The Brazilian Girls’ sense of humor is what hits you almost immediately — even before the music, there’s the name. The foursome, only one of whom can claim to have ever been a girl, boast international credentials, though none of them are actually from Brazil.
“We have a hundred different answers to that question,” vocalist Sabina Sciubba told me after a laugh when I asked about the band's name. “None of them serious.”
On a single listen, you might be tempted to think the Brazilian Girls are pure fun, nothing serious about them. The sumptuous down-tempo jazz-infused beats playing behind lyrics that range from sultry to downright naughty tap directly into your id. Subsequent listens, though, will flex a few other bits of your gray matter, even on the dance floor.
The opening track on their self-titled debut, “Homme,” is an almost perfect introduction to the group. Sabina sings in French, one of the five languages she speaks fluently, over noir-ish strings and beats fit for cinema verite.
The intercontinental and mashed up flavor feels European but has a certain “only in America” quality. Sabina grew up all over western Europe, keyboardist Didi Gutman is Argentinean, while bassist Jesse Murphy and Aaron Johnston hail from the States. The group coalesced in — where else? — New York City after some impromptu jam sessions at the downtown jazz club Nublu. Sabina credits their organic sound with this almost accidental beginning.
“Don't Stop” picks up the pace dramatically, transporting you nearly instantly from the rain-drenched cobblestone streets of “Homme” to pulsing electrified dancehall without missing a beat. For any male with a pulse, this is the best track on the album, with Sabina's sultry invitation not to stop until — well, you'll know when you get there.
You cannot help feel disappointed a few aquatic chords later on “Lazy Lover,” after the pace-quickening, “Don't Stop” — your body aching after last night's indescribable high. It’s not the song, but your own inadequacies that you dwell on as Sabina points out that “you roll over / when I want more.”
It's at this point that the rest of your brain may start to engage; the music moves beyond mere autonomic responses. Yes, “Lazy Lover” is the retort we've all had (or had invectively hurled at us) for our inconsiderate ways, but it's also directed at anyone who “gives less and takes more,” explains Sabina. “All lyrics, even love songs, can be political.”
In fact, this how she explains the steel-drum laden summer anthem “Pussy.” Easy enough to dismiss as pure fun, with lyrics extolling the virtues of carnal desire and weed, Sabina acknowledges the “boys' contribution” to the lyrics. But she also conveys just how important this song is — after all, it's the single in Europe but censored on most radio stations here in the U.S. “That's shocking,” she says, “in a country that is the number one champion of freedom in the world.”
It’s this subtlety, even underneath decidedly unsubtle lyrics, that make the Brazilian Girls such an enjoyable listen. The expertly crafted blend of genres and styles is hard enough to pull off, let alone with such style. Not to mention, such a sense of humor.
For more information on the Brazilian Girls, visit: http://www.braziliangirls.info/.