Boogarins is a psychedelic rock quartet from Brazil — Ynaiã Benthroldo (drums), Raphael Vaz (bass, synth), Dinho Almeida (vocals, rhythm guitar), and Benke Ferraz (lead guitar, vocals).
Photo by Patrícia-Soransso

Benke Ferraz discusses the Brazilian psych-rock band’s insane tonal recipes and the very different playing styles between himself and co-guitarist Dinho Almeida.

The mind-altering sound of 1960s rock is as inseparable from the decade as the swirling, colorful imagery that often accompanied it. With bands like the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, and even Jimi Hendrix taking sonic (and chemical) experimentation to new heights, the air was abuzz with swirling effects, fuzzed-out electric guitars, melodic bass lines, and enveloping reverb washes.

The psychedelic scene spread far beyond San Francisco and London, of course. In fact, Brazil also embraced their own version of the fashion, culture, and sound of the ’60s. It was known as Tropicália, and it continues today in the hands of Brazilian psychedelic rock quartet Boogarins (pronounced boog-ah-reens).

Though the band doesn’t embrace any scene’s limitations, no one embodies the sound and aesthetic of today’s Tropicália better than Benke Ferraz (lead guitar and vocals), Dinho Almeida (guitar and vocals), Raphael Vaz (bass), and Ynaiã Benthroldo (drums). Not only do they hold true to the genre’s cornerstone spacey characteristics, but they continue to experiment and evolve with electronic flourishes, forward-thinking studio techniques, and getting more out of a handful of stompboxes than most can pull from a rack of synths.

Boogarins got their start when Ferraz and Almeida met as a couple of school kids who cared more about writing songs than being in class. Inspired by each other’s passion and talent, the two formed a musical bond that followed them to college, where Almeida’s knack for catchy composition and Ferraz’s interest for the more technical aspects of guitar blossomed into the genesis of the band and their debut album, As Plantas Que Curam.

Straight out of the gate, the Boogarins sound was realized. And the unique, intense way Almeida’s fingers attack his strings and Ferraz’s ability to inject each song with just the right amount of melodic movement is at the epicenter of it all. Though their personal playing styles couldn’t be any more different, the combination has created a sonic experience that has garnered the band Latin Grammy nominations, had their music voted among the top Brazilian albums, and earned them spots on some of the world’s biggest stages.

With the nominations and three albums under their belt, it was time for Boogarins to focus on record number four, Sombrou Dúvida. From the warped guitar tones that introduce the opening track, it’s clear that the listener is in for the carefully crafted pop, expansive experimentation, and vintage-inspired vibes that have come to define the band’s sound. But upon closer investigation, this albumbreathes with a higher level of spaciousness than their earlier recordings. With such varied playing styles, unique guitar tones, and a vintage rock ’n’ roll feel, Sombrou Dúvida is a real treat for any guitarist willing to take a journey.

“We’re not purists about structure, tones, or effects, as long as the feel of the song is effective. So I don’t mind messing up my guitar tones with plug-ins. Then I just go insane with other effects live.”

And that’s exactly why Premier Guitar reached out to Ferraz. Recovering at home in Brazil from his time in Austin for SXSW, he was excited to speak about the heavy influence of David Gilmour and why the studio and stage are completely different canvases for his band to paint on.

The roots of Boogarins go back to when you were quite young. Tell me more about how the band started and how you and Dinho began writing together.

Benke Ferraz: Me and Dinho went to high school together. That’s where we met. We would sit down and play acoustic guitar during our breaks between classes. We’d even skip some [laughs]. He already had a band where he sang and wrote, called Ultravespa. It was kind of ’60s-sounding. It was influenced by Brazilian mod sounds, early Beatles, and the Who. So that was pretty much his style at that time. He wrote short, major-key songs.

I was more of a “guitar magazine” kind of kid by that time. But the fact he could write his songs in Portuguese, and the fact that they were simple and cool, really empowered and inspired me to do the same. So we started writing some of the songs that would eventually end up on the first album. It was the combination of his catchy hooks and the way my more technical skills brought in different harmonies and riffs.

But the band started after high school, during first year of college. I was already adventuring into recording my own stuff. So we decided to give it a shot and record the songs we wrote back in high school.

Boogarins chose Austin, Texas, as the setting to record their fourth LP, Sombrou Dúvida. The Latin rockers self-produce their studio music, but for the first time they enlisted the help of a pro engineer, Tim Gerron.

Did you already have a clear idea of the sound you were after? Or was it more of an outcome of your two different writing and playing styles?
We were really inspired by this Brazilian songwriter from the ’90s named Júpiter Maçã [aka Jupiter Apple]. He had this early Pink Floyd, late-Beatles vibe to his early stuff. But the production style was crazy. That’s the kind of sound we had in mind.

We were always talking more about sounds than songwriting style. Usually, we were looking for riffs that could be played over and over with increasing and decreasing dynamics. And everything was created on acoustic guitars and played like that for years until we felt we could record them.

But when I found ’90s and ’00s stoner/blues bands that had distorted recordings, cool riffs and melodies, and the vocals buried in the mix with effects, I felt that I could try to record on my own. I tracked some drums and things started from that.

I hear everything from psychedelic- to surf-rock, as well as some distinctly Latin influences in your guitar parts. Who influenced the band’s vintage-vibe and varied style?
Dinho has a style that comes from this mod background. But that’s always developing into this crazy orchestrated thing that comes from his intense nylon-guitar playing. He doesn’t use guitar picks even when playing electric. I guess his biggest influences, in terms of guitar players, would be Pete Townshend and Paul Weller. But he’s gone way beyond those early influences. I can’t really define his style. I guess he can’t either.

Unlike Dinho, I wasn’t self-taught. I had a lot of music theory background and some guitar teachers. At some point I aimed at being a virtuoso kind of guitar player. But then more of my attention got caught up into songwriting and creating sonic atmospheres. David Gilmour became my biggest reference because of the way he only plays the right notes and is fast only when needed. Then Omar Rodríguez-López later inspired my use of delays.

The band has four previous albums, and there’s definitely a sonic thread through them all. What sets Sombrou Dúvida apart?
Bigger sounds. For the first time, we went to a modern studio with high-end gear. And we had a pro engineer working his ways through our production style.

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