Lush, philosophical folk in the tradition of the Tropicália greats – Tim Bernardes talks about his latest album Mil Coisas Invisíveis, in our OCTOBER 2022 issue of Uncut, available to buy here.
“The thing about the Tropicália movement in the ’60s and ’70s is they would bring all the influences from the world of music and mix it in a Brazilian way. I wanted to make something that would bring some of those elements back and connect it with music in the moment. I feel that people are getting the connection.” So says Tim Bernardes, the 31-year-old São Paulo singer whose lush, metaphysical folk is making waves far beyond his homeland, where he’s something of an indie star (“I get recognised in certain neighbourhoods”). When we speak, Bernardes is in New York, halfway through his first US tour, opening for Fleet Foxes as the guest of Robin Pecknold, who also invited him to sing on “Going-To-The-Sun Road” on their recent album Shore.
Wearing shades and with a silver chain dangling over a white vest, Bernardes looks every inch the boho beatnik on Zoom as he does on the cover of his enchanting second album Mil Coisas Invisíveis – A Thousand Invisible Pieces – released online in June and available physically next month. It’s a rich meander through the psyche of an unnaturally gifted performer whose poetic ruminations on love, life, truth and beauty give his svelte chamber-pop a wryly existential quality. On “Meus 26” he compares his spirit to the geography of his country – “I saw my inner map in the external map of Brazil, a philosophical reflection,” he says – while “A Balada De Tim Bernardes” is a joyous hymn to overthinking, where Caetano Veloso meets Paul McCartney.
The record took shape during lockdown in São Paulo when Bernardes was forced to stop touring with his band of 10 years, O Terno, a popular psych-rock trio started with a schoolfriend. “I was writing stuff that was more abstract and loose than things I’ve written before,” he says of the Mil Coisas Invisíveis material. “But if you want to see the profoundness in it, you can find it. I don’t like hard music or super-erudite stuff.”
He spent 2021 working in his home studio and adding strings and brass with other players at Estudio Canoa, where he recorded his solo debut, 2017’s Recomeçar (which was nominated for a Latin Grammy for best Portuguese language alternative album). “I was going to this professional studio, then coming back to my home studio, so the album was done in these two environments, between the very inner self and the outside world.”
Bernardes was raised in a musical household. His father was in the experimental new wave act Os Mulheres Negras, who put out a couple of LPs on Warners in the late ’80s, and his mother is a teacher and therapist. They’d listen to “the classics” of Brazilian pop – Os Mutantes, Tom Zé, Veloso – and noticed their son enjoyed the music too, enrolling him in classes and supporting him as he mastered guitar, bass, piano and drums. He learnt to record at home on his father’s equipment. While Bernardes is plugged in to contemporary sounds, raving about Dirty Projectors and Mac DeMarco, it is the music of the ’60s and ’70s that resonates most strongly with this self-confessed Beatles nut. “I like the idea that you got to create your own sound, your own thing, during that time,” he says. “Discovering that kind of pop culture is profound. It’s a multi-phased expression of a subjective feeling and it influences everything I do in my life.”
Mil Coisas Invisíveis is out now digitally on Psychic Hotline; physical editions follow on September 9.