Vulgue Tostoi debuts with <i>Impaciência</i>

A big hit in rock festivals, the gloomy band from Rio combines electronica, guitars, lo and hi-fi, pop and anger

Silvio Essinger
It's no use talking about MPC, the so-called Música Popular Carioca (or Pop Music Made in Rio) - it's not them. They actually are Rio de Janeiro natives. Popular... well, yeah, in a way. Ever since it started out in 1996, the trio Vulgue Tostoi has been gathering empathy and admiration from the audience in rock festivals - some of the most important in the country, such as SuperDemo, Humaitá Pra Peixe (RJ), Porão do Rock (DC) and Abril Pro Rock 2000 (PE). Following two demo CDs - CDemo and Vegetal - Jr Tostoi (guitars and programming), Marcelo H (vocals and programming) and Vitor Z (bass and programming) are now releasing their debut album, Impaciência (NetRecords - read the review). More than just shaking the bones, Vulgue intends to provoke reactions - that is, the band is more into making people ask themselves "what is it all about?" than having the crowd partying away.

As the legitimate heir to a tradition of the underground pop from the 1980s, meaning to show the other side of Rio (promoted by bands like Picassos Falsos and Black Future), Vulgue Tostoi is getting used to labels, such as the gloomy guys from Rio. "We do have our introspective moments", Marcelo H acknowledges, pointing out that the little contradition is because Rio "is a sunny town by the beach". But they couldn't care less. The Vulgue guys are attentive listeners of the cloudy trip hop made by Massive Attack and Portishead, and they use samples, pre-set beats and other electronic resources in their discs and live presentations. "But we aren't an electronic rock band", explains Jr. "We use electronica as a language, when we are editing the music in the computer", he says. "The electronica approach is nice, but so is the rock", claims Vitor Z, who worked for years as a technician at the AR studio, one of the most important in Brazil.

Prior to Vulgue, Jr Tostoi played with the band Juliette (with rapper BNegão, now with Planet Hemp) and accompanied Paulo Ricardo (before the singer's turn toward romantic ballads), Lobão and Lenine (with whom he still performs). Marcelo was the singer for Akbal and Vitor played the bass with Minha Mãe. "One was checking out the other, at the time", says Jr. They started out Vulgue's activities not as a band, but as a project, making experimental recordings on four-track recorders and using borrowed drummers. Little by little, the group incorporated computer resources into the band's laboratory, which is also the guitarist's home studio. "It was more about making loops and human sound editing", Jr says. After managing to make the guitar sound like the keyboard and the bass like a guitar, they decided to go further into the experiments: make music that wouldn't feature any electronic programming whatsoever. It is Robô, which didn't make it into the record, but is performed in the shows.

Vitor claims that what is heard on Impaciência is the result of Vulgue Tostoi's course of evolution along three years. Literally. The dark version of Vapor Barato (Waly Salomão and Jards Macalé) was recorded in four-tracks on the early days of the trio - and it was left untouched. Terrorismo Feliz is an 8-track demo recording. Impaciência, in its turn, the last one to be recorded, consumed 24 tracks. Mastered, these songs get along perfectly inside the disc. "We're in between the hi-fi and the lo-fi", says the bassist, revealing that one of Vulgue's secrets is exactly having utilized electronic and acoustic resources, professional and home studios, super sensitive microphones and cheap ones.

For the pop, against the disposable
According to Jr, gone are the days when people would label Vulgue Tostoi "as if it was music for weirdos". "Some friends think that we sound more pop in the album". Which is not at all derogatory for Marcelo. "Sometimes I think that people assume that we are against pop music. We are against disposable music, not againt the pop that renews itself, like U2's". To keep itself away from the market pressure, the band resolved to close a deal with the new independent label NetRecords, as opposed to proposals made by major labels. "The majors always suggest that we should remake some recording here or remix a track, there.", shoots the guitarist. "We intend to keep controling everything."

Really everything. The pretty cover of Impaciência, for example, was painted by Marcelo H, the author of angry lyrics who considers his writing to be a type of poetic blender, mixing in information gathered from observation, reading and a lot of thinking. "I want to use the poetry. Not just say things, but circle round them to get to the core", he says.

Apart from O Rappa, there is no other band in Rio (or maybe in the country) that can be aesthetically compared to Vulgue Tostoi. "There isn't anything like a movement of bands that sound like us - which is good and bad. But the lack of identification helps us to stand out", goes Jr. The typical prejudice against bands from Rio harms them a bit. Some time ago, in São Paulo, a certain situation happened when they were billed as supporting act for Man or Astroman?'s gig. "They would say that Estronave (a track from Impaciência) sounded like Pedro Luís - which is a compliment", says the guitarist. "I like the 1980s rock made in São Paulo, but I like the uderground bands, like Fellini." The recognition came soon. The videoclip for Vapor Barato, as lo-fi as the track itself, competed for best demo video at MTV's Video Music Brasil.

Vulgue Tostoi is now on tour, complete with drums and keyboard.