep playing that!’ and will start jamming in. It happens in many ways which is nice!
JA: Regarding your new single ‘Say Say’, the lyrics are about checking in on yourself and otherness, in terms of social awareness; what was the inspiration behind this track?
A: I feel that the experiences we’ve been through with some colleagues, dealing with that, and even bullying, especially with how easy it is these days with the internet, to be bold and just say whatever you want without any consequence, and then when it comes to being face-to-face, people are just so blasé about it. So we touch on that, a little bit on self-centred people as well, and that sometimes they don’t mean to be like that. So it’s to call out and ask listeners to open their views to that conversation and to agree to disagree. It’s not only what you’re saying that is right, definitely not only what I’m saying that is right. We kind of touch on different subjects, but that’s from experiences we were dealing with mostly in gigs.
Keep an eye out for Yur Mum’s upcoming tour dates, and check out their explosive latest single ‘Say Say’, available now via Tropical Fuzz Records: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyUL6jwZT-8