Purveyors of one of the year’s most spellbinding debut albums, Portugal’s Beautify Junkyards were responsible, also, for one of the most haunting singles in the Fruits de Mer discography, coupling Nick Drake’s “From The Morning” with Os Mutantes’ “Fuga No.2” - both of which, for anyone who missed the original 45, can be found on the LP.
Alongside equally lush and lovely covers of songs by Heron, Vashti Bunyan, Roy Harper, Bridget St John, Donovan, Linda Perhacs and even Kraftwerk... “Radioactivity” as you’ve never heard it before, pastoral and pretty, washing on harmonies and slipping in exquisitely alongside the remainder of the selections.
Frontman João Branco outlines the story of the band.
GM: Tell us how Beautify Junkyards got started.
JB: Beautify Junkyards have been together since 2012. It started with a gathering of musicians from various bands with the objective of going to the countryside, to create versions of songs from some of our favorite bands/artists, and record them live in the fields with a mobile studio.
“Taking that inspiration from the British autumnal folk period, we rescued songs and ideas, and then transposed them to our own vision and interpretation. The experience went so well that rapidly it became a full time thing, more recording sessions in different field locations, absorbing each atmosphere, vegetation, wind, birds, water... all those elements became part of the process, and in the end it was essential to the result. Later, we started a post-production process where we added more spacial elements like effects, sound processors, old synths.
“What we felt when the recordings were finished was, instead of talking about our influences in interviews, we could dedicate our first album to those incredible artists who inspired us. There are a lot of bands/artists that excite us and inspire us as band.
“Being our roots on folk crossovers with other genres, we love artists like Nick Drake, Vashti Bunyan, Roy Harper but also kosmische bands like Can, Popol Vuh, Ash Ra Temple, the Brazilian tropicalia movement with the frontliners Os Mutantes, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso. Among the more recently made music, we mention bands like Broadcast, Boards of Canada and bands from the Ghostbox Label like Belbury Poly, Audio Pye Corner and Advisory Circle among many others.
GM: How easy ... or difficult... was it to get your name around?
JB: We started to play live, and to expose our music on the internet, which attracted attention from various music sites, radios and also some record labels. At the end of 2012, we were invited to recreate an original score for an animation movie from the 70s called La Planete Sauvage. It was a project where we would play the soundtrack live during the film projection, where the dialogs were preserved (the original score extracted). We presented it live at a few movie festivals across Portugal.
GM: You’ve talked about the band’s musical influences, but there is also a very cinematic feel to your music.
JB: Movie soundtracks are another major influence... The Wicker Man, A Clockwork Orange, More, Zabriskie Point....
GM: The first thing I heard by you was "From The Morning." When it comes to covers versions, is there anything particular you look for in a song that you think "that could be one of ours"?
JB: First, the process of choice is not easy; sometimes it’s more attractive to us to reveal less known songs from someone we like, but other times we like to go to the center like we went with Kraftwerk’s "Radioactivity." We like to preserve the essence of the original, but at the same time give it our personal interpretation like if the song is ours.
A prodigious writer, fierce music lover and longtime record collector, Dave Thompson is the author of over 100 books, including Goldmine’s “Standard Catalog of American Records 1950-1990, 8th Edition” as well as Goldmine’s “Record Album Price Guide 7th Edition , both of which are published via Krause Publications and are available at www.krausebooks.com