The Innernettes: Lounge music for bankrupt video stores

April 7, 2015

The Innernettes are a music duo from Brazil, formed by two old friends and musical partners, Vinicius Cabral and Christian Bravo. They would describe their own sound as lounge music for bankrupt video stores… or as they’re moving forward, it’s becoming more and more like a cassette mixtape of spoiled and defective house music. We spoke to Vinicius to find out more about their obscure yet intriguing concept that nowadays is widely (un)known as vaporwave. Also, you can familiarize yourselves with some haunting commercials and ridiculous gym aesthetics from the 80’s Brazil. Inspiration strikes where/when you least expect it! 

 

How did you get in touch with music for the first time? What made you start experiencing with your own sounds?

Well, I come from a very musical environment, in my own home. My parents were into a lot of Brazilian music from the 80’s, and very early in my life (I guess I was 8 or 9 years old) I started to buy my own cassette tapes and vinyl records for some really popular stuff back then, such as New Kids on the Block, Roxette etc. I think for Christian, ‘Sertanejo‘ and ‘Pagode‘, two very popular Brazilian musical styles formed his background mostly. I started making my own sounds right about this time (when I was 8 or 9), but it took like 5 years before I started playing with bands, and it was mostly indie rock, which I really started digging when I got to puberty. In a sense, The Innernettes is a lot about turning back to those early contacts with music, in the late 80’s and beginning of the 90’s, and listen to those songs with different ears. In the last 6 years, or so, we had two different bands, trying to make some contemporary original alternative rock, but nothing really worked out before we got to The Innernettes, and I believe it’s because of this really nostalgic and authentic sources we turned ourselves into.

Where did you grow up and how did that influence your musical tastes throughout the years?

Well, being the son of a military, I lived in a lot of cities growing up, but Rio de Janeiro was my home for about 15 years. Being the ‘capital’ of Samba and Brazilian Funk it’s obvious that it influenced me in some kind of way, but being on The Innernettes now, I see that the radio music was one of my greatest references of all. I still carry a great esteem for artists such as Marina Lima (a Brazilian singer-composer from Rio de Janeiro in the 80’s, still active), and it was this kind of music that I heard on the radio, on the streets etc. Christian grew up in Sorocaba (in the state of São Paulo) so I think it was the same for him. Surely his folks listened to a lot of local stuff, but growing up in the 80-90’s in Brazil you just couldn’t ignore the music that was on the radios, on TV, commercials etc. That’s sort of The Innernettes’ leitmotiv.

Vaporwave is a rather peculiar corner of the music world, and Brazilian vaporwave sounds outright exotic. How did you discover this genre and what fascinates you about it?

Well, the first time I read about Vaporwave was in some blog publications, but I didn’t actually give a fuck until I started seeing some videos from James Ferraro, Saint Pepsi, y’know? The big ones… I actually didn’t think this kind of music could stand for itself without the visual aid, but listening to stuff like Machintosh Plus and VHS Logos (a Brazilian Vaporwave project as well) I started getting into it and thinking it could go way passed the ‘clichés’ (if I could be as bold to say that Vaporwave has any kind of clichés). It was our feeling that we could do anything we wanted within this main Vaporwave ‘aesthetic’ and still do it right. So, in a way, the thing that fascinates me most about it is the liberty of experimenting with samples and making music with a visual inspiration. In fact, our first LP, ‘Hi mom!‘ was almost entirely built from TV commercial samples, because we felt that it could be somewhat original to craft songs out of 3 to 5 seconds loops and not to think about a specific alignment with the genre, caring more about the conceptual leads brought to us by the videos we took the samples from. So it’s kind of fascinating that Vaporwave has this really structured and coherent aesthetic, but you can do whatever you want with it, not necessarily chopping whole songs, pitching down vocals etc. I think it’s amazing for you to say that Brazilian Vaporwave is exotic, because I don’t really see it that way. In fact, I don’t see a scenario around here, at all. But Vaporwave stands as an aesthetic, even if the methods and processes the producers use to make Vaporwave start to get real far from the original definitions. I don’t believe in pre-arranged formulas for any kind of genre, at all!

The Innernettes Live @ 18th Mostra de Cinema de Tiradentes, January 2015

The Innernettes Live @ 18th Mostra de Cinema de Tiradentes, January 2015

Vaporwave has plenty of comedic features, serves as a critique and parody of consumerist society with a nostalgic, dystopian touch. Since you are using an abundant amount of vocal samples (even though in Portuguese), I would suggest there is a clear message you are trying to mediate. What is the concept behind collecting and blending all these samples together?

It depends on the album. On ‘Hi mom!’ we used commercials samples, mostly, and it slowly brought us our main concept for the album. More than criticizing or leaving a statement on consumerist society, to us this concept was about remembering and glorifying (critically or not) some products and campaigns, as well as the VHS and 80’s TV aesthetics as a whole. Sometimes the samples just bring fucked up choruses without any actual meaning. In some ways, ‘Hi mom!’ is like a big 6 hour VHS tape used to record some TV programming, as you practice a nervous zapping, without any particular reason. That’s why we hear so many vocal samples going back an forth, as if you were watching a tape recorded over and over. It is kind of funny, because we don’t do it anymore, with Netflix, Cable TV and all. We don’t zap, we don’t even record programs and we don’t use VHS… the ‘On Demand’ culture turned it completely obsolete, so I think this is the main concept of it all: those 30 seconds commercials, so expensive and common those days, are absolutely obsolete, but the products advertised aren’t (at least most of them). That’s why I think that cigarette commercials were our first source of inspiration. They are prohibited now, but the product isn’t (and me and Christian are both smokers). It’s a sort of a statement, I guess: media consumption changes, but the products and consumerist compulsion are still out there, greater than ever. The media change, the methods also change, but it’s all still out there if you think about it. These images from a past period of advertisement and brand storytelling seem almost poetic to us, in a way. It’s bad, but it’s good! TV itself was more creative and risky. There wasn’t HBO or Netflix to bring evolving and creative series, so commercials had to be creative, coherent, funny, and strange, when it was the case. In short, they had to get you by the horns, so you have a lot of campaigns in Brazil, and around the world, that really got into a kind of urban capitalist culture. The taglines became popular sayings, and that’s about it. When we think about it, we used vocal samplers to make choruses, no matter what they were saying. But, of course, the parody and criticism is there… It’s inevitable, I guess.

What is the story behind the title ‘A vingança da Cremogema’ (The Revenge of Cremogema)? Cremogema being a rather innocent looking product…

It was an innocent product, but with a really aggressive media presence. It’s exactly what I said before: some taglines of big campaigns became popular sayings, and it was the case with Cremogema. In a specific TV commercial for the product, and old granny said: “tem vitaminas, sais minerais”. Translating: “it has vitamins, minerals”. The jingle and the image of a grandmother saying this is just mind blowing for us now. Everyone in Brazil, about my age or so, remembers this, so it was a sort of revenge bringing it back to life. But, if I may be 100% honest with you, the first thing that we liked about this title is that it was extremely funny and a bit nonsense, as well as the samplers from the commercials we used on the song.

Is there such a thing as a vaporwave scene in Brazil? How do you promote your music over there? What do people usually make of it?

I don’t think so. There are some great individual producers, that’s a fact, with nice projects, such as VHS Logos, but I wouldn’t call it a scene. I think that it’s hard nowadays to tell if a micro-genre such as Vaporwave has come to stay, even though the ‘tag’ has been around for more than 4 years now. Here in Brazil I guess it just didn’t ‘click’. We had a great repercussion in other countries, like US, with sweet reviews in independent sites such as Tiny Mix Tapes, and Japan, on Hi Hi Whoopee and some other Tumblrs. We also have lots of listeners in Portugal, but in Brazil, not a single line was written about our work. At first it was a bit frustrating, but after we jumped on the incredible label Illuminated Paths, we learned that we were loved elsewhere, no matter what direction we took. Brazilian music scene is kind of strange when it comes to new things…I think some of the people around here still wait for some sort of ‘international confirmation’ for new genres or experimentations to get assimilated. Among friends and fellow music and video producers, though, we have our public, that will grow a little more once we start making more live performances.

When it comes to discovering new samples, where do you look for them, how do you find them?

Old records, in vinyl or tapes, YouTube compilations with advertisement stuff, and so on. Nowadays, we’re still trying to manage a bunch of samples that we extracted in a research, prior to ‘Hi mom!’s release. But actually, we’ve been more and more decided to leave sample searching as a conceptual starting point, to create original music. It’s perhaps a step ahead, I don’t know. Whenever we feel like we need more samplers, we have a collection of over 30 VHS tapes and, as I said before, there’s always YouTube, that is almost an endless video catalog. It’s amazing how people upload things, almost an entire lifetime of VHS culture is out there.

Your latest release ‘Master Workout‘ is a special conceptual EP, based on 80’s gym aesthetics. Could you tell us a bit more about it?

80’s Gym is a big issue for us. For me, particularly, it relates to a time when I was too young to be left alone at home, so I would go with my mother to these aerobics gym presentations in a place in Rio called ‘Circo Voador’ (Flying Circus). I still have photos of these events, and it was really something. The clothes, the music, it all rings a bell. It was 86-87, I was a little kid and all of it seems strangely particular. The 80’s were a great decade. People looked real bad with their colorful clothes, and bizarre hair styles, but they just didn’t give a fuck. It was nice back then, and for us, it still is. There’s a beauty in it, that we can’t actually put our finger on. For the EP, we searched those Jane Fonda-like VHS gymnastic tutorials. There were some huge personalities in teaching gym here in Brazil, and a lot of tapes with the classes, so that people would do it in their own houses, in front of the TV set. Talk about bizarre stuff, right? Well, it’s all material for us. Since summer was coming, we decided around September 2014, that we should release another album. This is why it’s so great to have a label, Josh (the guy behind Illuminated Paths) was psyched about the idea, so we went on. In the end, it’s like a tribute to summer, gymnastics, bodies at the beach, Brazil, the 80’s, etc.

The young Vinicius and the ladies in ‘Circo Voador’

The young Vinicius and the gymnasts in ‘Circo Voador’

(click on the photos to enlarge!)

If you would have to name some of the musicians that kept you inspired throughout the years, who would you mention and why?

That’s a tough one! I think I really started digging music when alternative rock came around in my life, with bands such as Yo la Tengo, Pavement, Super Furry Animals, the Lo Fi ‘geniuses’ like Daniel Johnston and R. Stevie Moore etc., but none of those really relate to what I’ve been listening in the last years and actually influenced me on The Innernettes. I got really into that radio music I described some questions above, re-listening to it with some great admiration. I think popular international 80s bands, such as Tears for Fears, Spandau Ballet, Supertramp etc. really blow my mind, decades on. But the main influences on the work we’re making today, without a doubt, are Brazilian artists, such as Marina Lima and Guilherme Arantes. Those guys were really popular but made a timeless music that’s still relevant, after decades on the radio and on the shelves of our parents’ CDs. Christian is a lot more eclectic than me, as long as influences go. He can spend an afternoon listening to T-Rex and still be up to make some Vaporwave after it. He doesn’t know any boundaries, and that’s a great contribution to our aesthetic. Me? I’m just obsessed with stuff. It’s been almost two years that I listen only to artists such as the ones I quoted above. But one thing is for sure: the way of composing and recording music, for us, is still greatly motivated by the methods and techniques used by the great masters, Daniel Johnston and R. Stevie Moore.

What are you working on these days? What are your future plans music-wise?

The Innernettes are slowly changing its composition process. We bought some really terrible sounding keyboards and are starting to play them. There was original stuff actually played in ‘Hi mom!’ but It was so deeply buried in the mix that no one noticed. Now we’ll let the samples conduct the conceptual part and begin to play more. And it will all be about the keyboards and synthesizers, some vocal here and there and samplers bringing it all together. We’re very excited about this next step, but before we get to it, our plan is to play more. We want to get more on the stage to present ‘Hi mom!’ and ‘Master Workout EP’, because we believe the albums weren’t actually enjoyed around here, as I highlighted before. Besides, there’s still a lot of moving images to attach to those songs from the albums, and the visual aid of our presentations is a great asset to work upon. The Innernettes came to stay, that’s for sure!

 

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