Abraskadabra interview: ska-punk band addresses political situation in Brazil with fiery new LP
Get Abraskadabra's new album on limited gold vinyl, exclusively in our stores.
Brazilian ska-punks Abraskadabra are veterans who have been around for nearly 20 years, but they only started to leave their mark in the U.S. a few years ago, and they more recently signed to Bad Time Records, a label that's been leading the charge in America for the latest generation of ska bands. Their first album for Bad Time is Make Yourself At Home, which comes out this week. We've got an exclusive gold vinyl variant of the album in our store, limited to 100.
The band recorded the album themselves during lockdown, and it finds them looking at the political situation in Brazil and the country's corrupt president Jair Bolsonaro, who's been widely criticized for the way he has dealt with Covid-19 precautions and vaccines. Even if you've never been to Brazil, it's a story that will sound eerily similar for Americans, and as such, the sentiments expressed on this record should resonate in the States as well. Abraskadabra deliver their political critique through a vessel of rippin' ska-punk that hearkens right back to the genre's '90s heyday but sounds urgent and vital today. They've got great horn lines, bright melodies, and a driving backbone that really embraces the punk side of ska-punk. It's a cool record and if you're into punk, ska, or both, I wouldn't sleep on this one.
Ahead of the album's release, I caught up with the band to discuss the album's lyrical themes and musical influences, the Brazilian ska scene, signing to Bad Time Records, and more. Pick up our gold variant of the record and read on for our chat...
You've been a band since 2003, but it seems like you've gotten more attention in the U.S. since doing the No Use For A Name cover for the 2016 Fat Wreck Chords documentary. How did doing that cover for the documentary come about, and did you notice the difference on your 2018 U.S. tour compared to the one you did in 2014?
Having the NUFAN cover featured in the Fat Wreck documentary gave us a lot of credibility, but touring definitely was the game changer, being actively out there showing that we wanted to be a part of the scene. We always mention Brent Friedman (We Are The Union's drummer) because his presence was the biggest difference between the tours and also now for signing with Bad Time Recordings. We met Brent in 2014 touring with Survay Says and in 2018, after listening to our album Welcome, he booked us some pretty cool gigs with the right bands and playing to the right crowd.
How'd you link up with Bad Time Records, and how has the experience with the label been so far?
We kept in touch with Brent after the 2018 tour, when we told him we had new songs and we were talking to some labels to release it, he said Mike from BTR was our guy, and he was right. Mike was super enthusiastic and supportive from the minute he listened to the demos. His dedication to ska punk and the bands he works with is contagious and we couldn’t be in a better situation. Everything surrounding the release has been very professional and receiving the welcome and love from all the other bands is surreal.
You recorded this album yourselves during lockdown. How did the process differ compared to past albums?
Having the extra lockdown time was essential for achieving our goals. We knew we had the task to speak to both our new international, and the current Brazilian audience, so we really focused on the lyrics, spending hours throughout multiple sessions, finding the balance between a more elaborated vocabulary, storytelling, structure, and what was the main focus on previous albums, the melodies.
The compositions slowly developed from the demo to final stages, every member contributed with many ideas, and the recording process was similar, we brought our recording equipment to a friend’s countryside home and immersed ourselves into the music for almost 3 weeks.
What was inspiring you lyrically for these songs?
The political situation in Brazil and the world situation outside. We were riding the ups and, mostly downs, of seeing our country having a terrible human being as president, whilst going through a global pandemic. We tried to put into words how all these feelings were affecting our lives and perspectives on unity, relationships, traumas, friendship, family, distance and isolation. Usually with a very positive point of view, but also recognizing that some things are just too harsh to not be mad and explicit about it.
What do you most hope people take away from this album?
That we should never give up on what we believe in. This represents much more than a music album for us, it is proof that we can all accomplish our goals if we put our minds to it, and we hope people get inspired by the songs and our journey to start or finish theirs. Even when there’s a lot of pressure coming from every direction, being true and authentic is the best way to keep going.
What specific musical influences were you channelling with the writing of this record?
As a seven-piece band we all bring different things to the table, whatever phase we’re going through individually has a certain impact, but the core of it comes down to ska punk and melodic punk. In our conversations we always mention bands like The Flatliners, A Wilhelm Scream, Frenzal Rhomb, Dance Hall Crashers, The Skints, The Interrupters, Suicide Machines and many more.
On the lyrics side there was a lot of folk and singer songwriter exploration to analyze and apply the language and storytelling a good mix between old and new artists like Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Frank Turner, The Milk Carton Kids, Kae Tempest, Kacey Musgraves and Taylor Swift.
Ska's been having a resurgence of popularity in the U.S. right now, but it's my understanding that it always remained popular in South America. How would you describe the ska scenes in Brazil and other places in South America compared to the U.S., the U.K., or other places you've played?
We can’t speak for the whole of South America, but to be honest ska is currently pretty small down here in Brazil compared to what it was and especially compared to the US and UK. If we talk about the number of bands that take it seriously and are still going strong you can count it in your hands. The cool thing about it is that we play with lots of punk rock and hardcore bands, and it’s always good to mix genres in the line up. But we miss a strong ska community like you guys have over there. Nevertheless, there were plenty of Brazilian ska bands that influenced us along the way!
Who are some other bands from Brazil that people in the States should know about?
When we were growing up and starting the band I remember four bands that had influenced us and must be thanked for that: Skuba, Boi Mamão, Skamoondongos and Randal Grave. Currently we have Dope Times, Double Play, Nokaos, Caos Lúdico and Buena Onda Reggae Club doing an awesome job! Check them out if you can!
Again, you've been a band for a while. What's kept you going after all these years?
We truly love what we do and the people we do it with, we’ve been friends for a long time and always had fun doing music together. That never changed and we believe that’s why we’re still standing.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Just say our most sincere thanks to all the BTR family and Brooklyn Vegan for all the support and trust, never let it die!
And.. Fora Bolsonaro
The album will premiere live on Thursday (9/23) at 9 PM on the Skatune Network YouTube channel, and it's officially out Friday (9/24) via Bad Time Records. Get it on exclusive gold vinyl.
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