Interview composed by Stu Hood - July 2006
Seeing as how I haven't done any interviews for SHZine in the past two years, I recently decided to interview one of the few new bands today that interests me, Judith and Holofernes. Their Dairymen & Festa Queens album was one of my top picks for 2004, and they continue to be one of my favourite groups that don't seem to be too well known- a perfect criteria for an interview. Using my usual highly professional technique of sending a list of questions over email, vocalist Dos Da Rosa responded to my inquiries.
How did you come to incorporate the Portuguese 'fado' style into your music?
Your style includes deep and sorrowful lyrics, yet the music is quite emotionally neutral or even upbeat. Is this from your Fado influence or from your indie influence?
Fado is a style of Portuguese folk music that is deeply sad, melancholic and often evokes feelings of sorrow, futility, and longing, or what the Portuguese would call, "saudade." We all grew up in California's Central Valley, surrounded by Portuguese culture. My parents are also Portuguese immigrants so I spent a lot of time as a kid listening to old fado records and radio broadcasts.
Four years ago, I visited the "old country" as a kind of pilgrimage and reacquainted myself with a number of things, including fado. Mitch, Mark, and I had been playing music together long before this and had wanted to get something going again. I guess the timing was just right to blend our indie rock "stylings" with our renewed love for fado.
Your upcoming release is entitled 'Abraça a Tristeza', I looked that phrase up in a Portuguese translator and got 'It hugs the sadness'. Is this an accurate translation? Are there any differences on the new work compared to your earlier stuff?
The tone of our lyrics comes from both indie and fado alike. All of us have always been into sad music: The Cure, Pedro the Lion, Jealous Sound, Jawbreaker, etc. Fado falls right in line with that: Amalia Rodrigues, Lucilia do Carmo, Mariza, etc. The more tragic the content, the more attracted we are to it.
The name "Judith and Holofernes" seems to come from a Biblical story about one of King Nebuchadnezzar's generals, Holofernes, who was befriended and then beheaded by a Jewish widow, Judith. Why did you choose this as your name?
'Abraça a Tristeza' means embrace the sadness. Close enough. (Third person verb conjugation is always a little tricky when it comes to commands.) This new record will likely come across as a body of work that is more comfortable in its own skin than previous releases. We recorded most of it ourselves and had a better idea of what we were going for and how to achieve it.
Those that helped us on the record were also pretty familiar with us and that helped a great deal. (The vocals were recorded and the album mixed by Nigel Pavao; Darin Dahlinger took care of mastering.) There is also an element of self-realization with this record. Instead of being neck deep in the muck, we're standing back, understanding and taking it for what it's worth. The album title is meant to imply acceptance and understanding, not necessarily despair or submission.
What sort of bands did the members of Judith and Holofernes play in before getting together?
The story is pretty powerful with elements of desperation and realism that are fitting to our music, but there are more layers of relevance for us. This incredible adversarial allusion, man versus woman, fits in with some of our lyrical content. It is unfortunate but we have all been hurt and done quite a bit of hurting ourselves for one reason or another.
We also look at the narrative less introspectively and compare it to two schools of fado, Lisbon and Coimbra. People are probably sick of hearing us talk about this but there is a significant difference in the styles of fado between these two cities. Lisbon-style is more passionate and sung by working class people, the bar crowds, the down and out. Coimbra, on the other hand, is more restrained and scholarly, sung by doctors and students, and women are discouraged from singing it. We often liken the situation to that of Judith beheading Holofernes. In reality, no such rivalry exists between the two cities but we've maintained our loyalty to Lisbon fado and a "boycott" of all things Coimbra.
Are there any big tour plans in the making?
Before J&H, Mark, Mitch, and I were all in indie rock bands: Plasticats, Elementary, Homecoming, Pal... This band, though, is probably the one of which we are all most proud. It represents a lot for us in terms of our maturity as song writers and is a sort of debut for Tracy. She'd never been in a band before this (aside from some embarrassing experiences in our hometown that she would prefer I not mention) and surprised us with a voice she somehow managed to keep hidden from us.
We are actually about to start on East Coast tour. We head out August 4th for Connecticut and plan to visit Pittsburgh, Cambridge, Philadelphia, and New York. More details should be available soon on the live page of our website www.fadocore.com.