You’d be hard pressed to find a live act in the dance scene who have more fun on stage than PPJ. The trio – vocalist Páula, and producers Povoa and Jerge – enjoyed a star-making turn at Brighton’s The Great Escape last May, and proved that they are more than capable of spreading joy. The hedonistic energy at their Patterns gig was electric: Páula shimmied tirelessly across the stage like a fitness class instructor, singing in French, Portuguese, and English. The smiles that beamed across the room elevated the set to levels far beyond your typical post-midnight rave.
While a live setting is where PPJ truly thrive (see also their recent Rinse FM set), their punchy yet personal tracks are equally full of life. Mixing baile funk and samba from Páula’s native Brazil with UK techno, bubblegum pop, electroclash and hyperpop, high-NRG synth-led groovers like ‘Dar Um’, ‘Sua Boca’ and ‘Não Sei’ have made them one of the most innovative new names around.
Last April’s ‘Bicha’, an amped-up, PC Music-meets-Eurodance banger, was the perfect introduction to their brilliant ‘Bloco Vol. 1’ EP, which was released in November. It landed two months after PPJ played an early-hours live set in SÄULE, the underbelly of notorious Berlin club Berghain.
Now, to kickstart 2024, PPJ are back with a new EP, ‘Bloco Vol. 2’ (released February 15). Full of vibrant club flavours, it’s no surprise that tastemaking selectors like HAAi and Dixon have been championing the music of PPJ in their DJ sets. Its four tracks form PPJ’s hardest and fastest offering to date: ‘Double Rainbow’ works slamming techno production into its hook; ‘Moto’ weaves revving engines and car horn noises with a sprightly kick drum; ‘Beijo’ is led by a bossa nova-flecked guitar line.
Here, NME talks to PPJ about how they formed unintentionally during lockdown, bringing more fun to the techno scene, and depicting the dark and light sides of life in Brazil.
NME: How did PPJ come to life?
Povoa: “I’ve known Jerge for 15 years. We met at music school in the north of France and we always made music together. But then I travelled for many years around Europe. Then, during the Covid-19 lockdown, we were living in the same town again. Around this time, Páula was coming back from Brazil. I had met her before but didn’t know her much. We all ended up in lockdown together at my dad’s house.
“That’s how the project started – a collaboration between three artists. We were just making music together because we were in this house. Initially, we didn’t want to make a band; it was only because everyone was getting so confused with us releasing under separate names on Spotify. Our manager convinced us that we should make one single profile, and that we should call ourselves PPJ.”
What is your creative process when making music together as PPJ?
Páula: “I had my notebook full of stories from Brazil, about carnival and other crazy stuff, then we started to write lyrics and recorded on an old piano in the house which had a really special acoustic. Jerge and Povoa would start an idea and then I would try some stuff; even if the production was upbeat, I would still put my sad story on the very happiest bit. Everything is very DIY.”
Páula, why is it important to incorporate personal stories into your songs?
Páula: “I’ve been writing ever since I was at school as a teenager. If I listen to someone and think something is interesting, or if I’ve had a crazy dream, or met a crazy guy, I have to write it down. Not necessarily to write lyrics, it’s more poems, and then turning those stories into music. It’s perfect for me. On the track ‘Renata’, for example, we sampled our friend from Brazil. I used to jam with him and he would send me voice notes.
“Sometimes, though, we are just talking about a beautiful landscape that we saw on our holidays in Rio de Janeiro, so we try to translate these exact moments into music. Our song ‘Dropi Dropa’ is about carnival and the sensation you have there. We also have songs talking about the gardener in my park; these are the little things in my life.”
How do you want to represent Brazilian culture in your music?
Páula: “I was born in the north of Brazil and used to live in Rio, but I was not living in Copacabana. When people think of Brazil, they see the traditional postcards: a wonderful woman on the beach, or playing football, or going to carnival. But I used to live very close to the favela where shotguns would go off. I was not living the dream, I was living in a bad situation with no money.
“I think we have to see the dark side of Rio de Janeiro too. And even in the dark, you have a lot of light – amazing people, music and culture. It’s important to show that it’s not all like the Brazil people think they know… but it’s a wonderful postcard.”
What has the reaction been like from your audiences at live shows?
Páula: “People have said, ‘You saved my year’ or ‘You saved my day’. Others say, ‘I haven’t danced like that for two years’. I’ve never seen anyone crying though, so that’s my new goal. Of course, we are not happy all the time…
“It’s so complicated, what we are living now. We have war, an ecological crisis, so maybe our proposition for the world is to make people dance and be happy in these sad times.”
What was it like to play the SÄULE room at Berghain in Berlin?
Páula: “It was fantastic. There were laser and chain outfits. It was quite scary, but the people were lovely and the crowd was so happy to see a live band. Our music was still techno, but positive rather than dark, so our set was a break for people. The crowd reaction was so nice, which was surprising as it was our first time in Berghain. It was amazing to be invited to play.”
Povoa: “Also, we went upstairs to Panorama Bar after our show, and the DJ was playing our music. They played the same track that we had played live earlier downstairs.”
Páula: “We felt like kings and queens. We went into the crowd and it was amazing to be so close to the people dancing and feeling our music. It was such a nice sensation, because normally we are on stage.”
How do you strike the balance between being able to play both underground clubs and outdoor festivals in the summer?
Povoa: “That’s always been the idea from the first EP – to make music that’s danceable but also really creative.”
Páula: “It’s good to feel all the emotions. We like to play with contrasts but, the club, we’ll be there forever.”
What do you love most about being in a group?
Páula: “It’s like a painting. And the three of us doing something together is what makes it fun… a bit like a playground. It feels like I’m going to play with my friends, like when you knocked on your friend’s door as a child. When we are making music together and travelling together, it’s like a crazy adventure – having a great time, making some new memories and feeling alive.”
PPJ’s new EP ‘Bloco Vol. 2’ will be released on February 15
The post Party-starters PPJ refuse to be bound by geography or genre appeared first on NME.
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