With the Republicans dominating the elections, November was a rough month for both Karen and I...so thank goodness she turned me on to Mosquitos, a delightful trio out of New York City, who create music so beautiful, and so positive, it definitely helps you forget your troubles --- you'll dance them away with a cha-cha-cha to their breezy bossa nova beat!
Mosquitos began in 2002 with singer/guitarist Chris Root. As a member of indie-pop band AM60, Root was enjoying success in England and Japan. But he also had a yearning, formed in the womb when his mother would play Sergio Mendes' records with her belly pressed to the stereo speakers, to create Brazillian-inspired pop. Fate brought an actress/dancer from Brazil into his life: Juju Stulbach, who had arrived in New York City to pursue acting. When her Visa ran out, Root followed her home to Ipanema, where they began to write the first Mosquitos tracks. An unfortunate run-in with the Brasilian Policia sent Root back to NYC, where he took these seedling tracks to keyboardist Jon Marshall Smith. The result garnered them a record deal with Bar-None Records, and in 2003, they released their self-titled debut album to enormous accolades. While touring for this album with French electronic duo Air, the three wrote the material on the road for their 2004 release Sunshine Barrato (read the copacetic zine review from Karen here).
We were so fortunate to get a chance to interview the incredibly-lovely Juju in late November as they wrapped up a month-long central United States tour, and she proved to be just as sweet and compelling as the music of Mosquitos!
karen: In light of current events in this country, what do the people of Brazil think about all that is happening here?
juju: I'm going to Brazil in a couple of weeks and I'll have a better idea. But generally, everyone I talk to feels realy sad with the way things are going. I think there was some hope, but the outcome of the election was a big dissapointment.
karen: Will New York always be home for you?
juju: I love New York. I love Rio. I think they are my two homes.
karen: Ok, enough of the political thing! Could you tell the story of how the Mosquitos came about? (Anytime balloons are involved...it has to be kismet!)
juju: It's sort of a long story. To make it shorter: I met Chris on a film set, and yes, there were many balloons. He was helping the director, his friend, by blowing up the balloons. I was standing around, smoking, waiting for my shot and humming some Brazilian songs as usual. Apparently, Chris felt really inspired to do something he always wanted to: make some music with Brazilian elements. So he brought his idea to Jon Smith, and they cut some guitar tracks. Chris called me in Rio and asked if I'd like to write some songs with him. I thought it was a little crazy, since I wasn't a singer. He said he heard me and that he'd like to try. So I accepted, he flew down to Rio and Mosquitos was born.
karen: Your voices are distinctly different, yet blend and compliment each other so well. Did Chris know this would be the result when he went to Brazil to record with you?
juju: I don't think he knew much of what was going to happen. I think he was just really listening to a strong instinct. I love him for that.
karen: I have yet to read a negative review of "Sunshine Barato". How does it feel to be getting all of this press? Do you read every review?
juju: I read only one bad review so far. I don't read them all. I love to read what people write about us. Sometimes it feels like they know about us more than we do and that's funny. Of course it's great to know so many people like it.
karen: How are you feeling about all of the comparisons to Bebel & Astrud Gilberto and the whole bossa sound?
juju: I was a little annoyed at first. I had never even heard Astrud until I moved to the US. But I guess it is the reference that people have. They always need to compare. And I guess it is not a bad reference. I don't think my voice or our sound has much to do with Bebel's.
karen: Has it helped you to have your music on television? I know that "MTV's The Real World", "The O.C.", and Bailey's Irish Cream (great commercial, by the way) have used your music. Any other projects like this in the works?
juju: It does help. Financially and also to attract more people. I hope we continue to license songs.
karen: What has been the European response to your music? It seems as though yours would be a sound that they would go crazy for.
juju: I'd love to have our music out in Europe. I also think they would like us there. But we haven't gotten in the European marrket very much just yet.
janice: What was it like touring with Air?
juju: Great experience. Big venues, very organized. They were sweethearts.
karen: I have to say that if I am ever sad, all I have to do is watch the "Boombox" video and all of my troubles seem to float away. Do you enjoy this process? It seems like you are all very comfortable in front of the camera.
juju: I love the camera. My dad is a film director, so I'm used to it. And I think Jon and Chris are getting more and more into it, too.
janice: I wanted to ask about your paintings! How long have you been doing your art? Who (and what!) are some of your inspirations?
juju: I've been painting since very young. Colors, as music, seem to have a very important place inside me. Everything inspires. I can't really draw anything. I think it's all about shapes and colors. Very subjective. It works well as a form of therapy and letting emotions flow out.
janice: In every press picture I've seen of you, you're always wearing the cutest outfits! Can you tell us who your favorite designers are or where your favorite places to shop are?
juju: I'm completely out of touch with fashion. I couldn't even tell you anything about any designers. My mom is a costume designer and she makes a lot of my dresses. We spend time together looking at fabrics, talking about color and how it makes us feel. I love thrift shops. I like that the clothes were around places I've never been. I like when they have something to tell.
karen: Naturally, I need to ask when we can expect to see you again in Seattle?
juju: Hopefully in the beginning of 2005. I had a great time in Seattle.