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Brazilian Girls aren’t Brazilian

New York quartet has whimsical approach to life
/ Source: The Associated Press

None of these Brazilian Girls are Brazilian, and only one is a girl. Their sound is just as difficult to define — critics have called it world music, down-tempo, dance, funk and pop.

But there’s something even more puzzling than the fact that this New York-based quartet is not a prefabricated pop group featuring tan teenagers from Sao Paulo. It’s the question of whether the Brazilian Girls have devised a well-kept, carefully plotted musical formula — or that they’re simply too cool to care.

Still, the Girls are getting the last laugh.

“I had to get a sex change, so there would be at least one girl,” said lead vocalist Sabina Sciubba, a former jazz singer born in Rome and raised in Munich and Nice.

Keyboardist/onstage computer master Didi Gutman, who can be spotted from the audience beneath an undulating mass of dreadlocks, shares Sciubba’s folly.

“That was the label’s idea,” Gutman added. “They wanted to create something new that hasn’t been done before. So they had this idea of the band where everybody had a different look.”

Fact mixes with mythSure enough, the group is a global kaleidoscope. Gutman is from Buenos Aires. Bassist Jesse Murphy is small-framed, with blinding bleach-blond hair. Drummer Aaron Johnston is the most classic looking member, with his jet-black hair, model-like frame and laid-back California attitude.

While they seem to revel in leaving the rest of the world to figure out which parts of the Brazilian Girls’ are fact and which are myth, the band is clear when paying tribute to the place where the group was officially formed.

Sciubba met her bandmates while jamming at Nublu in downtown New York City. Soon, they were playing to crammed rooms of sweaty, dancing patrons every Sunday night during their residency there. The group plays the club whenever they return home to the Big Apple.

To date, the Brazilian Girls self-titled, self-produced debut album, released on Verve Forecast, has soared on the Billboard dance charts and gotten more than one critic hot under the collar with their beat-heavy, sexy party music. Buzz surrounding their shows earned the multicultural dance group a fan in Sting; they opened for him on select dates during his 2005 tour.

The band’s multicultural charm is hammered home by the fact that many of the songs on the record are not sung in English. Sciubba colors four of the twelve dance-inspiring tracks with German, French, Spanish and Italian.

“The other languages somehow really work because it’s so much more about a sound,” Murphy said. “So for people who don’t understand the language, it’s very much about the diction and the melody.”

But in keeping with their whimsical, European approach to life and music, the Brazilian Girls try not to think too long or too seriously about fame, their success — or anything in particular.

“We don’t talk about the music really,” bassist Jesse Murphy said.

“If we start talking,” said Sciubba, “we start arguing.”