Always in Brazil

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After releasing three albums and performing with the Grammy-nominated alternative electronica group Brazilian Girls, frontwoman Sabina Sciubba looks to create her own sound that is always in Brazil. With her first solo album Toujours out on February 18, the singer found inspiration for her new music by using a number of diverse genres, while finding a balance between theatricality and performing.

Photo courtesy of Sylvain Gripoix

Cliché: In general, where have you found inspiration for your solo album, Toujours?
Sabina Scuibba: Inspiration lingers everywhere. You can never really get away from it. Take the subway, for example, hoping for an uninspiring experience, the tedious, grey world of commuting crowds, and there it is, in the eyes of a very commuter, how can it be? Paris, Gare du Nord, people bustling and shuffling, stress, frustration, and there, in the structure of the old station, there it is again, bloody inspiration!

How were your music and the music of Brazilian Girls influenced by art, pop culture, places, etc.? Which other musicians influence or inspire you?
I’m inspired by people and artists who live in the present moment, who listen to themselves while they sing or play, or look and pay attention, when they shoot and paint. I find riots inspiring. I’m inspired by the people rebelling against elites, I’m inspired by the courage to go against the grain, by the courage of someone living in the shadow and yet behaving with grace and dignity, as if he were observed. I don’t watch TV and barely ever see mainstream cinema, so I can’t say much about that type of entertainment, except that I avoid it. A movie that greatly inspired me recently is Close Up by Abbas Kiarostami. Also, the documentary The Act of Killing.

Has writing songs similar to anthems helped you express theatricality in your performances, or vice versa?
I do think that performing affects one’s songwriting. You start to anticipate an audience’s reactions and feelings, or at least you TRY! Audiences aren’t predictable, but you try to imagine the magic of communion that can happen between a performer and an audience, which is really what we’re all after, I believe. Some songs help with that, some songs address an audience directly.

Your music is categorized as electronic alternative, as is the music of Brazilian Girls. What drew you to this particular type of music, and how did you come to the decision to use it?
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but often Fred Rubens (who produced TOUJOURS with me) and I just programmed electronic stuff, because we didn’t have musicians there to play it, for convenience. Then we got so used to it, we didn’t want to replace it. It was a pretty passive choice. I usually prefer a musician over electronics, with few exceptions. One exception is when Didi Gutman in Brazilian Girls pulls out some of his electronic sound. They’re homemade and very original, a modern instrument.

Why were you drawn to certain styles more than others, such as reggae, house, jazz?
I’m not a very ‘rational’ person. I don’t think much about my choices; I decide with the heart. When something feels right, I go for it. This is true for musical choices as well as anything else. For better or for worse, I’m an animal of instinct.

What are your thoughts on theatricality in music and performing, especially with being theatrical becoming popular through artists such as Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj?
In the beginnings of Brazilian Girls, around 2002/2003, when I started performing in theatrical outfits, it was new to me, exciting! It made sense artistically and politically. After touring and performing for several years, it started feeling like a gimmick, an obligation, and I do not like obligations. I started to feel like a clown when I walked off stage. I think I’ll leave the theatrical outfits to Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj.

Any future plans?
I’m working on a couple of new videos for this record. You’ve maybe seen the one I did for the song “Toujours” on Youtube, which I made myself. Now I’m working with my artist friend Oliver Clegg on a video for “ViVa L’amour,” and with my filmmaker friend Joyce Nashawati on a video for “Non Mi Aspettare.” Starting in March, I’ll tour some in the U.S. and Europe, which I’m really looking forward to. Also with Brazilian Girls, as I mentioned, we’ve got a new record almost ready to go. We’ll fine tune and mix it and then we’ll release it towards the end of this year.

Photo courtesy of Sylvain Gripolx

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