Abraskadabra is a 7-piece ska-punk band out of Curitiba, Brazil. They’ve been around since 2003, but didn’t drop their first album, Grandma Nancy’s Old School Garden, until 2012. In 2016, their ska cover of No Use For A Name’s “Not Your Savior” made it onto Fat Wreck Chords documentary, A Fat Wreck.
Currently, the band is celebrating the Feb. 20th release of their new full length record Welcome. This is their second album that is loud, fast, melodic, full of horns with a live energy heard on all 13 tracks, bringing new energy to the 4th wave ska movement. The band consist of drummer, Maka, guitarist/vocalist Buga, sax/vocalist Trosso, trombone by Mamão, trumpet by JP, bassist Japa along with Du on vocals & guitar.
I had a chance to ask Du some questions about his band in an effort to get to know what is becoming one of my favorite new groups as a result of their new album, Welcome. There’s undeniably a resurgence of ska-punk with momentum building in 2018 and a group like Abraskadabra should be considered a quality addition to this wave.
The Pier: First off, congratulations on ‘Welcome!’ Before we get into the album, walk us through the history a bit — How did the band come together in 2003, but only release it’s first album in 2012?
Abraskadabra: Thanks a lot! We appreciate it! It’s a pleasure to be answering some questions for the people to know a little more about us! My name is Dru — Let’s try to sum up the beginning of the band. We were high school pals that loved punk-rock, hardcore and ska. Some of us were already playing instruments and we decided to get together to make some noise. But we wanted to do something different than the average punk-rock bands in town. And we were lucky enough to find some old trumpets and trombones left by the marching band of our school. So we kind of stole them and began to mix everything up.
It was 2003 in Brazil, so it wasn’t so easy to record stuff. What we did on this 9 year gap without a full length was we recorded 3 demos, containing about 12 songs overall. Very low quality but we are very proud of the material. Some of the songs made it to our first full length, Grandma Nancy’s Old School Garden. Luckily for us the recording methods are way easier now, so people be ready because we won’t stop doing new songs any time soon!
What’s the ska and overall music scene like in Curitiba, Brazil?
Curitiba had a great time in the late 90’s, beginning of 2000’s. A lot of local concerts going on. We had some major influences from local bands such as: Boi Mamao and Skuba (both ska icons respected all around the country), Pinheads, Aok, Duffs, Sugar Kane, Colligere (hardcore and punk-rock bands) and our buddies from Lou Dog. Unfortunately, those bands don’t play that often now a days and we had some pretty hard times with the renewing of the scene. But I believe there are some good stuff rising again in Curitiba, like Out In Style and Better Leave Town (they’re not a new band but are still around).
Comparing to the rest of Brazil, I believe we can’t complain. Curitiba has always been known as one of the great capitals for Rock & Roll. So in that matter I think we were lucky to be from around here.
You guys sound like you could be from Orange County, CA with the way you play your brand of Ska & Punk. Who are some other artists that influenced and helped shape the sound of Abraskadabra?
That’s cool to know, man! We were pretty much influenced by the Fat Wreck, Epitaph and Burning Heart bands — that was what came to our hands in the late 90’s. There was a store called Barulho Records (which was also a label) and I remember going there all the time and checking NOFX, Pennywise, Bad Religion, No Fun At All, Millencolin, Goldfinger, Less Than Jake, Voodoo Glowskulls etc. And when the ska beat was played it always got our attention. It was something else, but it was also something that could be mixed with punk-rock, and that was pretty awesome!
We are from a very cold town, it’s pretty much concrete, parks and shopping malls. So I believe we got to adapt our kind of ska-punk as opposed to a “upbeat beach style” of ska. That’s why we make a lot of heavy, fast songs and it couldn’t be any different than that.
We’ve seen that you’ve already been able to share the stage with Bad Religion, Less Than Jake, Goldfinger, Rise Against etc. How difficult is it being an up & coming ska-punk band from Brazil to link up with the more influential groups of the genre that reside in the states? Have there been talks of moving to the states as a band?
To be honest, we never toured with those bands you mentioned. We played separate gigs with them, especially when they came to Curitiba. We toured with Mad Caddies and Voodoo Glowskulls over here and we had a blast! Awesome time!
Being in a underground band in Brazil is tough as hell. The country is really big and the transportation methods are extremely expensive! You have to be a little crazy to go all in because 90% of the time you are not getting any money comparing to what you are going to spend. And also, Rock & Roll here is nothing compared to Samba, Pagode, Sertanejo (Brazilian country music) and Funk (not like the funk you guys have in the USA).
So if Rock & Roll is not that big, you can imagine how it is to play in a ska-punk band. We usually have to explain that we play Rock & Roll with Reggae for the people to understand what’s going on. But on the other hand, we are very lucky to be able to play all around the country because there are people who know us and truly like our music. So we go, little by little, trying to spread our music here and all around the world.
About moving to the states — If we have the chance, we wouldn’t think twice! Not because we don’t like it here, but because we play ska-punk in English, so where is the best place to be? The US for sure!
What other bands are from Brazil that play your brand of Ska-Punk?
Kingstone, also from Curitiba, was a band that helped us a lot in the early years. Also, another Brazilian ska band that influenced us a lot is Randal Grave, unfortunately none of them still play. Now a days we are kind of short on ska-punk over here. There are some good Two-Tone and traditional ska bands like Sapo Banjo, for example. Sometimes it’s a lonely fight, but we never back down.
Lets talk about your new album, Welcome! It’s your second record but feels more like a coming out party for you guys. Tell us about the recording process…
Oh man, we had an awesome time! We had two options: either we record the album in a traditional way, in a studio OR we could rent a house and do it all by ourselves — We chose the second one. A lot of friends helped us with equipment and tips, but that’s one of the cool things of having a producer in your band. Trosso (sax and vocals) is the one who records, mixes and masters our music since our EP Fun as in Fungus. It gives you the option to do it yourself, which we believe is always the right option.
So we stayed in that house for 14 days, with no deadlines, no “hurry ups,” just us, a lot of beer and other little things. We could record day and night without the pressure of being in a studio. We managed to make two video-clips over there, “Heavy Hitters” and “The Dream”. How we recorded 15 songs (2 of them were left behind) and 2 video-clips in 14 days is beyond my knowledge, but we did it!
That’s great — And which 2 songs were left off the record?
The songs were called “Kansas City Shuffle” and “To The Stars.” The plan for them is unknown yet, some of us think we should do an EP with them, some others think they should be left behind for good. I’m in favor of the last one. [haha] You gotta keep looking forward.
A few personal stand-out songs for me are “Left Corner,” “She’s Gonna Livia,” and “Catching Fog.” My top has to be “Border Town!” Like much of the album, the song has a lot of change-ups, its loud, aggressive, yet melodic — Can you pull the curtain back on that song a bit?
I feel very happy answering this one because that was one of my songs! We split the creation of the songs in 4 so it’s cool because each one has it’s own style. “Border Town” is a fictional story. I sometimes like to write stuff that aren’t true just because sometimes reality is too boring. This song tells a story of a drug dealer who lives in a border town and has the police on his back. So with that being said, it was only fair that the song has a dense atmosphere.
I showed the guys the rough idea of the song and JP (trumpet and vocals) came up with the trumpet riff right after we all shout “WE GO!” I thought it was so awesome because it brought a little bit of a Latino sound. From there, Trosso (sax and vocals) made the final riffs. The first riff, the one where each of the horns make something different, was a combination of me doing the trombone riff, JP putting the trumpet in between and Trosso came up with the sax to finish one of my favorite riffs on the entire album.
Explain the process of splitting the creation of songs in 4 — What does that look like, exactly? How many vocalists and songwriters are in the band and how does it all culminate into a rented house of a studio over 14 days?
Well, in the very early years it was me and Trosso doing the songs and whoever did it used to sing it. Unless we thought it was more appropriate for the other to sing. Few years later Buga (guitar/vocal) joined the band and started right away doing his own music, which he sings too. And that went on for many years. The new thing on the new album is the song “She’s Gonna Livia,” which was written and sang by JP (trumpet).
We love that process because one, we like the way each other creates music and dividing the work helps everybody. And second, because it gives the audience different music and singing styles, for example: JP and I have a more “deep” voice, Buga can work through high and low notes and Trosso has a higher pitch voice. So you have songs for all the tastes. About the recording process, I believe the only difference is that everybody takes more care of his own music instead of only the producer taking care of everything.
There was a 6 year gap between your first record and Welcome — What’s changed & whats stayed the same?
On the first one we had to record it very quickly and had to travel to Sao Paulo every weekend to finish it. I believe the most important difference between the two of them is that Grandma Nancy’s Old School Garden was a 9 year compilation of music and Welcome was an all new record.
Music wise, I don’t see that much of a change. We like what we do and the way we do it. You could say the new one is faster, we left the reggae songs a lit bit aside this time, which doesn’t mean we are never going to make music like that again.
Your first album, Grandma Nancy’s Old School Garden, was 11 tracks. Who’s on the cover of that record? Is that an actual throwback photo of someone’s Grandma named Nancy?
Actually, we tried to come up with another cover-art, but it didn’t turn out well so we decided it was easier to do it by ourselves. One day we were hanging out with some friends and decided to open the Flickr website. We started looking for nonsense, random photos and when we saw this picture we started laughing so much that it was settled: that was gonna be the album cover — So no, it wasn’t one of our Grandmas, it was just a random picture.
I really dig your ska cover of No Use For A Name’s “Not Your Savior.” That ended up being placed in a Fat Wreck Records documentary? How did that all come together and whats your relationship with Fat Wreck since that came out in 2016?
Thanks man! Yes, it ended up being placed in the Fat Wreck Documentary! They opened up a spot for smaller bands to record a Fat Wreck song and we were the one who got more votes, so they placed us into the documentary. We’ve tried making contact several times with them but it’s never worked out. We were supposed to meet one of the guys in Fat when we were playing there in 2014, but it didn’t happened. We would love to have a beer with them.
What do you hope fans take away from the new record, Welcome?
I think the main message that we wanted to give is that we are still here making the same songs we used to do throughout this 15 years together and we are never going to change that. Hopefully the intensity and our love for what we do will show.
I understand you’ll be promoting the new album in the states?
We are happy to announce that we are going to the US in April! Come check us out and drink a few beers with us!
Most definitely! We’ll likely be at the San Diego show. How many times have you toured the states? Any cities in particular you’re excited about playing or maybe playing for the first time?
That’s awesome, hope to see you guys there — This will be our second tour in the states, first one was in 2014 and we had an amazing time!
This time we are hitting bigger cities. We had a meeting with everybody and I asked which city they were most excited about and each one has a different one they wanna see. Austin, TX was amazing last time. I’m particularly trilled to be going to Chicago and California in general. But I heard Denver is the bomb and it’s also going to be our last show (of the tour). So we’re looking forward to partying all night long, especially in Colorado if you know what I’m saying.
Watch: Abraskadabra – “The Dream”
Watch: Abraskadabra – “Heavyhitters”
Listen: Abraskadabra – “Not Your Savior” (No Use For A Name Cover)