INTERVIEW WITH PRIKA AMARAL BY KEVIN STEWART-PANKO
Often times in the world of extreme metal—and music in general—much gets made when a band returns after disappearing off the face of the earth from one release to the next. Whether it’s due to a hectic touring schedule, crippling writer’s block, the revolving door of membership, a litany of non-band commitments, or just needing a break, a lengthy gap between albums is something that you can always be sure will be zeroed in on upon said band’s return to the active spotlight. Hardly are the behind the scenes land speed records celebrated with as much fervor when they bloody well should be.
Imagine this scenario: one day the majority of a band’s lineup walks the proverbial plank and leaves one member standing, but within a week that remaining individual has tracked down a new crew and got the band up and running again. Within another two to three months, an album is written. A month later, that album is done and in the can. Impressive is an understatement. For those with the gall to dismiss such a Herculean feat, what if we informed you that most of the members who came to comprise said band had never met one another until actually meeting to record?
The above scenario was exactly what Nervosa guitarist Prika Amaral faced and triumphed over throughout 2020. The São Paulo based axe slinger found the Nervosa house empty when former members Fernanda Lira [bass/vocals] and Luana Dametto [drums] walked in late April. Refusing to throw the towel in, she quickly scoured the globe and recruited Spanish vocalist Diva Satanica [née Rocío Vázquez], Italian bassist Mia Wallace [ex-Abbath, Triumph of Death], and Greek drummer Eleni Nota [Lightfold, Mask of Prospero], and by the end of the summer, and against all odds, Nervosa’s fourth, latest and greatest album, Perpetual Chaos, was born.
We caught up with the tireless Amaral to talk about working with haste, how humanity continues to repeat its mistakes, and partying until your voice goes bye-bye.
Now that I’ve got your rapt attention, I can ask you a question I’ve always wanted to. Do you hold your pick with three fingers?
(laughs) Yeah, I hold the pick with three fingers, my thumb, middle, and first fingers. Sometimes, depending on what technique I’m doing, I use two fingers, but I know that I play in a weird way that’s a little bit different than normal. I just learned it that way myself.
How did this lineup come together so quickly?
I knew the vocalist, Diva Satanica, because we had played together last year in Spain. Her band, Bloodhunter, opened four or five shows for us, and I had the opportunity to see her singing and playing live. But for the other girls, I knew them through the internet and following them on Instagram. When the other girls left the band, I was thinking about them because I admired them a lot.
“THE OTHERS LEFT THE BAND ON THE 27TH OF APRIL, AND I STARTED TO TALK WITH THE NEW MEMBERS ON THE 28TH.”
Were the new members shoo-ins, or did you have an official audition process?
Oh yes, there was an audition process. For a week, I had many talks with them. We had many conversations and video calls where I talked with them to be sure they were really ready for all the activity that comes with Nervosa. Nervosa has a lot of things going on all the time, and it’s not easy to be in a band that’s working all the time.
When was all this done?
I started to talk with those girls right after the other girls left, but it all happened during the lockdown. The others left the band on the 27th of April, and I started to talk with the new members on the 28th. I announced the new lineup two weeks later. By then, they had all been members for a week.
Were you surprised at how quickly all this happened?
It was very intense, but it was very necessary because, at the time, Nervosa already had shows confirmed, promoters were worried, the label was worried, and I knew that if I took a long time I’d lose a lot of stuff I didn’t want to lose and have bad things happen to the people who work for Nervosa. So, there was no reason to wait. I worked very hard to keep things going so I wouldn’t say I was surprised.
“ALL THE MUSIC, EVERYTHING WAS WRITTEN WITH THE NEW LINEUP. NOTHING THAT’S ON THIS ALBUM WAS DONE WITH THE OLD LINEUP.”
How much of the new album was written before the new women came along?
All the music, everything was written with the new lineup. Nothing that’s on this album was done with the old lineup. One month after the new lineup was confirmed, we started to compose the songs.
Was writing the album different or difficult given not only the lockdown but also working with people in different countries?
No, this wasn’t a big problem for me because even with the lineup before we had been working with distance between us for the last four years. Each of us was living in different cities, and Brazil is huge. The drummer, for example, lived in another state that was very far from São Paulo when we composed the last album, Downfall of Mankind. To do this again with this new album was something I was already used to.
How long did it take to write Perpetual Chaos, and was there a particular point you felt you were on to something?
We needed to do everything fast, so we didn’t take a lot of time to think about anything. We started working very quickly and put the focus on these songs. I worked to keep my mind positive and away from any bad thoughts and stuff like that. I realized that things were moving in a very good direction as soon as I was able to announce the new lineup because I talked with those girls a lot, maybe too much (laughs). We did many, many video calls where we talked about everything—everything going on in our lives, all the mistakes from the past, all the things we’ve done well, what we can’t do, what we can do, and stuff like that. I knew from then that we had a very good thing happening and things were going to be good.
“THIS ENERGY FROM THE FANS PUSHED US TO CREATE A NEW ALBUM, TO PROMOTE THE NEW NERVOSA, AND TO KEEP NERVOSA UP, NOT DOWN.”
What was your intent with this album?
After the other girls left the band, I received many messages from fans all around the world asking me to not give up. So, I put it to the new girls that we had to work fast to release a new album so that we wouldn’t abandon all the fans. Everyone was very excited to see how it was going to sound, and all this energy from the fans pushed us to create a new album, to promote the new Nervosa, and to keep Nervosa up, not down. We did this with a lot of positive energy from the fans and all the support that we had.
Had you ever written an album this quickly?
No, no, no. Never this quickly (laughs). Normally, we would take anywhere from six months to a year to compose an album, but now we did the album in less than two months. But the situation was more inspiring as well. It’s so exciting, everything that’s happening with Nervosa. After we released our first single, “Guided by Evil,” we received a lot of good feedback, so this is providing us with a lot of good energy and we’re still inspired to write new songs. I’ve been working on new songs, but doing it a bit more calmly and without thinking about having to do it very quickly.
The first part of the album recording documentary shows all of you meeting in person for the first time at the airport. Was there ever any fear that this wasn’t going to happen because of travel restrictions due to Brazil being particularly hard hit by COVID?
No, because we actually recorded in Spain.
(laughs) I can see how you’d think that though. There’s a lot of sun and beaches near the studio and in the video. We actually ended up doing this a few weeks after Europe opened the borders in the summer. At the time, there were fewer than 10 deaths a day happening, so all the borders were open. I had come from Brazil to Spain a month before everyone else and stayed in quarantine and just finished up the album while staying safe. The studio was very isolated, and we didn’t really have any contact with other people except us.
“WE STAYED UP ALL NIGHT, DRANK A LOT, AND TALKED UNTIL WE LOST OUR VOICES. WE WERE VERY EXCITED”
What was that first meeting like?
Oh, it was a huge party! That day we did nothing but party! We stayed up all night, drank a lot, and talked until we lost our voices. We were very excited, even at the airport we were jumping around and singing “We Are the Champions.” Everyone was looking at us like, “What the fuck is wrong with these girls?” (laughs), but we were very happy because there was always the thought that things could change at any time and it wouldn’t happen because of the situation.
How long did it take to record the album?
It was a month. In Brazil, I have a home studio so when I was working on the songs I was recording them at the same time. So, by the time I arrived in Spain almost all of the guitars were already recorded. We recorded the drums, bass, and vocals, then I rerecorded some guitar riffs and did the solos. We did the mix and mastering there.
And you also did a couple of photo shoots for Napalm Records?
Yes, yes. We did that and we collected a lot of material. We’re releasing the documentary of the recording in four pieces on our YouTube channel and we have more stuff that we’re going to release on our social media just to give the fans something to check out because, obviously, we can’t play live yet.
“THE SAME MISTAKES ARE MADE, AND BECAUSE OF THAT WE’LL HAVE PERPETUAL CHAOS BECAUSE IT DOESN’T SEEM LIKE WE EVER LEARN FROM BEFORE.”
What’s the story behind Perpetual Chaos as the album’s title, and did you give Diva Satanica free rein on the lyrics?
Diva wrote about 50 percent of the lyrics on the album and I wrote the other 50 percent. Nervosa has a style that I really want to maintain, and she has another band and her style falls more in line with her other band, so we brought her style into the Nervosa style and mixed them. As far as the title, we’re all living in a very difficult situation with the pandemic and this brings up many feelings because I realized that human beings are committing the same mistakes and it doesn’t matter how long ago or how many years have passed, we continue to commit the same mistakes. You see it in what leaders from around the world do and say in their speeches. It doesn’t seem to matter what happens. The same mistakes are made, and because of that we’ll have perpetual chaos because it doesn’t seem like we ever learn from before.
Who’s the guest vocalist on “Rebel Soul?”
Some people have said they think it’s Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden, but it’s not (laughs). It’s actually Erik AK from Flotsam and Jetsam. He’s a huge friend of mine. We did a European tour together in 2016 and we would always run into each other on the road. I thought that this song would have been good for his style and it would be cool to have him sing it with us during this very important moment for Nervosa where we need as much support from everyone.
“WE’VE KEPT THE ESSENCE OF NERVOSA SINCE THE CREATION OF THE BAND, BUT NOW I SEE DIFFERENT INFLUENCES COMING IN”
Being the lone founding member remaining and the person who has written most of four albums worth of material, what do you hear that’s different in Nervosa now when compared to the past?
The way we compose the songs is different, and for now we’re working more like a group. I’m thinking more about how the guitars can work together with the bass or how the bass can work with the drums. Before, we were working more individually, then we would put everything together. Now, we’re creating everything together. I think we’ve kept the essence of Nervosa since the creation of the band, but now I see different influences coming in from black metal and progressive stuff, for example. That has changed Nervosa a little bit.
There have been a handful of announcements for tours scheduled. Have you firmed anything up for Nervosa with promoters and booking agents?
I’m very positive we’ll start playing live again because the vaccinations are starting. We already have a European tour confirmed for July and August and some festivals confirmed. We’re not booking anything before that because I don’t think anything will be possible. Things might not be exactly how they used to be as far as what venues and promoters have to do to keep things safe, but I think things will start happening again. We’re just waiting. We had a North American tour booked for September and October 2020, which we had to cancel, but we are looking to rebook it. We know the pandemic situation in the USA, and in Brazil, is way worse than in Europe, so we’ll probably have to wait a little bit longer to get back to North America.