Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of music… the thrill of lo-fi from Brazil! You know about the massive lo-fi scene in South America, right? If not, then let us introduce you to Pug Records, the little label that could. DIY is alive and well in the hearts of these great people who have brought us some bands that make us remember the early years of Guided By Voices. They release records in limited handcrafted cassettes and free mp3. Their self-professed goal is to have fun, promoting and celebrating bands and musicians they love. With great releases by Top Surprise and Coloração Desbotada they’ve piqued our interest and encouraged us to once again venture out of our U.S/British shell to find out more about the music being created in other parts of the world. Label owners Amanda, Andre and Eduardo talked to us about the scene in Brazil and their plans for global domination (we’ll help!).
TDOA: First, tell us about your label! How did you get started?
PR: Pug was born to support groups we love, people with similar thoughts to ours about music. It’s an idea we had for some time, and it finally started last April, only four months ago. We’re a baby label yet!
TDOA: You release everything via free mp3 or hand-crafted cassette, which we love. Who does the artwork and do you do it this way because of the cost?
PR: For the cover art, we pick artists which we admire and with which we identify. Usually the online release has a different cover art from the cassette. Pug’s logo was designed by the phenomenal Bruno Okada, from São Paulo. Coloração Desbotada cover was drawn by a talented friend of ours called Diogo Machado (also from São Paulo), and Top Surprise was made by Nikos, an amazing artist from Greece. The rest of the artwork is done by us. We choose the cassette as an alternative for the factory CD and the vinyl – it is cheaper than both, unusual, and matches our sound and aesthetics perfectly. It’s just one more interesting idea, after all.
TDOA: You’ve done a great job of getting involved in social media and promoting your label through the internet. Are social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook a big deal in Brazil?
PR: Yes, pretty much everyone we know is either on Twitter or Facebook – or both. People in Brazil really seem to love those sites. Pug’s a 100% blog-friendly label, we see music blogs as the present incarnation of the fanzines, they’re very important. Since we’ve been involved with music zines and blogs for some time, it’s natural for us to cooperate with this kind of vehicle, from smaller mp3 blogs to sites like The Dumbing Of America – it’s been great so far.
TDOA: Everything on your website is written in Spanish and English. What kind of response have you gotten from other countries? What countries have you gotten responses from?
PR: English is the primary language for Pug, that’s certainly the easiest way to communicate with all parts of the world. We had nice responses from many countries, from the U.S. and U.K. to Italy, Japan, Canada, Spain, Costa Rica and Eastern Europe. Portuguese is for the Brazilian audiences, even though most of our audience in Brazil is used to read in English on the internet.
TDOA: I think that there’s an arrogance amongst the U.S. and British audiences that all “alternative” music comes from their countries. We’ve discovered a lot of great bands throughout the world. We’re interested in how the music scenes in different countries evolved. Can you talk about the scene in Brazil? How long has it been there? How big is it? Are there clubs for bands to play?
PR: Ever since the early 80’s you could find post-punk groups and weird alternative stuff in here. In fact, since the 60’s there are people doing great alternative music in Brazil. By the late 80’s, a proper indie scene started to appear, in tune with the shoegazing and noise music in the U.S. and U.K. by then. There are venues dedicated to alternative music, especially in larger cities like São Paulo. If you’re not in a big city, you need to improvise. The big media prefers to focus on bad music, you know. Today there’s a great scene in Baixada Fluminense, Rio de Janeiro’s suburbs – one of the most unlikely places where you’d expect to find a bunch of genius lo-fi bands. It is due to Transfusão Noise Records, a DIY label with bands such as Coloração Desbotada, Tape Rec, Fujimo, Carpete Florido, Babe Florida. Transfusão co-released Top Surprise, we’re great friends.
TDOA: How did bands like Guided By Voices and Eric’s Trip influence bands in Brazil? I don’t think they played shows down there did they? I’m intrigued to understand how that music got there and how it became popular.
PR: Only bigger American indie bands — like Sonic Youth, Pavement, Guided by Voices — had their records released here. Neither GBV nor Eric’s Trip ever performed in Brazil, unfortunately. Years ago there used to be importing stores where you could find records by underground groups from other countries, and there were also a good number of fanzines writing about this stuff. Today, with the internet, we don’t see much difficulty in finding out about the music around the world. This semester Brazil will have shows by Pixies, Pavement, Of Montreal, Dinosaur Jr, Yo La Tengo and other newer bands, all of them in big festivals – there’s an audience for that.
TDOA: Your blog talks about bands from South America all the way to Michigan and Ohio. How do you find the great bands that you seem to uncover?
PR: We’re connected to nice people around the world, like Lost Sound Tapes – a great cassette label based in Seattle. We’re always looking for new bands and likeminded people, and they’re everywhere. In Myspace you’re able to discover tons of brilliant artists in a few minutes. Better yet: they’ll come to you! Michigan has great stuff, and we’re Ohio collectors – so many great basement recordings from that state!
TDOA: We first heard about you after hearing Top Surprise, who we love. Can you tell us a bit about the band?
PR: Top Surprise is three guys and a girl from our hometown, Juiz de Fora, a medium-sized college town in Brazil’s southeast. The band was born around the same time as Pug, and they encompass much of what we love in music — they’re one of the noisiest live bands in the world, and they have catchy pop tunes. It’s heartfelt music. We’ve just released their debut EP, which is available for free download and in cassette. It was recorded at home, produced by lo-fi genius Lê Almeida — whose project Coloração Desbotada was our first release.
TDOA: Do you think any of your bands will make music videos or do you think videos aren’t terribly important?
Sure! Videos are one of the best ways to complement a band’s music. Top Surprise is on pre-production for their first, and we plan to make more of it in near future!
TDOA: What’s next for your label?
PR: Our next tape is from Duplodeck, another Brazilian combo. We’re collecting nice groups from all over, for a compilation that will come out later this year/early 2011. And having our bands to play in the U.S. would be really cool.
For more information about the label and their great bands, visit www.pugrecords.com