Melech Mechaya

12th Annual Instrumental Album Nominee

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Record Label: Ponto Zurca (Portugal),
Felmay (worldwide)

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Home Base: Portugal

Genre: Klezmer, Portuguese folk & Fado

Categories Entered: Instrumental

Work Submitted: Aqui Em Baixo Tudo É Simples (Portuguese edition) or Melech Mechaya (international edition)

Artists Featured: Mísia and Frank London

Label: Ponto Zurca (Portugal) and Felmay (Worldwide)

Who are your influences?: The Klezmatics’ work is an important reference, and also Goran Bregovic’s, John Zorn’s, Gogol Bordello’s, Manu Chao’s, and literally dozens of other artists. Our music is influenced not only by other musicians, but also by theater plays and movies.

Describe your nominated work: This album is our third record, after a 5 songs EP and a LP called Budja Ba. It includes 5 traditional klezmer tunes (“Mazel Tov,” “Freylach from Warsaw,” “Araber Tantz,” “Sirba + Di Grine Kuzine,” and Dave Tarras’ “Doina”), 1 portuguese folk song (“Chapéu Preto”) and 7 original songs. It is a much more matured album than the previous one, as it explores more grooves, moods, sounds and instruments. It also features two very special guest stars: the Portuguese fado singer Mísia, on “Gare No Oriente”, and Klezmatics’ Frank London.

Did you use any unusual effects or instruments in this recording?: Not particularly. The most unusual instruments we used were a bullroarer (Australian aboriginal instrument), a reco-reco (traditional Portuguese instrument, similar to the Guiro) and an empty plastic bottle of water. In “Doina” we used some pitch bending on the clarinet, but it’s barely there.

Were there any happy accidents while in the studio, or did everything go as planned?: It all went pretty well, actually, although there was a happy accident: on the song “Sirba + Di Grine Kuzine”, the cavaquinho made a harmonic sound right in the end of the beat, which wasn’t supposed to happen but we thought it sounded great. Of course the sessions with Mísia and Frank London were particularly interesting and full of magic, because they brought and outside view and approach to our music. We were delighted!

How did you raise the funds for this project? How long do you expect it will take to recoup your out-of-pocket recording expenses?: Mainly with concert fees. Nowadays we’re about halfway to break even, and we hope to reach it in the end of this year / beginning of 2014.

Why did you choose to submit this work to The 12th IMAs?: We received an invite from one of your artist representatives!

What’s your definition of success and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?: Having our work appreciated and recognize is a kind of success, having fans and followers is a kind of success, playing gigs and making albums is a kind of success, getting to work with other people and in other areas (theater and cinema) is a kind of success. We don’t know if we’ve fully achieved it, but we’ve been having a little bit of all these things, so we’re very pleased with what we’re doing.

How will you leverage your IMA honors to achieve your career goals?: This nomination can be very important due to the promotion and exposure it may provide. Being an international award, it somehow validates our work for people who don’t know it, and the nomination may build up some curiosity.

Who’s sitting in your audience and what makes your fans unique?: Our audience includes literally people from 8 to 80. The thing that all of them have in common is a natural joy and way to have fun, some kind of silliness or naiveté that is typical of people that just want to enjoy good music and have a good time.

What is your guilty pleasure on the road? Any close calls or mishaps while on tour?: There was a time when every trip had a gummy-bear bag that would disappear in a second! Of course we’ve had some lost baggage in the airports several times, a flat tire, gigs canceled due to nasty weather, or even power outage during the show. But we always managed to make the best out of it!

Who are your musical heroes & influences?: This one we have to answer individually:

André Santos: Vicente Amigo, John Zorn, António Vitorino d’Almeida

Francisco Caiado: Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Zeca Afonso, Ornatos Violeta

João Graça: Zeca Afonso, Stephan Grapelli, Mayra Andrade

João Novais: Radiohead, Bob Marley, Bill Evans and Debussy.

Miguel Veríssimo: The Beatles, David Bowie and Sérgio Godinho.

Are there any songs you wish you wrote and why?: We don’t really think about that… We just enjoy music, both ours and other people’s.

What artists are you listening to that would surprise your fans?: Eels, Franz Ferdinand, Deolinda… We don’t really know what would surprise our fans, because usually they’re the ones who surprise us.

How do you discover new music? Do you buy music or are you content with streaming?: Well, nowadays the best vehicle to discover new artist would be the internet (specially the social networks, but also the music specialized webzines, blogs, etc.), and – still – the radio. Services like Spotify and Deezer allow people to listen to the music freely and legally, and we thing those are good options. But we buy the albums that we really like, and the radio is still the most important way to know new artists.

How will musicians make a living if fans continue to expect music to be free?: We don’t think that the audience expects music to be free. Maybe people got used to the illegal download, but everybody expects to pay a ticket to watch a live performance. We have to provide an easy way for people to have legitimate access to music, because people didn’t stop wanting to buy records. In our experience, we sell as much CDs on our shows as we do on music stores. That proves that the consumers still want CDs.

What don’t fans/audiences understand about the music industry today?: Probably all the professionals that are needed to produce both a record and a live show.

Are digital singles/EPs vs. full albums the future?: We don’t think so. From an artistic point of view, the album format is the classic format, so that won’t change.

Finish this sentence: The music industry is…an industry like any other, maybe with a bit more eccentricity.

What do you have in the works for the upcoming year?: We’re working on the next album, which is due to the first half of 2014.