"The Blues is like "cachaça" as we say and we like it a lot around here. I don't know exactly and I can't say for others but the Blues has something that captivates people. Maybe it's the mojo, the repetition of phrases in a verse, the identification with the stories, or the search for that story, the rhythm of the train that resembles the rhythm from the heart, the truth of each artist in the form of a song."
Hard Blues Trio: Make Love, Not War and Listen to Rock n' Blues
Hard Blues Trio is a Brazilian blues rock band. A league of resistance, HBT bets on the strength of the guitar, bass and drums triad, bringing elements and direct connections with the sound of the 1970s, while displaying the freshness of the new wave. The Brazilian group formed by Dani Ela on bass/vocals, Juliano Rosa on guitar/vocals and Alexandre Becker on drums/vocals has been one of the promoters of the style in the south of the Brazil. The band started in 2012 playing in pubs in Porto Alegre and all RS state. The current lineup was consolidated in 2016 and in 2017 released its debut album, "Pé Na Estrada", which was nominated for the Açorianos Music Award and is mentioned among the best blues rock albums of the new Brazilian scene. The trio has already been the attraction of major festivals, such as the renowned "Mississippi Delta Blues Festival" in several editions since 2017 in Caxias do Sul and Rio de Janeiro, including the most recent in Gramado-RS. (Hard Blues Trio / Photo by Ze Carlos de Andrade)
In 2022 they made their first tour in Brazil, passing through São Paulo, Paraná and Minas Gerais, where they participated in the Carrancas Blues International Festival. The single “Missed The Train” won the HDB Condecora award for best music video by União Brasileira do Blues. Hard Blues Trio has been on stage alongside big names in music, such as: Solon Fishbone (RS), Beto Saroldi (RJ), Cesar Valdomir (Argentina), Gonzalo Araya (Chile), Bob Stroger and James Boogaloo Bolden. In 2022, the group released a five-track EP titled "Faça Amor, Não Faça Guerra e Escuta Esse Rock" (Make Love, No War and Listen to This Rock).
How has the Blues and Rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
Dani: Blues and Rock are very different things for me. Since adolescence I have listened to rock n roll, metal and hard rock bands. That's where I started wanting to express myself through music and that was the style I was most identified with. Maybe because of the attitude of the bands, the costumes, or because of the heavy guitar tones. I wanted that for myself. Later, I found out where rock had come from. I learned more from the Blues than any other musical style. I learned a little about North American history and there are many similarities with the history of Brazil and how cruel men can be. I realized that the simple is not always easy and that work has to be taken seriously. I understood that the truth is fundamental to living a dignified life. That 90% of the world's songs that speak of love in its most diverse forms and a little bit of sassy doesn't hurt anyone.
Juliano: When I first started listening to rock music it became my way of life. I was just a kid and I wanted to play the guitar and learn English to understand most of the lyrics. It made me discover a whole new world and culture. Then the Blues knocked at my door and my whole world turned upside down. It was not just about the music but the social circumstances and stories behind it. It still fascinates me and moves me further to learn and understand.
Alexandre: Blues and Rock have directly influenced not only my vision of a new and rich world culturally and expressively, as it has directly influenced my playing on the drums. When I first heard the version of "I Can't Quit You Babe" (Willie Dixon) from Led Zeppelin "Coda", the type of album that comes to remember how brilliant Led Zeppelin musicians were.
When did the idea of Hard Blues Trio come about? What characterize Hard Blues Trio music philosophy?
Alexandre: Hard Blues Trio has been around for more than 10 years. I joined the band only in 2016, 7 years ago, after offering me the position of drummer at the time since the band was in need of a new drummer. Being Dani Ela, my niece and goddaughter, lead singer and bassist, it was a great pleasure to join. The "Big Boss" and great partner Juliano Rosa is the person in charge, mentor and founder of HBT. He started it all around 2012 playing the blues with other musicians and the name Hard Blues Trio already came up at that time.
Juliano: Hard Blues Trio is the mixing of the three band members' backgrounds. We wanted to be a blues band, but we didn't want to just copy the bluesmen like we see other bands do. We decided to do our own music using all the influences we have from blues to samba and so on. (Hard Blues Trio / Photo by Ze Carlos de Andrade)
"I miss the truth. Real blues is good because it talks about real life. I hope I can reach more people with my music, and I have no fear. We are playing and singing about our truth."
Why do you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following in Brazil?
Dani: The Blues is like "cachaça" as we say and we like it a lot around here. I don't know exactly and I can't say for others but the Blues has something that captivates people. Maybe it's the mojo, the repetition of phrases in a verse, the identification with the stories, or the search for that story, the rhythm of the train that resembles the rhythm from the heart, the truth of each artist in the form of a song. For us musicians the fascination with structure rules and the theory that differs from classical music. The Blues as music is a very rich form of cultural manifestation. Anyone who listens to it or practices it loves the engaging style. Those who understand the depth of what the Blues is worship the rhythm almost like a religion. Brazilian people are passionate people and some of us have the Blues as a passion.
Juliano: I think Brazil is the most growing market for Blues music today. In the last decade we have seen new bands and festivals all over the country so more and more people can learn about the music and the history. There is no escape from the Blues when it gets you.
Alexandre: The Blues is a musical style that enchants, contagious with its essence, like a spell. Every musician, especially here in Brazil with an enormous cultural diversity of styles, especially those who play with feeling, recognizes themselves with the Blues. Having then the need to seek their own sound and add their own musical signature.
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
Dani: Yes! It was in November 2017 in Caxias do Sul at the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival. Hard Blues Trio concert had special guest Gonzalo Araya on the harmonica. Memorable for me because it was my first big concert alongside an incredible harmonicist and my bandmates at such an important festival, one of the biggest Blues festivals in Latin America. Another memorable episode was when we recorded our most recent single, “Set Fire”. We prepared a lot to record this song. We worked hard on every process from conception to post-launch and I felt each of us even more united as a family and as musicians. Another memory, perhaps the most exciting, in 2019 I had the opportunity to play bass in Bob Stroger's band, who has played the bass for Muddy Waters and is considered one of the living legends of Chicago Blues.
Juliano: Oh yeah there's a lot. Once we were playing at Carrancas Blues Festival (Carrancas-MG-Brazil) and Jimmy Burns was waiting to go on stage right after us. When we left the stage, he was rigth there looking at me he said "it was you playing?", I said "yes! There was my band Hard Blues Trio", and he said "it was very good, very good!".
Juliano: Oh yeah there's a lot. Once we were playing at Carrancas Blues Festival (Carrancas-MG-Brazil) and Jimmy Burns was waiting to go on stage right after us. When we left the stage, he was right there looking at me he said "it was you playing?", I said "yes! There was my band Hard Blues Trio", and he said "it was very good, very good!".
"HBT is the mixing of the three band members' backgrounds. We wanted to be a blues band, but we didn't want to just copy the bluesmen like we see other bands do. We decided to do our own music using all the influences we have from blues to samba and so on." (Hard Blues Trio / Photo by Ze Carlos de Andrade)
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
Dani: I think it lacks creativity and authenticity. Doing what no one has done can still be a challenging task, but it is possible. I see many Blues colleagues trying to reproduce what BB, Muddy, Sonny Boy did, but that too has already been done. And if Michael Jackson, Hendrix, Miles were alive, how would contemporary music be now? Considering the moment we live in where the internet and social networks dominate the world everything needs to be fast and happen in 1 minute. This phenomenon spills over into current music. Short songs with choruses that stick in the brain and music videos like hero movies! The lyrics are easy to digest like fast food and only “fast groove”. Compared to the music of the past it's hard to predict that a song made today will become the classic of tomorrow. In a way I see the music market saturated with the same things. On the other hand I see a promising and different scenario coming from the underground which is gradually occupying more places. My hope is that record labels and companies in the industry become increasingly interested in investing in independent artists and bands like us.
Juliano: I miss the truth. Real blues is good because it talks about real life. I hope I can reach more people with my music, and I have no fear. We are playing and singing about our truth.
Alexandre: Nowadays I miss a certain sparkle, the true essence of blues and rock. Maybe a little less of concern with big productions but reaching out and touching more the souls of those who hear and see, those who will continue to listen with body and soul. I hope that is not all lost. A watershed so strong as the Blues which changed the history of music in the world.
What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?
Dani: Honestly, it's kinda exhausting having to answer that question, but I know it will still be necessary to talk about it for many years to come. Being a woman whether in music or in any other area means being resistant and an example. Simone de Beauvoir once said: “It is through gainful employment that the woman has traversed most of the distance that separated her from the male; and nothing else can guarantee her liberty in practice.”
I am aware that my figure as a female instrumentalist is very important to encourage other women and girls and show them that it is possible to be anywhere. I see it as a responsibility and a duty that I must fulfill. The song you are referring to has authorship shared with a woman, Betty Jean Newsome, and maybe that's why the lyrics were written as it is. Without Betty, the music would be different or not even exist. There is still a lot of work to be done to achieve equality, but I realize that the strength of the feminine is constantly growing. Therefore, I believe that we make a difference and as women we have the right to occupy the place we want.
"The Blues is a musical style that enchants, contagious with its essence, like a spell." (Hard Blues Trio / Photo by Ze Carlos de Andrade)
What is the impact of Blues/Rock music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?
Dani: Rock in Brazil has once again become a musical genre listened to by young people, and we know very well it is the population that dominates social media driving a certain trend. This is very good for us! I say this because we can see the younger crowd enjoying themselves going to gigs and singing along to our songs. For me it's gratifying to see the new generation enjoying the music we make. But regardless of the musical style, music involves people. It alienates but liberates. It forms groups and its teaching in public schools is essential, improves attention, organization, cognition and coordination. Music for me is a thin line between science and art. It's almost magic! It moves masses, draws crowds, music unites and heals people, it causes sensations that no other type of art causes. Music is part of being. We are what we hear.
Juliano: I think Blues/Rock has the power to bring people together and eliminate the differences. I want my music to bring joy, to make people think and try to make a better world. I think we can do it.
Alexandre: Music directly affects people and their daily lives. Certainly, our desire is that this magic, strength and energy which saves and heals never ends. The arts are part of the culture of the people where music aggregates, teaches and elevates the human condition.
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