FEATURES Um Quarto (¼) and the Resurgence of Brazilian Emo By Richard Villegas · January 23, 2024

“When well utilized, Portuguese can be very efficient for expressing emo’s spectrum of emotions,” says Luis Bernardo, drummer and co-vocalist of rising Brazilian trio Um Quarto (¼). On their cathartic debut De Nossas Vidas, the Rio de Janeiro natives untangle the heartstrings deep within their chests. The slacker-rock riffs of “Mergulha” frame an urgent tale of empathy and perseverance, while the jittery “Férias” unspools anxieties about an uncertain future over buzzing guitars and crashing drums. Later, the monumental wall of sound of “Um Novo Par de Pulmões” (“A New Pair of Lungs”) acts as the record’s emotional apex, booming with harmonized wails and a mantra-like reminder to keep breathing despite heaviness in the air.

“I was raised in Florida so I actually write a lot in English,” says Bernardo, notably on parallel emo-folk project milk & honey, “but Portuguese is a very emotional language that captures love and anguish beautifully. As we worked on the album, we focused on the people around us and a sense of saudade, so it’s an intense record with a warm sound.”

Brazilian emo is hardly a new phenomenon. While Anglo emo flourished on platforms like MySpace, and later Facebook, in Brazil, the screeching guitars and mighty hooks of Polara, umnavio, and Jennifer Lo-Fi found a launching pad on now-defunct social site Orkut. Independent music blog Trama Virtual canonized this new homegrown underground culture, while South American scene kids forged and popularized colorful countercultural aesthetics on the photo-sharing social network Fotolog.

Over a decade later, a new class of bands is reimagining classic emo codes with blasts of shoegaze, dream pop, and math rock, as shown by records from Quarto Vazio, ana paia, Mitocôndria, Contando Bicicletas, and the rosters at Big Cry Records and Bichano Records. And yet, the internet remains integral to the story.

“The Brazilian emo scene lives on the internet,” muses Theo Ladany, Um Quarto (¼)’s guitarist. “It’s not a matter of region or city. Emo is active all over the country, but it’s scattered. In most DIY scenes you befriend other bands playing together at shows, but we’ve connected online, constantly sharing music with each other.”

Um Quarto (¼) is no different. They met in an American Football “shitposting group” on Facebook back in February 2018. After the band’s bassist, Pedro Aranha, commented on a post saying he was from Brazil, Bernardo and Ladany chimed in, the trio quickly realizing they were based in different cities around the state of Rio de Janeiro and had even attended the same university. They met in Bernardo’s bedroom—the narrow quarters of which became the band’s moniker—and jammed to classics by Jimmy Eat World and Thursday. Sharing vocal and writing duties, they injected Midwest emo chords with saudade and a year later released an EP called Do Que Somos Capazes. Their earnest songwriting and bare-knuckle DIY ethos shines on cuts “Azia” and “Toddyinho,” the latter referencing a brand of chocolate milk they often drink after rehearsal.

As Um Quarto (¼) began crafting the songs for De Nossas Vidas they were confronted with a terrifying global shutdown. Brazil faced the additional challenge of then-President Jair Bolsonaro’s staunch Covid-19 denialism, which delayed the arrival of vaccines by a year and prevented Ladany, Bernardo, and Aranha from reconvening until the fall of 2021. During this time, they met producer and Violeta Records founder Victor Damazio, who guided the sessions that would give the album its playful, heartfelt spirit.

Bouncy lead single “Ficologia” ruminates on exuberant days spent with friends and subsequent post-party depression, while the noisier “Gragoatá” ponders an inability to express those feelings to plan another rad hang-out session. Ecstatic album closer “Toddynho 2 (O Retorno do Mate)” might be the purest snapshot of Um Quarto (¼)’s serendipitous friendship, a symbolic toasting of chocolate milk boxes and yerba mate gourds heralding the end of social distancing and a new era of collective musical joy.

“Brazilian people are very emotional, not just in a dramatic sense, but when you meet someone, you immediately become best friends,” adds Ladany, honing in on Um Quarto (¼)’s spiritual essence. “The way we met—showing up to talk about music in a stranger’s bedroom—is very indicative of how friendships are made in Brazil. We’re passionate about soccer, music, and food, but most of all about the people we choose to spend our time with.”

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