I am fully aware it’s sometimes exhausting to invest energy in the young bands. Few years ago, when I was writing an album review for these guys for one Czech magazine, editor asked me: “Who the hell would care here for a band from Brazil?” However, for many years I follow a philosophy that I really don’t care about geographical limits, if the quality is worth the attention. I discovered Brazilian rock band Os Gringos when they reached me directly few years ago and we built very friendly relationship since then. Combination of emotional blues, mature rock and passionate melodies truly doesn’t care about geography. If you are up to, giving a try to promising Os Gringos, start with Candy Coated Nightmare, move to Apocalypse Love and naturally keep going with the flow with Os Gringos, which are just finishing their third album. Another great example of a global unity, is the fact this face2face interview with band’s bass player Justin Hansen took place in a Radegast pub in Prague, which was one of the stops of his European promotional journey in the middle of the summer in 2019.
Cover photo credit: Debora Laurito Friend
For the start, I would like to ask you, if you could shortly introduce the band to the readers.
Name of the band is Os Gringos. We are four Americans, living in Brazil and one Brazilian. Name “Gringo” comes from a slang term which means “foreigner” in Brazil and the whole Latin America. We met in a small town Itajubá. Four of us, which are Americans, we are all English teachers and we met in the same teaching class. When I got to Brazil, I started living with our lead singer João and guitarist Jimmy. Later I met Guilherme, our drummer as he was our neighbor. (Laugh)
That sounds great, but I must say I was little bit confused over the years, by your name change. For some time I could find you as The Gringos, other times it was Os Gringos.
We released our first album with the name Os Gringos. We changed the name to The Gringos on the second album with an attempt to internationalize our name and make it more accessible, but then we realized there is already a band called The Gringos. Now we officially switched back to Os Gringos. All of our social media profiles are Os Gringos, ‘cause that’s an official name. Our second album The Animal Kingdom will a rare relic because it will the only album with the name “The Gringos”. (Laugh)
Welcome To The Jungle
What was your motivation to move to Brazil?
I studied Spanish and Latin American studies. That’s kind of how I got curious about Brazil. I went to teach English to Indonesia through a US government program, but I really wanted to move to Latin America as I went to Chile during my studies. To be honest, I got to teaching English and playing in a band through João, who was a coordinator at the school. I got in a contact with him and very soon he asked me: “I can see in your files, you play bass. We have a band and we need a bass player.” I went to teach English but I stayed for the band. Os Gringos are active for six or seven years now, but I am playing with them for five years now. We actually started jamming the first day I arrived in August and we played our first show together five days later.
I went to Brazil to teach English, but I stayed for the band
Would like to mention some breaking points from the band’s history so far?
Our US tour last summer was a big highlight of shows and in particularly there was one show which ended up being a lifetime experience. We opened up for Robby Krieger, the guitarist of The Doors. He even invited João on stage, to sing Roadhouse Blues with him. We played many great shows in Brazil or shared a stage with many big bands in Brazil, but they are not so known in Europe. We also played couple of great shows with Ukraine stoner metal band Stoned Jesus.
Is there a chance, they might take you on a tour through Europe in the future?
That would be a cool thing. Our guitarist Daniel is in contact with them, but I am not sure about their tour plans.
All In For The Band
How would you describe your current mission around Europe? Spread the band’s name, conduct interviews and gather as many contacts to ideally organize an European tour for the band?
Yeah and ideally get a connection to a label, to do a release of the third album, which is still in the process.
Give us an idea about your journey to Prague.
I started in Lisbon, where my good friend from Itajubá moved couple of months ago. I visited him and we went to Switzerland where he always wanted to go, as his father was born there. Later we went through the mountains as in The Lord of the Rings. (Laugh) Later on, we went to Vienna and I also went to Budapest for a night, about two nights ago and now Prague. I really wanted to see Prague, because of its history, architecture and I also a big fan of a composer Antonín Dvořák.
Naturally, with all the respect, I have to ask, how do you finance this big trip, as a musician and a teacher?
You don’t get necessarily rich from teaching English, but I am single and I share the apartment with a roommate. In these condition I can save a decent about of money, to take a trip like that once in a year or two years.
So instead of lying on a beach, you rather invest it in the band.
Exactly. To be honest, I did plenty of that already, few months ago, as my parents decided to visit me for the first time in Brazil. I already have this covered. But as a band, we doing everything to make this work. We are investing everything in recording, booking shows and making contacts all over the world.
Third album & gear
How far is the third album?
We’ve got three songs officially recorded. They are in the process of getting produced. We have another seven songs, which will be recorded. So it’s coming along and we would like to release it sometime in 2020. We might not release the album immediately, but we will be releasing singles.
As this interview is primarily for Czech gear oriented magazine Muzikus, give us please an idea about your bass guitar and long term preferences within amps, strings etc.
I am all about Fender Jazz bass. You know, I just made one of the best purchases of my life last year. I have been playing a Mexican Fender as a teenager and it had a great sound, but I bought an American version. Fender just released a professional series. This thing is incredible and I don’t think I will ever play on another bass. In terms of amplifiers I really like Ampeg. Next to it, there is a local brand called Bertoloni, made by a friend of ours living forty minutes away from us. He makes customized tube amps, so I have been using that. I also really like D’Addario strings.
Fender Jazz professional series is incredible and I don’t think I will ever play on another bass.
This is a question I love using lately and I hope it will be useful this time as well. Do you remember any recent surprises within gear?
My Ampeg head burned out because of an electricity. In Brazil the electricity settings of each venue vary, so you have to be careful about that. That’s why I moved to Bertoloni, which Jimmy and Daniel are using for at least four years. He is in the process of making a bass amp, but so far you can only buy guitar amps. It can handle a lot and to be honest, this is the one, I am using for recording.
We are getting towards the end, so please give us an idea about the rock scene in Brazil. From our European point of view, we know only few names and mainly relate Brazil to Rock in Rio shows of Iron Maiden or Rush, but I can imagine that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Brazilians are big time rock’n’roll fans and it’s not a surprise Rock in Rio, probably the biggest rock event in the world, is in Brazil. Locals are very enthusiastic and energetic people, with a big love for classic rock. There is another great reference and it’s from Queen in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, where Freddie was wondering the whole night if the audience could understand him and they sang the whole Love of My Life song. If they are fans, it’s for life. Music is like football to them. They go all or nothing. We see that at a much smaller scale at our shows, but we can see the same type of energy. We love creating that environment and seeing people really tune into our stuff and lose themselves in music and dance. At the end of the day that’s the most beautiful and the coolest thing about playing for people. Our position is growing and luckily we already have big number of die-hard fans
Music is like football to Brazilians. They go all or nothing.
For the last thing, as from the place we are talking, I can see your band truly means a world to you guys, where would like to see yourself in the upcoming two years?
Doing another US tour would be great. I would love to make it to the west coast as well. Not just because I am from there, but because west coast has a big rock community. But I would also like to go to England or anywhere, where is a true rock scene. We want to take it on and give these people a proper show and rock this planet.
Sounds like a great plan and all I can wish you is to make it happen.
Thank you very much!