XFEARS – Investment in ChangeThursday, 14th September 2023
This scribe has been an ardent follower of progressive rock / metal since childhood really – watching the evolution of acts like Kansas, Yes, Genesis on through to Rush, Fates Warning, Queensrÿche, Dream Theater and beyond. Which is why it’s still exciting to discover new acts putting their own spin on things from all around the globe – such as Brazilian act XFEARS. Their latest album Reasons for Change incorporates astute musicianship that congregates in cohesive songs that are easier to digest than most for this genre. We reached out to vocalist/keyboardist Gabriel Carvalho to discuss his early memories surrounding Rush in childhood plus picking up the keyboard as an instrument, the work behind Reasons For Change plus the lineup shifts, why it tends to be a challenge to break out as a band from Brazil into the global marketplace, worries about the homeless and politicians, as well as what people can expect from the band over the next few years.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music growing up in childhood? At what point did you discover heavier and more progressive forms of music, and then want to eventually pick up an instrument to start performing in your own bands?
Gabriel Carvalho: Music starts in my life when I was just 9 and my uncle played me a Rush vinyl record, the album was Exit… Stage Left, from 1981! I will never forget that day where I put some headphones on and listened for the first time “The Spirit of Radio” live! It changed my life…I was discovering bands like Queensryche, Fates Warning, Dream Theater and so on…
I picked up a keyboard when I was 10, the same uncle told me to start playing this instrument, since he had a plan to form a band! The plan worked!
Dead Rhetoric: Reasons For Change is the latest album for XFEARS. Can you discuss the songwriting and recording aspects for this record? Were there any specific challenges, obstacles, or surprises that took place – and how do you feel about the final outcome in relation to your previous record The First from 2021?
Carvalho: The songs of our second studio album were written during 2022 and we finished the arrangements early in 2023 to start the recording sessions. I start the songs using my piano and then I get the ideas of the other members, we discuss some parts, redo some parts and when we feel the body of the song is done, we start arranging the song, mainly the orchestration and keyboard parts!
There were some surprises and changes in the band during this period. My great Marcelo Monteiro left the band and some months later two other band members left, Ricardo and Gilmar. I understood their motivation to leave the band. Having a metal band in Brazil and in all parts of the world is not easy at all! So, they were tired and decided to leave. I think it was the best thing that happened to the band, since we got new blood and will because of the new two guys Murilo Barim (Bass) and Nando Cavaccini (Guitars). The drummer remained the same. The final result is amazing and we’ve been told that the second album is way more mature and better than The First. I think that what made this feature the most obvious for this album is the mix and mastering made by bass player Benhur Lima (ex-Hibria Brazilian metal band that played in Japan twice), he got our sound!
Dead Rhetoric: You shot videos for “Don’t Wait” and “When We Die” – what can you tell us regarding the video shoots, and how do you feel about the visual medium as a form of promotion to get your music out globally through social media platforms – is it as important as the physical/digital media or playing live to promote the brand of the band?
Carvalho: Actually all the songs of the band have a music video! Or at least they will have. Some of them have not been released yet. Some videos are more incredible than others. The lyric videos are great as well, but they don’t deliver everything we want to show the listeners.
We think both things are necessary, physical media and video / digital media. There are collectors all around the globe! And believe me, a lot of them! More than this, this is a good way to return the investment the band has to do to release a new album. About the videos, mainly the new generation needs to watch. They don’t feel satisfied just listening to the song! These are our thoughts about (videos).
Dead Rhetoric: How did the band arrive on the special Queen cover for “The Show Must Go On” – what has their career and presence meant for the musicians within XFEARS?
Carvalho: To be honest I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate Queen as a band! We had some losses last year, some friends passed away. This song is special, and its lyrics are special as well talking about keep going on even after death. So, we decided to pay this tribute to our friends and also to Freddie, but we tried to put an XFEARS face on it…
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the key signature qualities that have to be in an XFEARS composition to make the final cut? How does the band balance the musicianship/technical qualities while also creating great hooks or melodies for the listeners to latch onto?
Carvalho: I think that what makes us a bit different is our background in Brazilian music! We have a lot of influence of styles that have a lot of groove! So, we tried not to be so straightforward when playing our instruments. We don’t want to sound like shredders or extremely technical, definitely! We want to create amazing melodies and lyrics that have a message for everyone.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges facing the band at this point in your career?
Carvalho: The biggest one is a lack of support for the big producers. We don’t have the space we deserve. And when I say we, I’m talking about all the bands that have great quality but are struggling in the underground scene. In Brazil it is harder than almost every other place in the world! Bands need to play to show their talents and their songs.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the state of the progressive metal movement within Brazil and on a global scale? What do you enjoy most about the style, and what changes (if any) would you like to make for the greater good and overall well-being of the movement?
Carvalho: I’m feeling this is increasing yearly, we have new great bands that are doing an excellent job! And it’s so nice to see bands coming up from scratch to become headliners at important festivals. In Brazil we have a real small progressive metal scene… so this is another reason we’ve been working so hard in promoting the band in the US, Europe and Asia.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider three of the most important progressive metal albums that shape your outlook on the genre? And what would you consider the best concert memory you have attending a show in your lifetime – plus what made that show so special to you?
Carvalho: This is an easy one to me!
Images and Words – Dream Theater
Empire – Queensryche
Moving Pictures – Rush (not a prog metal effort, but I couldn’t leave this album out of the list!)
Rush is the band of my heart! The most important concert was Rush live in Brazil for the first time in 2002.
Dead Rhetoric: What worries you most about the world that we live in currently? If you had the opportunity, energy, and unlimited funds to be able to tackle some of the problems of the world, what area(s) do you believe you would work on first to improve things?
Carvalho: For sure I would help all the homeless people. This worries me the most. A lot of people are hungry and have nothing to eat. On the other hand, people who defend politicians like cheerleaders! This is insane to me! We need to be united as one and fight for improvements. The world is so unequal. It makes me sick!
Dead Rhetoric: What hobbies, interests, or passions do you like to pursue away from music when you have the free time and energy to do so? And do you have the support from friends/family when it comes to your musical endeavors?
Carvalho: Interesting question! I love playing tennis and working out at the gym! I have a passion for traveling to new places! I want to know all the places in the world! Cooking is a good hobby to me as well! Since I’m a vegetarian person, I love creating vegetarian dishes!
Dead Rhetoric: Can you think of a pivotal or critical moment that helped shape your musical career?
Carvalho: I believe that what made me be the musician I am today was the fact that I studied my entire teenage years! I studied a lot of classical piano. And the other critical moment was the start of the pandemic, when I promised myself I would record our first album!
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for anything related to XFEARS over the next twelve months to support the record? Do the member(s) also play in other bands or side projects that you’d like to mention?
Carvalho: We’ll try to play live as much as we can! We have four concerts scheduled and we want more. So the idea is to spread our songs as much as we can! We’ll not wait too long to record another album. So I would say that by 2025 we’ll put the third studio album out.