Thursday, June 9, 2011


If you have been checking the site this week and seeing our Facebook and Twitter updates you have noticed we have been giving away tickets to see The Gift. The Gift are a psychedelic prize from Portugal that will be making a very rare Stateside appearance next week and we have been given tons of access to the band as they gear up to come to the US for the first time in what seems to be ages. They have been known as Portugal's version of The Flaming Lips for years but clearly have their own unique spin as to what their style and sound should be. We spoke with bassist John Gonçalves about the bands history, new album and being one of Europe's biggest bands.

You have been a band since 1994, has the ride for international acclaim been an uphill battle?

I will not call it a battle, but its obvious really hard. We're from a small village, 100km north of Lisbon - Alcobaça - and being a total DYI band, everything is hard. Was hard to "conquer" Lisboa and Portugal with shows, with radio airplay or with promotion, was hard to go from Portugal to Spain and its of course hard to go from Iberia to the world keeping this DYI spirit and controlling all the process of recording and promoting the album with our own record label "La Folie Records". But like you say, its been uphill and we hope that in the next 17 years the band can achieve more markets, more audiences without loosing the control of our art.

Even after all these years, you are still making new fans, is it an interesting feeling since you have been around for a while?

That's the best feeling. We always knew that was impossible to conquer "the world at the same time" because of our small structure and because we are from a peripheral country regarding the music industry. So we are very patient and the best feeling is really making new fans every time we go to a new country or to a new city. Last week in Madrid we finally played in front of 2000 people that bought tickets to see us and we all remember that some years ago we were playing in a small club for 100 people, not so far away from this big venue. This is the most important thing in a band nowadays. To go with patience but with a very determined and important goal of getting each day more fans without losing any identity.

Is this still exciting to you?

Honestly, we are living the most exciting moments of our career and our personal life's. There is a time in the life of bands that we "live to suffer". Its always like that in the first years, specially to a band like us where we do everything outside the artistic part too - videos, photo sessions, the marketing, the booking of shows, etc... But now is the time we feel that having a band is really "enjoying what we do", "awake every day happy with the way we choose for our life/career" and, like I said before, knowing that we are getting more audiences every day to our music is even more exciting. We are ready for more 17 years, without any doubt...

The last time you released an album was in 2006, you are now releasing “Explode,” what has changed in the band since the release of the last record?

It looks too much time but it it was not so much as it seems. We released that album in December 2006 and until August 2008 - 18 months - we had a long tour in Europe. Then we stop 6 months to rest and meanwhile Nuno and Sonia did a tribute project to the most important Portuguese Fado Singer - Amalia Rodrigues - called "Amália Hoje" released in April 2009. That project was so important in Portugal that was almost one year on the road with 4 platinum albums. After that project and that tour we started working in our new album and throughout all 2010 we worked hard to do the best album of The Giff ever. We change our personal life's, we change aesthetically because now we listen other new artists, we change because we didn't want to use string orchestras, brass instruments or many choirs that we use in the past and be more focus on the guitars, electronic/vintage keyboards and give Sonia voice the versatility that she can deliver, like no one... This is what changed but we like to call it an evolution in our sound without loosing The Gift sonority.

How did you end up on the title “Explode?” Does it signify anything?

We always wanted to have an explosion of colour in this album. Portugal is a very black&white country nowadays because of the financial crisis and everyone seems so depressive that we really want to bring an album with colour in the artwork and in our songs. Then we went to India to take photos in the Holi Festival - aka festival of colours - and the name Explode made total sense for us. Explosion of happiness, explosion of joy, explosion of good things in life. This is what we are trying to communicate with our new album and with our new shows.

What was the recording process like for “Explode” sessions?

The recording process was the most pure and at the same time exciting ever. We rented a big house in Madrid where we could be away from all the distractions of our own Portuguese studio and totally focus in experimenting and creating something new. We bring all our material, Ken Nelson - our producer for this new album - brought all his equipment from England and we had 5 months living and recording in a wonderful environment, with the timings that we feel were better and with everyone relaxed and excited with what we were doing. It was really the best experience that we live in studio time and we think that we will never record any other album in a normal studio, This is the best option, for sure. We live and we work all together in the same environment. If you do it in Madrid, even better!

The band formed initially as a side project of Dead Souls members, has Dead Souls ever been brought back to life while The Gift have been around?

No, not even for one minute. Dead Souls were a teenager project of Nuno and Miguel and when we create The Gift - still on teenagers too - everything was very different from that first project. We want to use electronics combined with guitars and with a lot of effects and a female voice. Nothing to do with that project that never had any release.

Being a band from Portugal, has it been rather difficult getting noticed?

Portugal is a country with so much potential in so many areas, but we are not a key player in the international music industry. This means that we are never in the spotlight of any international press, international label or international booking agent, unless we make good music and try to get attention from foreign people. If you are a band without any contacts or without any label behind you - like us - the only thing we have is our music and our talent on the stage to prove that we deserve to play in other countries. That's what we are trying to do and some other Portuguese acts are trying the same.

What is the music scene like in Portugal?

We have a very multidisciplinary music scene in Portugal. We have good songwriters singing in Portuguese, we have good bands starting their career with a international appeal and we have great talent in such different styles from world music with fado to heavy metal passing through electronic. Maybe we are the best kept secret of Europe music nowadays, even if our musicians are totally ready to be discovered in this next years.

You have become a massive band in Europe and are still tackling America. What advice to do you have for other foreign bands who want to crack the U.S.A?

We don't have this concept of "crack the USA" or "break the USA" that is so popular in Europe. We know that in America audiences are so open minded to new artists and press/bloggers are so aware of whats happening in Europe nowadays, that its normal to play in USA the best we can. The problem is that everything is very hard and very slow if you don't have a huge record label behind. You need to do a lot of promotion, a lot of touring and sometimes for audiences from 100 to 500 people, different from the ones we have in Europe from 2000 to 20000 people. But that's what is more exciting nowadays. Like we say before, getting new audiences to our music is the biggest challenge of our career and the advice I can give to foreign bands is to "start from beginning, forget everything you have in Europe, be a passionate band about the music you are doing and think that if you are really alternative/independent and in love for what you do, a lot of people will come to your "family" if you use patience as your best friend". That's what we are doing for some time and this 2011/2012 will be very important years to The Gift in USA, Canada, Brazil and some other South American countries.