“There will be born / A new tomorrow / For us to wake up / And dance”, he sings Francisco Gil or the “Fran”.
It’s a few minutes after 9pm. The lights come on at the Paulo Autran Theater in SESC Pinheiros in São Paulo, to reveal Fran at the center of the stage, with João and José Gil side by side.
After experiencing a sudden rise in popularity during the pandemic, but spending most of this success stuck to virtual interactions, the Gilsons – a trio made up of a son and two grandchildren of Gilberto Gil – little by little they begin to know the fans who accumulated during the worst phase of the Covid-19 .
On Spotify alone, the total number of music streams jumped from 2 million to 206 million between the pre-pandemic moment and the current one.
The first verses sung in the show are from “Pra Gente Acordar”, the song that opens and also names the trio’s debut album.
The song, which sings of the hope of a tomorrow “when nothing can hurt us”, was not exactly written for the pandemic. But the interpretation came in handy over time and gave strength to the song.
In a dressing room at SESC Pinheiros, a few minutes before going on stage, Fran and José talked to the CNN about Gilsons’ trajectory, the release cycle of the album “Pra Gente Acordar”, the recognition that the project gained throughout the pandemic and the current moment of the band.
From the summers in Bahia to the bar in Gávea
Even though Gilsons, as a musical project in itself, only emerged in 2018, the first musical interactions between the three began in childhood.
The photo that illustrated the band’s first release, the EP “Várias Queixas”, from 2019, “sums up that time well”, said José Gil, who is the youngest son of “Seu Gilberto”, as they call him.
The cover shows the three of them, still children, playing with each other as if they were putting on a show, at the Gil family’s country house in Araras, Petrópolis neighborhood, in the Rio de Janeiro mountains.
“We also had long vacation periods at the time. I went to Salvador in November and stayed until the end of February. And already a lot relating to music, because of Carnival. I sell the batteries, the afro blocks, also the axé blocks, the electric trio. All that brought us closer to the musical world”, says José.
“We had many instruments at home. So since we were little, we used to play, always in the child’s imagination, that thing of playing on stage, putting on a show, putting on a show for the family”, he adds.
A few decades later, in 2014, the three finally formed their first band together. With other friends, the group “Sinara” emerged. “It was kind of a pop rock thing, with a lot of reggae aspect, a little afoxé thing”, recalls Fran.
Four years later, José was invited by cultural producer Luciano Strazzer to perform at a bar in Gávea, on the south side of the Rio de Janeiro capital. He recalls that the show would be part of a series of performances at the venue that brought together artists.
“There was Tom Veloso with Zé Ibarra, Dora Morelenbaum and Julia Mestre, some very nice meetings. And I didn’t have a repertoire to do a show alone, so I said: ‘Gee, I’ll call Fran to share’. It ended up that, in rehearsals, we ended up calling João”, said José.
“Because the two of us also didn’t have a repertoire for an entire show. [Risos] It was calling people to form an hour and a half of show”, joked Fran.
The performance at Dumont Arte Bar took place in April 2018, with the three singing and playing guitars. There, the version of “Várias Queixas” by Olodum appeared, which would become one of their biggest hits in the future, in addition to the authorial “Love Love”.
“From this show, the interest of the crowd in “Várias Queixas” arose. We felt that the music could have a life outside of this show”, said José.
He explains that the cultural producer Andrea Franco, who is now the band’s manager, came up with the idea of recording a first EP and “put the load” as soon as the presentation ended.
In fact, the first show was barely over, and the project already had a name. The idea came from Fran’s mother, the singer Preta Gil .
“It was a family gang at the show. Then people sending videos in the family group and such. My mother already said: ‘It’s Gilsons.’ [Risos] We left the stage and the family’s petition was already there”, recalled Fran. “We thought it was strange, but by the second show we were already Gilsons”, she added.
Finally, in November 2019, the EP “Várias Queixas” is released. In addition to “Várias Queixas” and “Love Love”, which had already been tested and approved since the first show, the release also included three other authorships.
“So, there will be a show / When everything passes”
In early 2020, the band began to see an expansion of its success, but was surprised, like the entire cultural sector, with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. All shows already scheduled had to be cancelled.
“It’s just that we reformed. We managed to find a way to work,” Fran explained. According to them, the band found in partnerships with other artists a way to “strengthen”.
While the pandemic was at its worst, until mid-2021, they only released songs in collaboration with other singers and bands in the scene. There were five singles in all.
One of the first partnerships was with the singer of the band Bala Desire, Julia Mestre, which resulted in the song “Índia”, released in October 2020. However, the group’s productions with the carioca songwriter go much further.
Present in the audience of the show at SESC Pinheiros, Julia was mentioned a few times by the boys on stage when they introduced the song. She even wrote “Pra Gente Acordar” together with Fran, still in 2019, and shares other compositions with João and José as well.
The last “feat” released before the album was “Algum Ritmo”, with the Curitiba-based band Jovem Dionísio. Both the lyrics – which sings “So, there will be a show / When everything passes” – and the production of the song, reflect the impacts of social distancing forced by Covid-19.
“We recorded the entire song remotely and filmed the entire clip that way too. We just got to know them [os integrantes da Jovem Dionísio] later,” said Fran.
It was during this period of isolation that the band gained a captive place in the playlists of the so-called “Nova MPB”. Before the pandemic, the group recorded a total of 2 million streams on Spotify and 2.5 million views on YouTube. Those numbers jumped to 206 million and 67 million, respectively.
According to Google Trends data, the first spike in interest and searches for “Gilsons” happened in the week of September 13-19, 2020.
It was this week that the São Paulo festival Coala Festival organized a virtual edition, in which the Gilsons performed alongside “Seu Gilberto”.
The band reached similar search rates again in early March 2022, when the band’s first in-person shows were performed.
The album “Pra Gente Acordar” was also born from the pandemic moment. The first Gilsons album took shape in 2021, when the trio decided to isolate themselves at the family’s farm in Araras – the same as the cover of the “Várias Queixas” EP, photographed decades earlier.
“We thought the safest way to do this process would be for us to get together and isolate ourselves. And it was an excellent path that we ended up being forced to take by the pandemic”, explained José.
It was about 10 days at the country house, where the first song composed by the three was written – “Vem de Lá”. Fran explained that the record gave them a new opportunity to reassert the band’s identity.
Part of a family so marked in Brazilian cultural memory, José and Fran said that the surname never represented a form of pressure on the group.
“We always had a lot of willpower to make our sound, which naturally drinks from different sources. We had the privilege of having many musicians, artists, composers around”, said Fran, “and there was always a great incentive for individuality.”
The choice not to include the feats on the album was part of this reassertion process. “It all comes from the three of us. The record says it all about us.”
The first face-to-face meeting
Released on February 2, 2022, “Pra Gente Acordar” marks the return of the Gilsons to the stage.
The album tour began in March. Three sold-out performances – two at Cine Joia, in São Paulo, and another at Circo Voador, in Rio. They have dates scheduled for Brazil until at least August.
In the first interaction with the public at the SESC Pinheiros show, José talked about how good it was to meet and see up close the faces of these “friends who met us during the pandemic”.
In the interview with CNN , he said that he considers this situation “surreal”. “It’s really amazing to look into the eyes of these people who met us on the internet,” he said.
The show at SESC Pinheiros ended with a sequence of tributes to the roots of the Gil family, and a quick trip from Rio de Janeiro to Bahia. The three spoke several times about the importance of Bahia, family summers and Afro blocks for the formation of their identity.
The trio from Rio “couldn’t say goodbye without first playing a samba”, as they pointed out. “Eu e você semper”, by Jorge Aragão and “Alguém me warned”, by Dona Ivone Lara made the band samba on stage.
Finally, a tribute to the Salvadoran family patriarch: “Palco”, from the album “Luar (A Gente Quase Ver o Luar)”, released by Gil in 1981.
Inviting the audience to “drive the hell away to another place”, the Gilsons end the meeting and leave the stage – finally, with the feeling of having got to know the friends made during the pandemic up close.
Source: CNN Brasil