Angry Women: Nervosa’s Prika Amaral Talks Metal, Misogyny, and How to Record in the Time of COVID

Anybody who talks to me about my work at Heavy Blog will eventually ask me the same question: what’s been your favorite thing about writing for the blog? Generally,

3 years ago

Anybody who talks to me about my work at Heavy Blog will eventually ask me the same question: what’s been your favorite thing about writing for the blog? Generally, I’ll mention being able to talk to creators and finding new bands I might not have if I wasn’t on the blog. When that second answer comes up, folks want to know who my favorite discovery has been. The answer is always the same: Nervosa. Their music just grabbed me. It sits right on the border of death and thrash, which is a weirdly interesting spot to sit in for a lot of reasons. They’re an all-female band, and I try really hard to be a good ally and promote new things in the scene. And beyond that, they just make good damn records.

Imagine my joyful surprise when Nervosa dropped “Guided By Evil” last month and announced the release of a new record, Perpetual Chaos. Immediately, I was asking around about the promo. It took a week or so until I got it. “Oh, and they’d be very interested in an interview if you want to.”

I was absolutely ecstatic. I couldn’t believe the luck. After a year like this with all of the bad news and tough breaks, it’s little moments like this that can help lift your spirits. I get to review the record, interview the band, and raise up a voice in the scene that I believe truly deserves a platform. I had listened to Perpetual Chaos multiple times since scheduling the interview, so I had a good idea of where the band was going after welcoming some new members to the band.

Still, though, I was pretty nervous. Nothing to be nervous about, I kept telling myself. You’ve interviewed bands before, what’s so different now? If it’s something people say to themselves to calm down when they’re nervous, I said it. I was so excited to meet guitarist and original founding member Prika Amaral, and I just wanted to have a nice and friendly conversation with someone I really respect in the community. Thankfully, neither of us (I hope!) were disappointed.

Pete Williams: So I gotta say: I’m pretty excited to be talking to you today. I’ve been with the blog for three years now, and Nervosa is one of the bands I discovered as a result of working on the blog. I friggin’ loved your last album. It was so much fun and so good. I’ve gotten the promo for your new album, Perpetual Chaos, and I’ve listened to it several times. I don’t know how you did it, but you made a better record. I really, really, really liked it a lot, so I’m just stoked to talk to you about it today.

Prika Amaral: I’m so happy to know about this! For this new season of Nervosa, this kind of support is really important for us.

PW: Let’s awkwardly jump into it. You have been blasting this stuff since 2010. Can you give me the short and quick on how this project started? What’s been the story so far?

PA: I had another band. Nervosa came out of them. They were called Inner Voices, a death metal band. I was the only woman in this band, and we were looking for a drummer. A friend of mine, a vocalist in a famous band here in Brazil told me, “I know a female drummer who is very good and professional, and she’s looking for a metal band.” I thought, “Wow, I’m very curious about this,” and I contacted her. She said, “Your band is cool and I like it, but to be honest I want to start an [all] female band with you.” She wanted to start an all-female band with me, so I said yes, of course!. The most difficult member to find for that would be the drummer, and a bassist and vocalist would be so easy! That was my thought. We decided to start a female thrash metal band, and then we started looking for another member. We had another vocalist at first, and most people have no idea about her because we never released anything with this vocalist. But we had her for almost a year composing songs with us along with another bassist. But these 2 girls were not quite ready for this at a professional level. They had personal lives that were taking a lot of their energy, so they left the band. So we were looking for another vocalist and bassist. One and a half years later, we found Fernanda Lira who joined the band as a bassist, and she asked to do a vocal test which she did really well. And then Fernanda Terra the founder of Nervosa with me left the band, and we had a second guitarist who also left the band before we recorded our first demo. Terra eft the band at the end of 2012, so we had many changes in the band as you already know. But that’s how it all began.

PW: So the intent was to specifically form an all-female band and to also make this kind of genre-oriented music?

PA: Yeah, since the beginning the decision was to be an all-female band. That’s why we chose a female word for the name. In Portuguese, “nervosa” means angry girl. We have gendered words in Brazil, so nervoso is for men and nervosa is for women. That’s why we decided to put a female name to it. When other members left, there was no thought about replacing anyone with a man. This isn’t a project for men. I was always looking for just a girl.

PW: When making this kind of genre music, I always have a question about bands like Nervosa. Are you recording and writing music with the intent to make death or thrash metal, or is this just what naturally comes out during your songwriting process?

PA: Since the beginning, the idea was a thrash metal band. But with each album, you see the death metal growing. You could see it since the beginning, but just a little bit and grew and grew and grew. And now I think we are half thrash and half death. But the roots are thrash metal and it’ll always be this way.

PW: Could you talk about how your music straddles a lot of lines? It’s between different kinds of sounds. How does that come about? Specifically for me, where I come from is more like 80s style thrash metal, and I’m also very picky about death metal I listen to. The two genres aren’t dissimilar, there are just these little differences. Why do you think you kind of sit in this place between worlds?

PA: I think thrash metal is my favorite style since you can mix different styles in one. That’s the most interesting thing to do: to put different styles of music [together]. But it’s also interesting to play death metal as a group of women since it’s not very common. Now it’s starting to get common since there are more female death metal bands, not so much thrash metal. It’s like a challenge! Women playing death metal is interesting, but it’s also fun to play something very fast and technical. But my heart beats for thrash metal, and I love death metal, too. I realized the bands I like from death metal that I most like have a thrash metal influence, like Vader. Vader is my favorite death metal band, but they have a lot of thrash influences. It’s not 100% death metal. I think that I realized in the last few months that the bands i most like from death metal have that thrash metal influence. So I think combining those two worlds is the influence here.

PW: Especially with those early death metal bands like Death. There is a heavy thrash influence to all of them, particularly the European bands who very much sit in that same zone. Going along with the all-female point: I’ll be honest here and say that’s why I picked the Downfall of Mankind promo off our massive pile of promos. “Oh, this is interesting and something a little bit different.” With that in ind, do you all experience any kind of discrimination or misogyny? I imagine when you started, it was probably way more then than now. But what has been your experience so far? Do you find that this is a welcoming community for what you’re doing with a few idiots thrown in? Or are most people really terrible and throw it in your face? What’s been your experience?

PA: Alright, be prepared because I’m gonna put a lot out there aas this is a huge question.

In the beginning when I started to play guitar in the late 90s, the metal scene, in my experience born and growing up in a small city in the state of Sao Paulo…The experience is always going to be different with closed minds and such, so it was really hard at the beginning. There were almost no girls, and the behavior from them all was very different. When I saw another girl at a show, I would get excited. “Ah, there’s another girl! I should go talk to her!” But sometimes they had a different behavior. They denied me, they wouldn’t pay attention to me, because they had, like, a jealous feeling. When you have another girl, they would think I was taking attention away from them or that other people weren’t paying as much attention to them. Something like that, and that was from the beginning. The internet wasn’t popular in Brazil then, so these kinds of discussions [about women in the metal scene] weren’t popular. I think I committed a lot of mistakes as a woman to other women at the time, but now many things are very clear in our minds. We discuss a lot of ideas. We know many points, and I think about myself and how my mind has changed over time. I think I’m getting better about this topic. I wasn’t very feminist before but now I am. But before I was really worried about it before and just didn’t know.

In the beginning of Nervosa from just 10 years ago, there was a movement against us and used many misogynistic ideas. They were against us just because we were female. They thought we were only there because of a good look, or because we had boyfriends who had access or something. Like we were with our producers to book shows or that we were fucking some guy to get some stuff. So there was a movement against us. They would say things like they’d rather watch a porno with us in it. There were memes online that had 4000 and more shares that was very popular. They were putting our pictures into porn memes. Could you imagine seeing something like that about your family member? So I finally decided to make a post about them. I tried to ignore this kind of stuff. I wouldn’t pay attention because most people were very supportive of us. But in that time, it was like 10% of the people. Like a big percentage to me. So I made a post saying, “Look, you can talk whatever about me, but be careful what you say about the producers and stuff. They have families, and your lies are destroying that. This isn’t true, and you’re creating this stuff to hide your jealous feelings of us. Just be careful.” When we decided to do the first tour in Europe, we met many bands like Kreator, Destruction, Cannibal Corpse, many big bands. We took a photo with one guy, and he showed us a lot of respect. These kinds of people are what we want because it’s a different feeling when your idols show respect to you. I think for the internet discussions, these pictures changed their minds. They didn’t necessarily enjoy our band or anything, but they respected us.

Watching people play drums blows my mind.

Of course, there’s still many guys who model themselves after our president [Jair Bolsonaro]. When the president makes some misogynistic speeches, he gives courage to these people. He gives them a voice. So now we have taken a step back a little because these people have more courage to talk about this bullshit. But I’m pretty sure we’re overall getting better. The internet is giving voice to good people who want to be supportive.

PW: So with Bolsonaro getting elected, do you feel like misogyny is growing? Or is it about the same as you’ve always experienced? What’s your take on the idea that it’s “bounced back”?

PA: I don’t that it’s growing, but it’s giving more power for these people. Everyone before waas hidden. They have a clear idea that it’s wrong, and that’s why they were hidden because they know other people wouldn’t like it. But now with the president, thy are given power. They’re now proud to say it, not more shy. It’s very dangerous, and I’m worried about it. But I believe in the other side. Reactions we receive for our stuff seems about 50% them and 50% us. But Bolsonaro is doing many things wrong, and i want to believe he’s losing some followers. But they still have a lot of support. I don’t know how the next elections will be, but I really hope that Brazilians have confidence about that. In our country, we have a huge problem as people mostly don’t have great access to education. So that’s where it gets complicated. I prefer to be positive and support the side that’s against them because what they’re doing is wrong and horrible.

PW: Well, as an American, I OBVIOUSLY don’t know what it’s like to have a horrible person as president (*SARCASM INCREASES*). You see those people, and I do feel very similar about my own country, too. I work in politics outside of writing for the blog for the good guys, and I also see the positivity coming out. I hope that things change and that the entire world changes for the better. One can only hope.

Anyhow, getting back to it: Let’s talk about Perpetual Chaos. I have listened to it multiple times, but I have one burning question for me before anything else. Who did the Bruce Dickinson impression on “Rebel Soul”?

PA: Everyone is asking me about that! I love answering this because everyone is so impressed! It was actually AK [vocalist Eric Knutson] of Flotsam and Jetsam.

PW: Really?!?

PA: Yeah!

PW: Well, then I am also impressed! I listened to that song about 4-5 times to make sure. I thought, “There’s no way that’s not Bruce Dickinson! That’s ridiculous! Who did this?!?”

PA: Oh yeah?!? (Prika clapped and laughed. Apparently this comes up a lot.) Everyone thinks it’s Bruce Dickinson, and I love it!

PW: That was killing me! “How did they do that? How did they get him to do that?!?” I’m glad I got that out of the way so I can focus on the rest of this interview. There is a distinct difference between youor previous records and this one. I’m mostly thinking in terms of production qualities. Like Perpetual Chaos sounds fuller, I suppose. It’s just a bigger sound. Was that a conscious decision to do it that way? Or did it just happen over the course of writing and recording the record?

PA: The most important point is the change in the lineup. We have a new vocalist who has more or a death metal voice. She brings some heavier stuff. From the other side, the way Nervosa works now is completely different from the past. Now we are working more like a group. We are working together with the music, not as individuals. Before, everyone brought ideas together from their own instruments and then we put everything together. But because we are now working for the music instead of the individual, the music is better. When you work individually, sometimes you don’t think about the music as a whole. For example, the guitar would be more in the front of the other instruments. We were highlighting that instrument. But now we are working together, so we might not focus on my guitars in a track in order to highlight the bass or something like that. We are working for the best of the music as a group which is why I think the result is better. Being a musician is not just about playing well. You have to understand all parts of the music. I am a very curious person, and I wanted to study everything about production, like mixing and mastering for example. I think that it’s important. I’m not working for myself with that; I’m working for Nervosa. But to work well with a producer, you have to know how to ask for things. Sometimes I would ask, “I want the guitar to sound more lower.” But when the result came, it wouldn’t sound like how I was thinking. Sometimes the producer can’t do what you’re asking but he doesn’t understand and you can’t explain it to him. It was important that we have good communication with Martin Furia, the producer who also did the mixing. I worked with him closely, and I became the co-producer. I think it was important because it was something I knew I wanted and how to do that. But also being open-minded to other opinions as it was really important not to close off ideas for the music. Everything about this was something to add to the music, but it was most important to work as a group.

PW: I imagine it would be helpful. You know the music and what you want out of things, but having a shared language between yourself and the producer and also having that musical knowledge would really help explain what you want to the expert.

PA: Exactly!

PW: I also imagine you can act as a middleman between the other members and say, “Oh, this should be like this,” and you can translate that idea across to the producer.

PA: Yeah, I could translate! For example, there was a a situation in the middle of the recording where we were doing revamps of the guitars, and I wasn’t liking the sound so much. I was trying to explain to the producer what the mistake waas, but he was still not understanding what I was saying. So I said, “Let me sit in your chair and let me do, and you can listen.” If I had no idea how to do that, I couldn’t help. I was asking and asking and he was still not understanding. I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the sound, even though it didn’t sound bad. It sounded great, but it wasn’t 100% what I wanted. When I sat there and made some changes on the equalizer, he understood what I wanted. Sometimes it’s a mistake from me because I can’t find the words to explain. This is something that happens to all musicians. So when I was able to work the board myself and he said, “Oh! Okay then!”, it clicked that we needed to study more about mixing. Like how to work with the software, Q-Base, to show what I wanted and that the issue there was not with the microphone. There was some stuff he understood better than me, and I was learning with him. And he was learning with me, as well!

Another example is I was working with the girls, and someone said, “Oh, I like the kick bass more low.” But she couldn’t say exactly what that meant. She was saying low but she had no idea exactly what she meant. She was actually talking about punch, not low. A lot of low would put it in the same frequency as the bass and it would be lost. So this is something I have to translate to the producer.

PW: Since we’ve referred to it a few times, you mentioned that there is a songwriting difference with the new members. What you described [with the former members] where you came up with a riff or somebody had a line and working individually to add to a song idea. If I heard you right, you’re working through the songs as a group now in a way you didn’t before. What other kinds of changes have you noticed? I would say it’s pretty dramatic change when the former vocalist and bassist AND the drummer leaving and bringing in replacements along with an additional person. So what other kinds of changes are you experiencing with all the new personalities involved?

Unbeknownst to me, there was something to definitely be nervous about: technical errors. After I asked the final question here, the audio and video on my recording just stopped. Which really sucked because there were a few other things we got to about Perpetual Chaos, working with new band members, and recording in the time of COVID.

As best I can to finish her thought, Prika wanted to make it very clear that there isn’t a good or bad distinction between how the band worked with previous members and how they work now. As you can tell from her word choices over the interview, Prika just thinks it’s different than it was. But she also feels that those differences have resulted in a different product than before.

The part I’m most bummed about missing is where Prika explained how they recorded their album. It’s a story of cramped airplane after cramped airplane, multiple quarantines along the way, a cross-continental drive, and narrowly escaping lockdowns along the way. And while I’m upset that I won’t be able to share those specific stories with you, there is a little hope here. The band had a documentary crew follow them on their journey and are releasing it on YouTube! Prika had mentioned the series and not wanting to give away too much in this interview, but you can all see it for yourselves now!

Part 1
Part 2
Pete Williams

Published 3 years ago