"I've sold records all over the world, and I've never seen a penny from record sales," guitarist and vocalist Chris Root says. "'Boombox' was licensed to a bunch of commercials and what it afforded us to do was tour, make a new record, pay our rent. We got offered to do one for Hummer and that seemed too far out for us, but we'll go pretty far to keep the career going."
The band's second album, Sunshine Barrato (Bar/None), just came out, and Root is at home in New York City tending to last minute business like phone interviews and buying socks -- "You get time to clean them once every 10 days," he says -- before heading out on tour.
Sunshine Barrato maintains the airy, pop sensibility of the first album, but its Brazilian roots are less obvious this time around. That's not because they're absent, but as Root points out, there's more to Brazilian music than sambas and bossa novas.
"We're not doing 'The Girl From Ipanema' or stuff that's really obviously bossa nova," he says. "If you dig a little deeper into Brazilian music, you're going to find a lot of that is influenced. 'Avocado' (a song from the new album), the rhythm is from the northeast of Brazil. It's pop chord changes because those are the chord changes I know. It's just as influenced, it's just a little more obscure."
Though the band has become students of Brazilian music, Root's American pop background affects the sound a lot. "If you handed [our records] to anyone who's a true bossa nova -- whatever -- they'd be like, 'This isn't bossa nova,'" he says. "Bossa nova's pretty complex chords and I know, like D, G, C, F. When I go to make a song that's influenced by bossa nova, it's really basically influenced by the rhythm or something that's not so technical to me."
The new album is also different from the first because it's more of a band effort. "The first record was an idea I had in my head I convinced everybody into doing," Root says. "My initial reason for getting Juju (Stulbach, the band's Brazilian singer) involved was because I thought she was pretty and had a crush on her."
Though Root's musical education was in punk bands and underground rock, he admits when he started writing, he wanted to make the sort of pretty music Mosquitos writes. "My initial goal was to not play for a bunch of sweaty dudes anymore," he says, "so if I'm going to write songs, I'm going to write songs that I think girls will like. My initial goal was to have the audience filled with girls liking the music."
Sony/Legacy has just released three new live albums, the most interesting being Soul Asylum's After the Flood: Live at the Grand Forks Prom June 28, 1997. The show was the result of unusual circumstances -- a flood devastated South Forks, S.D. -- and the show is the live set Soul Asylum fans have waited for. The set mixes the band's originals with a typically eccentric handful of covers including a version of Alice Cooper's "School's Out" with a chillingly dangerous guitar sound. Throughout, it also reminds listeners what a great rock 'n' roll front man that New Orleanian Dave Pirner is, radiating larger-than-life emotions while seeming completely real. The album, along with live albums from Toad the Wet Sprocket and Living Colour, will be in stores in January, but the three are on sale now online at www.livefromthevaults.com.
There's a grand tradition of answer songs, from the Pearlettes' "Duchess of Earl" -- answering Gene Chandler's "Duke of Earl" -- to Boogie Down Production's "The Bridge Is Over," answering MC Shan's "The Bridge," and The Real Roxanne's eponymous answer to U.T.F.O.'s "Roxanne, Roxanne." Nivea's "You Like It Like That" continues in that vein, rewriting Juvenile's "Slow Motion" from a female point of view. Does it say something about commercial rap that her point of view isn't all that different from Juvie's, though? It's good that she's sufficiently empowered to own her sexual desires, but when she says she wants to "sit in your face and I can bounce it while I'm stripping," it's hard not to wonder if there's something unpleasantly calculated in the way her fantasy mirrors the male fantasies reflected in so many rap videos.