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That Time a Stock Photo Connected Us to the Hardest-Working Band in Brazil

Photograph by Paula Viana.

Here’s one. On July 27, we ran this article.

That piece was originally published with a header image that I obtained from a royalty-free stock photography site, and, as you can see below, for an article that seeks to help bands identify potentially ill-fitting band members when recruiting, it’s kinda the perfect photo.

Look at that sinister grin on the bass player’s face! There’s just something a bit “off” here, even though it’s actually a pretty compelling photo in a lot of ways. And then, somehow, through the cloudy magic of the internet, this actual band saw the article and themselves in this image and got super confused.

Not only had this photographer never really cleared the use of this shot with the band (imagine stumbling across a photo of yourself being used in a random article!), but the sheer coincidence of the subject matter perfectly matching their situation took them completely by surprise! This band has had a long string of complications with ill-fitting ex-members, many highlighted verbatim in the article.

So they reached out to us to ask how the heck did we know about all that stuff?!?!

Well, we obviously had no idea — this was simply the greatest coincidence of all time here at Soundfly. But I wanted to learn more about these guys. Who are they?

They are Them Old Crap, and they’re apparently the hardest-working band in Brazil.

“We started playing on the streets, and we managed to pay for our first album entirely with money from those performances. It’s really expensive to record here in Brazil, but we made our own way with lots of work, playing at least three hours everyday. Eventually, we financed our first tour doing the same thing — playing a lot in the streets and doing small shows.”

At some point, the band decided to try to tour across Europe with the same DIY hustle mentality they’d developed back home.

“We managed to book 50 shows there, some big festivals, some small clubs, and also playing on the street there, a little bit. By now, we’ve already done three tours out in Europe and something like 500 shows in Brazil, although we don’t play on the street anymore… We just released our second álbum, and lots of great things are starting to happen internationally for us. We play a kind of bluegrass style, which is really different from most of what comes out of Brazil. It all starts with a dream and lots and lots of work!”

We chatted for a bit (the full conversation is below), but it took no time to recognize in this band the perspective that I, personally, share: smart, pavement-hitting hustle and a DIY sense of preferring to cover your own bases can take you wherever you want to go. That’s at least part of the greater takeaway of my Touring on a Shoestring course — you have all the tools you need to tour successfully, you just need to know what those tools are and how to work with them.

Them Old Crap is Lucas Oliveira (guitars), Eduardo Ribeiro (banjo and lead vocals), and Marlon Apolinario (upright bass). Here’s my full, insightful conversation with Lucas about using the street to rehearse new music, navigating their local scene in southern Brazil, and how you shouldn’t be afraid to listen to every style of music you can get your hands on!

Well, this is a really funny situation! How did you find out about Flypaper using a photo of your band? Was this the first time you’ve seen this picture used online before?

A friend of mine, Henry Berger, from S.S.WEB (a band from the US), saw the picture and sent the article to us. He was like, “Is that you guys?” Haha. It was the first time we saw that particular picture. And in an article that was not about us, like some review of a show, CD, or festival.

You’re pictured performing on the street. Do you do that often? Is it enjoyable for you guys to perform on the street?

In the beginning, we used to perform very often on the streets. We did that as our rehearsal time at first, but then we saw that this was actually an opportunity to spread the music to many different kinds of people who maybe would never go to an underground club to see us perform. So, yes, it´s really enjoyable to do that. In the last few months, we didn’t make any “street concerts”; we actually decided to give ourselves a little vacation since we’ve now been playing for three years on long tours, and it is exhausting. At some point, you gotta give yourself a little break.

Can you describe your style of music?

Them Old Crap has a base in the American bluegrass style, but this is not where it ends. We don’t come from any “school” of music specifically. Eduardo likes post-punk, new wave, hard rock, emocore, pop music, gypsy music, and others. And I (Lucas) like Brazilian music in general, MPB, Brazilian jazz, chorinho, but also punk rock, hardcore, blues, reggae, etc. So we are both eclectic people. We just like good, original music in general.

Then we found bluegrass (or the bluegrass found us!), and we just fell in love. It is a style that demands a lot from the musician because it’s acoustic, so you don’t have any help from effects or amplifiers, and you can play it everywhere. So, our style is a new way of presenting bluegrass mixed with all of our other influences. Eduardo made up the term “Undergrass” to describe our style. I guess you really have to listen to understand!

Is there a good music scene in southern Brazil?

I live in Londrina and Eduardo lives in Curitiba. Both cities are in Parana State. Both cities have great scenes, both underground and mainstream, with lots of places that you can enjoy live music. In Londrina, we have right now something like over a hundred bands in all different styles. Our state also has a kind of tradition in country, bluegrass, and “Brazilian hillbilly” styles.

What have you learned about the music industry over the course of your career that you’d like to share with us?

I think the biggest lesson is [try] to make your own music. If you try to sound like somebody else, it is never gonna be as interesting. It is a hard job, but when you find yourself doing your own thing, people singing your songs, and being respected for who you are, that’s the biggest gift you’ll ever receive. Music is hard work — lots of deception, frustration, nights without sleep. So you gotta be tough and keep on doing your work, no matter what. Another thing is that you have to treat music like a “normal” job. Respect the time, respect your “co-workers,” do the best you can. If you don´t think that way, you’ll never get anywhere.

What drives you to keep making music?

Music is what completes me. It’s where I feel like doing something that’s really worth my time, something that I’m good at it. It is hard to be a musician, but when you love it, it is a lot easier.

What’s the best piece of advice you have for young artists?

Be yourself, and don’t try to sound like anyone else, but also respect others and listen to everything. You would be amazed at how many beautiful things there are out there, and we just don’t pay attention to so much of it. And, again, treat your music career like it’s a job. It is fun (of course), but it is a job. So you have a schedule: an hour to arrive, an hour to go, people who you will have to set up meetings with, etc. See yourself as a professional before other people start to demand that from you.

Take the next steps towards better time and resource management of your career with Soundfly’s curated Hustle series of articles and popular online course offerings on topics like booking and managing a tour yourselfband leadership, identifying and collecting all of your royalties, and crowdfunding your next music project.

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Jeremy Young

Jeremy is a music business guru and loves giving advice to young, emerging bands on how to make their tours more effective. He also plays guitar, publishes audiobooks, runs a record label, and is an artist working in sound media. He has performed and released material throughout Europe, Asia, the US, UK and Canada, mostly with his trio Sontag Shogun.