Interview: BIKE on Tropicália, streaming, and loving Bristol

BIKEBrazilian post-Tropicália band BIKE can't sit still in their hotel room in Lisbon. They are between cities as part of a huge European headline tour that takes in The Crofters Rights this week (Thursday 15th June 2017).  It's clearly hot, and the band take it in turns to jump in and out of the pool (stage left). Shrieks of laughter peppering answers from band member Brenno Balbino, who is trying to maintain control while translating my questions from English to Portuguese and back again. The mood is buoyant; the band are clearly enjoying themselves.

BIKE are best known for their hallucinogenic album 1943, released in 2015 via Honey Bomb Records. It was the brainchild of musician and producer Julito Cavalcante, and was born out of his experiences with hallucinogenic substances, as well as the resurgence of the rich and diverse underground movement that defined Brazilian music more than 40 years before: Tropicália.


The Tropicália movement of the late '60s was a short-lived though immensely prolific musical stable, combining samba or forró with experimentalism and psychedelia. Tropicália engaged with political issues that had real relevance to the people of Brazil, still living under a military dictatorship at that time. The founders of this movement - musicians such as Gilberto GilTom , Gal Costa, and Rogério Duprat with his band Os Mutantes - were often persecuted, and many were exiled by the Brazilian government. It was art influencing and being influenced by the social politic. The movement coincided with the hippy counterculture sweeping Europe at the time, and while it was brutally curtailed, it undoubtedly helped to redefine Brazil's relationship with its people - and the rest of the world.

Then, in the early part of this century, something interesting happened: artist Gilberto Gil was made Brazil's minister of culture. Unsurprisingly, Brazilian artists and musicians once again explored the power and provocation of this very Brazilian sound.

"Yes, artists like Os Mutantes and Secos e Molhados were a big influence on our sound.  A lot of people talk about how 1943 is our journey with drugs, but the sound was very much part of the resurgence of Tropicália; we took that freshness and added something denser, something deeply personal to us."


This sense of belonging to Brazil and its sound is important to the band - Julito Cavalcante (guitar/vocals), Diego Xavier (guitar/vocals), Rafa Buletto (bass), Daniel Fumega (drums) and Brenno Balbino (synth/percussion). You can feel it in their samba-inspired rhythms and pulsating psychedelic beats. Despite being signed to the Danger Mouse label, they still write and record back in Brazil.

"We have a studio in Brazil and that is where we record. It is what we know. We are looking at a live session recording in the UK sometime, in 2017 probably, to change the way we look at music, take us out of our comfort zones. But for now, our work is in and of Brazil.

"Actually, Julito originally wrote the songs for 1943 in English, but the language just didn't fit well with our sound, so we re-wrote all of the words in Portuguese.  We only left one song in English, and that was because it was already recorded. For us, English is an overrated language; not that we don't love the English people, we can't wait to come over and see you, but the language is too fixed. Besides, in Portuguese, we can hide bad lyrics [lots of laughter] and audiences can concentrate on the sound.

"We have always wanted to reach a wide audience, which is why we thought we had to perform in English; with sites like Soundcloud we realised that this was not necessary, and we could be ourselves."


BIKE is the product of the streaming generation.  Soundcloud was vital to moving their music from the streets of São Paulo to an audience of thousands worldwide.  Two years on and streaming is still a big part of the band's success, despite it being a double-edged sword now that they need to make money to keep recording.

"Streaming was essential for our beginning; it helped us to connect with people and the media. If it wasn't for streaming, we would still be in Brazil convincing people to come to our shows. All of our work has been released online, and that has been great in terms of building an audience, but it makes it hard for us to keep moving forward as there is no money in streaming alone.  That is why tours like this are so important: touring and merchandise are the lifeblood of the modern artist.  Our second album, which is already out in America - and we hope to have out soon here - will also be online only. But we hope our third, which we are working on right now, might be pressed to vinyl. "That is our dream: to have a physical copy of our work."

You really get the genuine sense of pleasure and excitement the guys get from touring.  They are literally packing their clothes for the next city as we talk, and are in high spirits despite the gruelling schedule. But their eyes are firmly fixed on the UK, and Bristol is a big gig for them.

"Bristol is such a thriving city for music and arts at the moment.  A lot of our friends who live in London are moving down to Bristol, because it has such a relaxed, welcoming and creative soul. We really pushed for this gig and we can't wait to get to there, even if we have to wear jumpers!" Cue more laughter at the thick jumper I am wearing to stave off the Bristol chill. "Seriously we hope the people of Bristol will support us and turn out to see what we are about.  It is going to be an exciting gig, and we will turn up the Brazilian heat even if it is raining outside."

So what next for BIKE? "After we finish in the UK, we will be concentrating on writing the third album and a return trip to Europe next year.  We will also be touring Brazil with the second album in 2017, with a launch party in São Paulo. If you want to come..." Big warm smiles ensue.

And that's BIKE: like the Tropicália movement that inspired them, they are engaging, provocative, and sincere. "We are honest, and it might sound like a cliché, but Bristol is such a special gig for us - that's why we are so pleased you could talk to us. Thank you. See you in Bristol!"

BIKE will be performing Thursday night at The Crofters Rights - tickets are still available. Find out more about the band at their Facebook page.


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.