What’s in a name? When it concerns the true pioneers of Brazilian psychedelic rock, the answer is just about everything. Os Mutantes are much more, in fact, than “the mutants” of São Paulo's late ’60s Tropicália scene; since their founding in 1966 by brothers Arnaldo Baptista and Sérgio Dias with singer Rita Lee, they’ve pursued evolution, revolution, musical activism and extreme experimentation at every bend in the road. They’ve also weathered lineup changes, near-death tragedy, break-ups, years of silence, bumpy reunions and tiring but triumphant world tours, often fueled (in the early days, to be sure) by all manner of hallucinogens. And these are just the broad strokes.
Even if the band had never made another album—and they almost didn’t—after 1974’s prog-rock obscurity Tudo Foi Feito Pelo Sol (“Everything Was Made by the Sun”), there’s little doubt that the likes of Kurt Cobain, David Byrne, Beck, Devendra Banhart, the Flaming Lips and many more still would have felt the Mutantes’ influence. Their appeal resides in the ranginess of their music, and to this day, it’s an ever-morphing aesthetic that Dias—now as de facto frontman, lead guitarist and guiding creative force—continues to develop with the latest incarnation of the band.
“I feel like I’m finally achieving what I wanted, which is basically to have the entire band writing together,” he says, referring to the way the majority of Fool Metal Jack—Os Mutantes’ ninth studio album, and their first to be recorded almost entirely in English—came to fruition. “We got into a ping-pong way of writing that was very much like improvisation. That’s why most of the parts on the album are first takes. There comes a point in your life, especially when you’re deep into music, that you know when you’re ready. You know what to do, so you just go and do it. There’s no matter of perfection or thinking about it. I don’t work like that. I go for the spontaneity. Then when it’s time to tour, I have trouble trying to figure out what the hell I did [laughs].”
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