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Nervosa: Brazilian Thrash Trio at Caravan Lounge

In Music
Hallowed Ground: Nervosa’s bassist, Fernanda Lira was raised in São Paulo by metalhead parents. She looks forward to playing the Bay Area—home to many of her heroes.

Hallowed Ground: Nervosa’s bassist, Fernanda Lira was raised in São Paulo by metalhead parents. She looks forward to playing the Bay Area—home to many of her heroes.

When speaking with Fernanda Lira on the subject of heavy metal, one thing quickly becomes abundantly clear. The bassist, vocalist and co-founder of the Sao Paulo thrash trio, Nervosa, is positively stoked on the genre.

“It’s my life,” Lira says, enthusiastically.

She’s not exaggerating. Raised by metalhead parents in Brazil’s biggest city, Lira grew up listening to her father play bass in his own heavy group and Iron Maiden on the home stereo. By the age of 6, the young Lira says that she was hooked, and by 14, she was playing in her own bands and constantly scouring file-sharing sites for new tunes. It was through the Internet that the budding musician discovered Bay Area thrash—feverishly downloading albums by the likes of Exodus, Testament, Machine Head, Vio-Lence and of course, Slayer and Metallica.

These days, while she admits to liking plenty of other genres of music—including funk and the blues—Lira says that she has spent years listening to “only metal.”

She wasn’t just listening passively. It’s apparent that Lira was studying the craft, as well. Her group, Nervosa, has the sound, the look and the attitude of thrash down to a science. Check out the group’s video for “Death,” from their 2014 full-length debut on Napalm Records, Victim of Yourself.

Filmed in a graveyard, it shows Lira, along with guitarist and backing vocalist Prika Amaral and drummer Pitchu Ferraz, shredding—hard. Lira’s scratchy scream cuts a jagged line atop galloping riffs and machine gun drumming. The scooped, static-like tone of the guitar matches the black and white film. All three band members are clad in the thrash metal uniform of studded leather vests, T-shirts and denim. Lira’s eyes are wild and blackened with thick mascara as she whips her hair like a young James Hetfield.

The band’s current U.S. tour, which brings them to the Caravan Lounge on Wednesday, is their first stint in the States, and Lira could scarcely be more excited.

“It’s been like a dream come true,” Lira says, speaking on a cell phone from the road. “Some people don’t get it—but it actually is.”

There are a number of reasons that Lira is pumped to be touring America. For starters, it means her music will gain much wider exposure. While the Brazilian metal scene is strong and full of committed fans, she says that the actual opportunity to make a living playing in a metal band—or being a musician in general—is minimal.

But Lira isn’t just excited about making new fans and sharing her music. She is thrilled at the opportunity to be walking in the footsteps of her heroes. The Bay Area is often considered the hub of the thrash metal movement—as some of the sub-genre’s biggest names formed in San Francisco and Oakland in the ’80s. Southern Florida was also a major flashpoint for the movement, which fused the energy, attitude and politics of hardcore punk with heavy metal’s emphasis on technicality, heavy rhythm guitars and stylized screaming.

The result was a fast, aggressive and youthful music that was also challenging and fun to play. Plus, Lira notes: “You can head bang to death metal, you can head band to power metal, but mosh pits—the mosh pits are real at thrash metal shows.”

Accordingly, Lira says she “can’t wait to be in the Bay Area”—noting that most of the bands that she grew up listening to were from this area and Florida. “I can feel the metal vibe in the air. We’ll be playing on the same ground that all the other bands we love came from.”

Nervosa share the stage with Taipan, Evilization and Total Badass.

Nervosa plays on Feb 17, 7pm, $10 at the Caravan Lounge, San Jose.

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