It would be wrong of me to say that O Presidente plays music from another time. That’s simply missing the point. While the band, comprised of Andrew Zingg ’13, Nathaniel Draper ’12, Tobias Butler ’13, and Thomas Yopes (UC Berkeley ’13), writes music with very particular and sometimes peculiar influences, they’re not really reaching back into the past to steal sounds. Rather, their debut album Clube De Futebol collapses the past 60 years of music history into 10 succinct songs and adds their own, very 21st century sense of humor right on top.
A quick taste of that humor: According to lead singer Zingg, the band formed around a failed student group that he and guitarist Draper attempted to start during his freshman year. Clube de Futebol, originally, was the proposal for “this club that would get SBC funds to pay for a TV and the Fox Soccer channel so we could get together with our friends and watch soccer. The Portuguese spelling was an homage to Brazil’s beautiful way of playing the game. Needless to say, SBC never agreed to give us any money. But the name stuck.” The band name, O Presidente, was a product of the same failed Clube—it was Draper’s official title, in Portuguese of course.
That’s not the last bit of Brazillian influence you’ll hear on this record. On the 50s throwback “Take My Baby,” the group sings its final verse in—you guessed it—Portuguese. You’ve got to give these guys credit for continuity. That song is notable for its American inspiration as well. Beginning with a classic slide into an upbeat surf-guitar riff, “Take My Baby” is a concise tune with easy-to-place roots.
As I’ve said, music-wise, O Presidente is all over the place, time, and space. Over 35 minutes, Clube De Futebol hops between Buddy Holly-esque rock and roll, California-style beach punk a la Wavves and Girls, and a host of others that I don’t particularly care to pin down—too much idol-finding takes away some of the credit the band should get for what in the end is their own originality. Not that you’re wrong to hear anything familiar within the album. “Our main musical influences for O Presidente,” Zingg said in an email, “are 50s/60s doo-wop/garage rock and the current garage/psych/punk revival in our native SF Bay Area.”
Among the tunes, my personal favorites are where O Presidente ramp up the specific, clever details in their lyrics and the music follows along. “Brain Chemicals” is more mid-tempo musically, but it’s one of the songs that skillfully deals with what Zingg says are “real, complicated issues like mental illness, mortality and teenage werewolves.”
“I thought psychiatrists would be more psychedelic. If you think you’re leaving here, well, you can just forget it.”
Those guitars are breezy and light, less jarring than in the jaunty album-opener “The Way Your Mama Taught You.” As the album progresses, the music becomes more subtle and refined, with the instruments more rhythmically together than at the beginning. “Bed and Sofa” begins with bass, but the unmistakable sound of a Hammond B-3 organ trades off with the guitar for prominence, and the result is the best song on the album.
Altogether, Clube De Futebol does a fantastic job of showing off O Presidente’s writing and musical skills with tunes that feel comfortable and familiar but bring a distinctly contemporary perspective on the issues of young adult life, love, and lycanthropy.
As O Presidente, Zingg and Butler will be playing some shows at Wesleyan this semester, with the help of Charlie Ellis ’13, so those of us who missed their album release party or weren’t around in previous semesters will luckily get our chance to hear these great songs live. You can find them on Facebook and Bandcamp, where their album is free to download and 99% in English.