PPJ are Paula, Povoa and Jerge, a trio hailing from Brazil and France whose music is, in the words of one of its components, “a permanent carnival.” Their main goal? To make everybody dance. But they don’t play safe; they take the tricky route of mixing and matching genres as diverse as samba, funk, hyper pop, and techno. “We feel the desire to create something different by combining genres. Otherwise we would get bored,” they say.
After the powerful Bloco Vol 1, an EP they released in May this year, PPJ announced that they’re working on Bloco Vol 2 (via R&D). But it’s not a continuation, or a second part, or en epilogue or… No, “the only link between both albums exists through their similar intensity and power,” the members of the band share in this interview. So far, they’ve released the new record’s first single, Beijo, which translates into ‘kiss’ in English. Today, we speak with PPJ about taking risks, looking for the unusual, and his upcoming gigs.
Beijo is the first single from Bloco Vol 2, a sort of continuation of the successful Bloco Vol 1. What’s new, what’s not there anymore, and what continues from that first album to the second?
Povoa: The energy from Bloco Vol 1 will definitely still be here in Bloco Vol 2. The tracks won’t have much in common I believe, and I hope you’ll be surprised. The PPJ vibe, that we can’t really define ourselves, should be the only thing that stays in our music. The only link between both albums exists through their similar intensity and power.
Jerge: Compared to Bloco Vol 1, finished in Brasil, some ideas from Vol 2 come from this trip during carnival. Some more sounds from Rio like a motorcycle honk (in the Moto song) or Renata, a friend of ours, singing too. We continued to explore sonorities we hadn’t done yet.
Paula: What continues? Brazilian storytelling, of course. What’s new? For the first time, we invited another voice in one of our tracks, Renata, as Jerge said. She’s a cook in the Gloria Street Market in Rio de Janeiro. We used one of her voice messages in which she’s singing to our friendship, to cachaça, to dance, she’s singing to Paris and Rio… It was so fun to make this tribute!
Let’s discuss Beijo, your latest single. The title means kiss in Portuguese. Do you dedicate this beijinho to anyone in particular?
Paula: I was thinking about a long-distance love story, when you wait for the lover and are obsessed with the kiss you wanted to give. But for the first time, both were reunited in Rio during the carnival. It’s a true love kiss in the middle of the chaos!
I’d like to delve into your creative process. Being three of you, I guess there are moments where you’re just in synch but others where you disagree completely. What does a ‘normal’ day in the studio with PPJ look like?
Povoa: Most of the time we agree, and when we don’t it is resolved very quickly. We believe that if someone is suggesting an idea, we should try it before making any decision. Our disagreements aren’t usually in the studio, they’re more about tiny, unimportant details. We always agree on the global idea of the track, so the conflict might be about the sound of a snare or the mixing of the synth, but we understand each other’s point of view more and everything is getting more and more fluid. The only thing we disagreed on for Bloco Vol 2 is the name of a track. We’re lucky and I hope it’ll stay that way as long as possible.
Jerge: The more the time passes, the more we develop an understanding of each other. When a demo doesn’t sound PPJ enough, we know what to do because we can define our music between us now (roughly). Not with music genre but with some keywords from our vocabulary.
Paula: The three of us live in the same neighbourhood in Paris, barely ten minutes away from each other. It’s in le 18éme, close to Montmartre. We have our favourite bistro called Le bon coin, so most of the time a studio with PPJ starts there with a coffee ‘allongé’ served by the charismatic Maria. I really enjoy these simple little moments between us, I think it’s really important to have this in our creative process.
You refuse to “pigeonhole thinking especially when it comes to geography or genre,” so you mix and combine genres as diverse as baile funk and samba with electroclash and hyperpop. As humans, categorising the world around us helps us understand it, but it of course also limits us. How do you approach music-making with such a vision free from stereotypes?
Povoa: Yes, defining inherently imposes limitations. We obviously can’t break free from it but we can move those boundaries wherever we feel. I believe Paula, Jerge and I (without even having to articulate it) categorise music into two simple groups: the forgettable, which to us lacks a profound impact, and the memorable, which resonates with us deeply. In the creative process we may at some point align with a particular genre but we like to introduce unusual and surprising elements to ensure a departure from the familiar.
Jerge: It would be too easy to say that fitting within a genre is boring, but there are so many stereotypical house, pop, and techno songs. We feel the desire to create something different by combining genres. Otherwise we would get bored. Taking risks is very exciting, we need it.
Paula: We’re surprising ourselves all the time, it’s really fun and satisfying to be honest. Sometimes the crossover is weird and crazy, but if we feel the beauty and the emotions, one has the feeling of creating something special that we wanted to convey to people.
Even though you try to create as freely as possible, it’s just natural that the music you’re surrounded by or that you grew up with comes into play. As part of your trio is Brazilian, we can feel rhythms and sounds from there, for example. How important are heritage and the traditional in your sound? I understand it’s a sort of base, a pillar, that you can then twist, modify and completely re-make to bring it to the present
Povoa: To be honest, we don’t try to create as freely as possible; it’s just in our creative process, it’s our best way to have fun so far. Often while making a tune, we like to try to imagine how would we react if we randomly discovered this tune – on the radio, for example. And if there’s nothing new or unusual about it, then it wouldn’t catch our attention so it needs to be weirder.
Jerge: Because we can’t imagine the audience’s reaction, we try to keep this first impression of ‘we don’t know what they will think about, but love it’. The good balance between taking risks and still making people dance listening to it. Let’s try a Banjo song with hardcore kickdrum, some pizzicato strings and Paula’s voice, and let’s see.
Paula: For me our music is a permanent carnival, it’s about connecting people from all around the world and making them dance. I mix Brazil and France all the time both in my lyrics and in my moves. The music we make is the perfect translation of that. It’s a Bloco, a union, a connection.
As Povoa says, “We have fun and we want to make danceable music; that’s the only constraint we have.” What about music-making is the most fun for you? Drafting the first idea, when you have the song ready, or maybe when you’re finally playing it to a live audience?
Povoa & Jerge: I think we love all the parts of the creative process. Each one is very different: the beginning needs inspiration but is very exciting, the middle needs rigour and concentration for the structure but is very satisfying because you discover the shape of the song, and the end is easy because it’s only little tweaks here and there. Then learning to play the song needs lots of work, but it’s so beautiful to finally enjoy it with the world.
Paula: I love the fresh ideas in the studio, the spontaneous ones. When I start to find the melody, the hooks and the toplines. Afterwards I love to stay in the studio with the guys for the ad-libs and the structure. But my other favourite part is to be on stage and to pass the energy for the crowd.
We have to wait until 2024 for Bloco Vol 2, so in the meantime, where can we dance with you? Any dates you can confirm to book tickets ASAP?
Yes, we will be playing in Barcelona (Nitsa at Sala Apolo) on December 1st. Then we’re going to Le Sucre in Lyon on January 7th and to La Laiterie in Strasbourg on March 2nd. We just had our first show in London a few weeks ago and it was AMAZING! Please, more shows in the UK <3
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